APATHY By Muddy Summers and the Dirty Field Whores
Having been privileged to have been given a sneak preview of some of the songs for Gail’s new album, Apathy, I was really looking forward to hearing the finished product and I have to say I have not been disappointed.
Unlike the last Muddy Summers album, Monkey on my Back, which was very eclectic in nature, this latest offering is quite different. The cover probably gives away the sentiments contained in the albums lyrics, but does not give much of a clue to the musical delights contained within. Yes, the album is overtly political, but very much in the style of the best protest singers and poets down the years.
Musically, it is very much in the style of traditional folk and protest screams from the lyric sheet. That said there is also a feeling of underlying sadness that comes out in the delivery and Gail’s vocal while certainly driving home the message manages to sound vulnerable at the same time, in a way which is very endearing.
The opening track ‘To Land’ does not actually prepare you for what is to follow. It is in fact a reggae based acoustic number that has a very upbeat feel about it despite the lyric intimating that nothing much changes down the years. The whistled outro is a delight and just leaves you with a smile on your face.
As The Dragon Runs, takes the mood down a notch or two and opens with an almost ethereal whistle courtesy of Jay Terrestrial that sets the stage for a song that explores the destruction wreaked by the system and people burying their heads in the sand as the dragon runs leaving flames and cinders in its wake. Powerful, stuff indeed.
Tony Hopkins excellent guitar sets the tone for Empathy, a song that really does explore the true nature of empathy and it’s hard not to shed a tear when Gail sings about the old man who has lost his wife and Tony’s guitar evokes real sadness. One forms the impression that Gail bases a lot of her songs on personal experiences and the lyrics come straight from the heart and in very raw form. For me this just adds to the poignancy of the song.
Dai Blow’s Melodica makes a nice easy intro for Conspiraloon, and the whole delivery of this song is very laid back and pleasant with hints of cow bells and a lyric that does what it says on the tin. In fact you could make an argument for adding the word Conspiraloon to the Oxford English Dictionary.
Dai Blow features again on Cry of the Thwarted Bigot, this time with a jazz influenced clarinet hovering over Buzz Onion’s reggae based guitar riff while Gail vents her spleen on bigots and bigotry while encouraging people to stop misdirecting their anger. Again a very poignant song with some great echoes coming to the fore in the outro.
Next up is Ignition, performed by just Gail and the Inimitable Doozer McDooze playing the multi instrumental card on what is musically and lyrically a very, very good song featuring some fine keyboards and guitars and an almost desperate vocal delivery from Gail, that makes this a very powerful song indeed.
Dai Blow is back on melodica for Passive Aggressive a song featuring some clever lyrical delivery. The excellent Tony Hopkins returns on guitar for What do we tell our Children and Dai again is featured, this time on whistle, which again gives an almost ethereal feel to what is as much a story song as a song with a message for future generations. Everything from Stop and Search to fracking gets the treatment here.
Domestic Terrorist is grim stuff indeed. Starting with the all too familiar story of a man who feeds the fumes from his exhaust into his car because he can’t support his family and moving on to the recent story of those lads who were prosecuted for taking discarded food from a skip. This is a song that makes you sit up and think for sure.
Open eyes is another duet between Gail and Doozer that works well as always. Another folk song with a reggae influence that actually keeps the mood quite upbeat, Swimming to another beginning with these open eyes……..
The album closer is not a new song and has been around for a while in one form or another. In this guise it stands out as totally different musically from the rest of the album. It is in fact collaboration with Rev Dread that produces a kind of electro folk hybrid that actually works rather well. The song features one of Gail’s favourite words and no one escapes the treatment here, Cameron, Osborne, Smith, Gove, Hunt, May et al are all subject to Gail’s vitriol bringing the album to an appropriate finish
So in conclusion, Gail has written some very good and very potent songs here and delivered it all with some real top notch musicians. All in all an album that is musically very mature and highly listenable with a good production that still keeps the raw feel of the music alive. All delivered with lyrical potency of a Glasgee Kiss. Do yourself a big favour and get a copy of this fine album.
You can listen to and buy it here, or pay what you want for the download – BUY THE ALBUM
I also asked Gail a few questions about it…..
Gail, The title of the new album is ‘Apathy’ what was the thinking behind that?
