Levellers

The Big Gin / Sunday
About

Perhaps it’s a testament to their literalness, but leave it to the Levellers to start their album and opening song “Warning” with a mock air-raid siren sound. More to the point, though, leave it to them to have the song be an early-’90s indie pop/semi-baggy/singalong thing, however pumped up with extra brass by the Kick Horns. Furthermore, given that the members of the Kick Horns first came to attention in part due to work in the Waterboys, the unspoken connections between that group and the Levellers start making even more sense here.

Take that as a launching point and on Levellers, the band once again do what they do, anthemic folk/punk/whatever, and dos it very well. It just won’t be the type of thing to automatically warm the cockles of anyone’s heart not already convinced, and will just annoy those who already hate them. All that said, though, there are audible signs that the group’s vaunted live power now has more of a happy home in the studio, with acoustic-based numbers like “Is This Art? ” and the dreamy but downbeat ballad “Julie” coming across with both delicacy and sudden power. Sevink’s fiddling often provides the heart of the band’s songs, but it’s Friend’s fiery guitar work that in many ways shines the best here, benefiting from good production by Markus Dravs.

Chadwick’s not moved much as a singer, sounding more than once like he’s audibly seeking breath, but it could be worse: he could be Bono. Evidence of the group’s not-always-appreciated sense of smarts surfaces at various points, thus “100 Years of Solitude,” transposing the title of the book onto a ramble through modern (circa 1993) confusion, Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine-style. Once again, just about every song sounds like it should be the set-closing showstopper, but when the results are as enjoyable enough as the didgeridoo-led “This Garden” or “Belaruse,” there’s not much reason to complain.

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