It’s really ‘Fuck Apathy’ but there are only so many releases you can have the fuckword in, right? Hence the artwork.
As with your previous work a number of the songs draw upon personal experiences, that seems to be the case with some of the songs here as well?
I can only write about what I see or feel. The words come out in rant form and in one hit, about whatever happens to be making my shit itch at the time. They get edited if they need to fit a tune a bit better, but other than that, they’re raw and from the gut. I guess that makes them all personal in a way.
You have used a number of different musicians on this album and yet you still seem to obtain a very cohesive sound across the whole album…
I am immensely lucky to have so many proper talented musicians up for working with me. I say what kind of feel I’m looking for, and maybe send words if they’re already written, and they just get it, even if it’s not their ‘thing’.
Your last album was very eclectic in nature whereas this album has a more traditional folk style feel about it, was that a conscious decision or did it just turn out that way?
It was very deliberate. I love the accidental diversity of the Monkey on my Back album, but I grew up as part of a big family feeding me so many musical influences which only really excluded folk and jazz. I sort of claimed folk as my own, and protest songs seem to sit best with it, I guess. Now I just need a beard to stroke.
The album is obviously very overtly political and that comes across in the lyrics, but there is also an underlying feeling that had a lot of fun making the album?
Ah, we always have fun. Everything is either recorded in my living room (often after a few ales) or music and vocal lines are exchanged via the wonders of the internet. It’s not massively produced and there’s no desire for perfection. Seems to be what works best for us.
Obviously you have at least three ‘Something Else’ events this plus the Tea Tent will be at the likes of Bearded Theory, is it your intent to showcase these songs at those festivals?
Definitely! Nowt wrong with a bit of self-indulgence, especially when surrounded by so much talent in a field!
Last Year you enjoyed success with Muddy Summers on the Cider and Sanity Tour. With everything else you have on your plate this year, is there a possibility of an Apathy Tour?
Yeah, though not til the Autumn/Winter. This is my most manic year to date!
The Album closer has appeared in many different guises over the years, but this one is in stark contrast to the rest of the album, was there a particular reason for doing it that way?
I like the last track on an album to have impact. Rev Dread has also been one of my more regular collaborators (we ended up doing a whole electro album together) so I wanted him on there somewhere. It’s still a folk song, just a more inyerface version.
History has thrown up many protest singers and bands over the years, From Woodie Guthrie to The Levellers. Clearly music cannot change the world but how important do you think it is to keep sending out that message?
I think any form of protest is vital, whether music based or otherwise, and I truly believe we’d be a lot more fucked than we are now without it. Listening to the likes of Guthrie, Billy Bragg and Bob Dylan when I was young played a huge part in politicising me. It’s also an amazing way to bring likeminded folks together which in turn helps shit get done, even if it does just come down to stopping the vile, acidic pissing down on us from above getting worse.
Finally, Gail what are your plans for Muddy Summers moving ahead into the future?
Well, it’d be nice to not have stuff to rant and sing about, but history and reality suggest that fighting this shit is infinite, so we might just step out of the collaboration ethic and form a proper band and rehearse and all that. But then again we might not.. x
Mark A Goodman
Apathy is the third album from Gail Something-Else and her motley crew of land pirates; the usual deal applies, you can buy the CD or download the tracks for pay-what-you-want. New collaborators on this one include Dai Blow and Buzz Onion of One Eyed God, Jay from Inner Terrestrials/Firepit Collective and Jonny ‘Wrongun’ Daniels from Pure Evil.
Apathy: a state of indifference, an inability to be arsed. We inhabit the disintegrating corpse of a dead civilisation, and sure enough a major preoccupation of our time is the myth of the undead, vampires and zombies. The metaphor is not lost on the conscious minority. Adult men and women while away their hours peering into a dystopian fantasy rather than looking out the window at the dystopian reality. Within the sleeve, richly decorated with Gail’s own graphics, the word is preceded by ‘fuck’ in brackets.
The album was launched with a self-organised party in a field at Gail’s beloved Forest of Dean, Gail’s Broken Ukulele was patched with a bit of wardrobe and an anti-fascist sticker. The cross-dressing Cajon player Techno Hippy was taken ill and a couple of the crew instantly stepped in on percussion. On the Sunday it began to rain and most of the punters drifted away, the crew, musicians and a few stragglers were instructed to ‘drink the bar’. The talented and totally outsane Dai gave a magnificent demonstration of how smashed a human being can be and still put a saxophone to good use – or a clarinet, melodica, whistle, and just about anything else you can blow into. Jay can virtually play guitar in his sleep, he can cook too. Duelling clarinets, gypsy jazz and songs of revolution drifted with the smoke across the wet fields, we did some fireworks that had literally fallen off the back of a lorry. You should get yourself along to one of these gatherings if you can. This music is born in improvisation around the campfire, lending it a timeless quality that defies categorisation as ancient or modern.
“Review the bloody record Mal”, ah, right; the Something-Else mothership comes in ‘To Land’ on an acoustic reggae number with Doozer Mc Dooze of Deferred success, jolly and positive, to blow away the cobwebs and drag you off your computer.
Two tracks from the first album recorded with the Reverend Phil Dread appear here in acoustic form. ‘As the dragon runs’ is a chillingly beautiful re-working of ‘Heroin’ from the electronic set, with instrumentation by Jay Terrestrial. The pipes conjure images of faraway places as the opiate dreams weave through the gritty kitchen-sink reality of sharing a life with one of the great apathisers. In the mid 1980s when the country stood on the brink of revolution it was suddenly flooded with cheap smack. Coincidence? Who knows, we won’t find out under the thirty-year rule; collateral damage included some of the children of the middle class and about a dozen of my old friends. There follows an acoustic version of ‘Empathy’ featuring superb guitar work from Tony Hopkins accompanying snapshots of the bleakness some people inhabit.
‘Conspiraloon’ recorded ‘live and drunk’ but lucid nevertheless, is the catchiest tune on the album, with Dai’s meandering melodica doubtless played stone cold sober. This is for the Guy Fawkes masked, tinfoil hat wearers who believe everything they see on the Internet, chasing phantoms while our rulers piss up our backs. Never mind the Molochs, here’s Howard, the talking porpoise from Atlantis. The new technology has its uses but remember you’re never more than five clicks away from David Icke.
‘The cry of the thwarted bigot’ with Buzz Onion is one for all those apoplectic Daily Mail readers left with nothing to show for their abject class collaboration but a vast chip on their shoulder. Blaming the boss would make them complicit so it must be someone else’s fault: Johnny Foreigner, the unions, gays, Muslims, the unemployed, single mothers, reds, long-haired layabouts and students, etc. UKIP presents a peculiarly English, snide, mealy-mouthed version of the rabid xenophobia that’s sweeping mainland Europe in response to the collapse of neoliberalism. Sort of de-caffeinated fascism, watch your blood pressure, dear.
‘Ignition’ is a political love song, but no compromise, played by Doozer. Waves of sound build up, crash down and wash away again, worth putting on the headphones for.
‘Passive-aggressive’ could be the ghost of an old fairground tune. A true story about one of those dreary people who place themselves at the centre of the universe and somehow manage to bring all activity to a grinding halt. Emotional blackmailers, they come in all sizes and genders.
‘What do we tell our children (about freedom)?’ Tony, Dai and Gail create a wistful sound from a bygone age and lament the increasingly restrictive and prescriptive direction of modernity.
‘Domestic Terrorist’ is one of the silly labels applied to the conscious minority who have escaped the bourgeois hegemony and decline to be pacified with toys and games; the sledgehammer has every reason to fear the nut. Gail plays ukulele and Dai clarinet.
“That the mass bleeds, that it is being robbed and exploited, I know as well as our vote-baiters. But I insist that not the handful of parasites, but the mass itself is responsible for this horrible state of affairs. It clings to its masters, loves the whip, and is the first to cry “Crucify!” the moment a protesting voice is raised against the sacredness of capitalistic authority or any other decayed institution. … Yes, authority, coercion, and dependence rest on the mass, but never freedom or the free unfoldment of the individual, never the birth of a free society.”
– Emma Goldman: ‘Minorities versus Majorities’ 1917.
‘Open eyes’, another cheerful Doozer reggae song celebrates being different, conscious and in the minority.
The disc concludes with an electro-punk version of ‘Cameron I would call you a cunt’, our campfire sing-along is given a harder edge by the Rev. P’s rhythmic bleeps and squelches. The rest of the cabinet also get a mention and are all found similarly wanting in the depth and charm department.
If you can shoot zombies you can shoot fascists, can’t you?
Mal Content 2014.
“I hate a song that makes you think that you are not any good. I hate a song that makes you think that you are just born to lose. Bound to lose.No good to nobody. No good for nothing. Because you are too old or too young or too fat or too slim too ugly or too this or too that. Songs that run you down or poke fun at you on account of your bad luck or hard travelling.… I am out to fight those songs to my very last breath of air and my last drop of blood. I am out to sing songs that will prove to you that this is your world and that if it has hit you pretty hard and knocked you for a dozen loops, no matter what colour, what size you are, how you are built, I am out to sing the songs that make you take pride in yourself and in your work.” – Woody Guthrie
Muddy Summers and the Dirty Field Whores is an informal collaboration
between Gail Something-Else and a variety of other musicians who as the
name implies meet and often jam together on the festival circuit; all the
songs start out as poems, then lend themselves to different instrumental
arrangements, but can be read as they stand. This is actually Gail’s
second album, the first being credited to Ms Something-Else and the
Reverend Phil Dread, who also crops up on this one.
The album can be ordered online or, conscious of the fact that many of our
class do not have money for food let alone entertainment, downloaded on
Pay What You Can for anything or nothing. Of course Woody gave his music
away and the Clash encouraged people to tape their records, they just
wanted you to hear what they had to say.
First up is an acoustic version of the magnificent ‘Beat the Rich’ my
favourite track from the last set. It has morphed from a sort of electro
reggae beat to what might actually be a tango, played by Tony Hopkins.
Must admit I’m still stuck on the electric version, but this does
emphasise the vocals.
Gail’s voice is sweet and haunting, with a strange inflection that seems
to combine toughness and vulnerability in a way that’s hard to pin down,
the mood shifts constantly, ice and fire, rage and graveyard humour. The
voice comes into its own on ‘Silent screams’ recorded with Fool’s chaos; a
catchy and finely crafted pop song that reflects Gail’s growing musical
‘Status’ is much more my line, a jolly Latin tune with witty lyrics about
alienation, commodity fetishism and reification, ending in an exhortation
to smash the television. ‘Old time’ is mellow and atmospheric and reminds
me a little of Nick Drake, so I just had to check who played guitar on it
and it seems it was Gail herself!
There follows a new version of the well-known ‘Parody’ with a simple piano
accompaniment which focuses the mind on the absurdity of consumer culture,
then the old live favourite ‘Fascist Fuck Train’ featuring the legendary
Doozer on guitar.
‘Poor little rich boy’ is socially conscious filth as only Ms
Something-Else can dish it up; I’m not going into it, you’ll just have to
listen to the bloody record! The tune by Bellicose is jazzy dub, with some
muted trumpety bits going on*. ‘The Dress’ with Lee Bowers is vintage
psychedelia, which takes me right back to, er, somewhere I’ve been.
* You’ve probably gathered by now that I know more about dissident
politics than I do about music.
An abrupt change of mood follows; ‘Dear Riot Copper’ is a true story and
very personal. Just one tale from the 26th of March 2011, the TUCs ‘march
for the alternative’ a day few of us will ever forget; the cops having
been shown up all afternoon by a cheeky black bloc tried to redeem
themselves by battering some kids having a party in Trafalgar square. The
lyrics are spoken evenly over the Rev P’s electronics. This is for all
those who still think the police are just workers in uniform doing a very
difficult job. Their job is of course impossible, as their masters would
have them confine the entire economy into an ever-tightening kettle. It
also begs the question: what kind of person would see fit to bash someone
as eminently reasonable as Gail Something-Else over the head? I’ll leave
that one with you.
The answer lies with the next track, which opens an older wound and goes
back to the source of the violence; ‘Warren James’ has the makings of an
English rebel classic. A contemporary of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, James is
the folk hero of the Forest of Dean; transported for riot in 1831 after an
abortive attempt by several thousand forest Freeminers to return the land
to commons, his name is still invoked in social struggles locally. Like
the Swing rebellion, this incident has largely been written out of popular
Two centuries ago, in the tumultuous 40-year period between the enclosure
acts and the poor law, modern capitalism was born hand-in-hand with the
present-day concept of law enforcement; the people having been
dispossessed of the land were forced into wage labour and the police force
was founded to keep them there. Only the pious Tolpuddle martyrs and the
rowdy Luddites have made it into the schoolbooks – and our illustrious
leaderless army that tied up 16,000 troops for 3 years is misrepresented
as a mob of backward superstitious yokels – this is our history and we
want it back!
What would Woody Guthrie be doing if he were still around? ‘For the when’
has a menacing beat and an eerie woodwind motif with contrasting voice
clips from Tony Benn and David Cameron, it contemplates the rollercoaster
of doubt and certainty, isolation and comradeship, which is the activist’s
path. ‘Weirdos in my inbox’ is a humorous talking blues over a techno
beat; a side-splitter with sinister overtones, watch out for the punch
line! The title track closes the album, stark and minimal, the poem is
chanted over a simple war drum, and it works extremely well.
Buy the album or listen to it free, share it around, sing it on the
barricades; it’s what Woody would have done.
Mal Content 2013.
“Monkey on my back”
The brilliant, endlessly active Gail Something-Else has recorded a new Muddy Summers album, and the project and lady at the centre of it, is showing signs of confidence and musical identity that suggest that these songs will be heard in festivals for many years.
The album kicks off with a great call to arms delivered with gritted teeth, reminiscent of Siouxsie Sioux, with a stark acoustic guitar backing. It brilliantly sets the tone for the album, and shines in its choice of production. Again, the production is impressive, although completely different, in the second track, “Silent Screams”, a more reflective tone to a more personal song of relationship breakdown. Here, brilliant, beautiful lyrics lay above crisp, effective electronic backing. “Status” that follows it is back on the bigger picture, with her excellent observations on the way we divide ourselves through wealth and opportunity poetically dovetailing the mandolin riff that runs through the track. Her call for everyone to “use your brain for what it’s meant for” is a great way to finish this lyrical track. The tone shifts again for the track “Old Time”, again musically and lyrically; a gentle sense of frustration running through the track. “Parody” is a brilliant condemnation of David Cameron’s policies. The track is backed almost entirely by the piano, which adds to the satiric tone of the track, with reminders of US satirists from decades ago. The tone shifts again, with the unmistakable appearance of Doozer McDooze’s rhythm guitar. “Fascist Fuck Train” has already been played at many festivals around the country and I can see it running for a long time. Again, Gail mixes more metaphorical lines with aggressive, less poetic lines beautifully. Her references are spot on, and the observations are educated and borne from experience and awareness. Binks McWobbla provides a very different backing to “Poor Little Rich Boy”, which gives Gail a more seductive palette to make more commentary on the wealth divide dominating our lives. The trumpet and organ melodies dance around the vocals and give the track an improvised, “wilder” sound. Lee Bowers is Gail’s partner on “The Dress” which features a pretty hardcore delay effect on the vocals, which takes some getting used to, but it’s a brilliant song, with great lyrics and lovely backing from Lee Bower’s guitar. “Dear Riot Copper” is easily one of the best tracks on the album; powerful, atmospheric, perfectly phrased and clearly from direct personal experience. The gentle rap style fits the dramatic electronica well, with the song building up towards the last verse with the very serious repercussions of Gail’s experience laid out in the song. “Warren James” is a live track that acts as a more “traditional” protest song; an equally powerful troubadour song that lays out the story of the Forest of Dean riots in 1831. This song is the most folk influenced song, but the variety of styles throughout the album is a real testament to Gail’s versatility. Gail uses Cameron’s creepy voice for a powerful effect on “For the when”, a dark song that provides more commentary on being a victim of this present government’s attitude. In complete contrast, Doozer McDooze returns for a hilarious song about the ridiculous flotsam and jetsam that we encounter online, with a funny, but pretty finite finishing statement in the last words of the song. “Monkey on my back” is a lovely finish; a tribal chant that rounds off the themes of the album with typical inventiveness.
This album is the best piece of work Gail has recorded. She has assembled an excellent array of collaborators around her, while proving that she can record and write great backing tracks by herself. As a whole, the songs are consistent, powerful and immediate. I would recommend this to the legions of people that feel frustrated by the anti-social policies we keep experiencing from the present government. Gail tells it like it is, and there are too few people doing that.
by Gareth Howells
Music Lecturer and Bemis frontman
New video of the title track of our forthcoming new album!
Not sure how our monkey didn’t get felt up!