Album review submitted by Philip Lickley. Submit your own reviews to All-Noise via email here: [email protected]
Reverend and the Makers – @Reverend_Makers
Buy: @ Reverend_Makers [Deluxe 2 x CD]
The Automatic’s ‘Recover’. Electric Six’s ‘Danger! High Voltage’. The Wombat’s ‘Moving To New York’. Three songs by three bands that I found so good I became big fans of their catalogues of work. Another song that could join them was ‘Heavyweight Champion of the World’ by Sheffield band Reverend and the Makers, stepping ‘Out of the Shadows’, as track two on their latest album goes, which built from their connection with fellow band Arctic Monkeys and helping to forge their own identity.
After two great albums, the second of which not getting the coverage it deserved, the band are back with @Reverend_Makers, their third album, named after their Twitter handle where the band often interact with fans but also go on a lot about the state of modern music (Yes, we know artists like Rihanna and much of the typical chart-fodder are boring run-of-the-mill music but you don’t need to always go on about it). Thankfully, they can hold their head up high with a modern album that rocks.
Their third album kicks off with lead single ‘Bassline’, a thumping, danceable ode to the genre whilst being much poppier than the title would suggest. Building up its hooks from some catchy synths with effects and stuttering vocals, it takes the free release from earlier in the year, blasts in another verse with a DJ-style reverse effect, and packages it up as a bombastic start to the album. You won’t hear a much more enjoyable pop-dance track this year, juggling the criticism of the genre with effectively copying the culture into a dance tune, and is certainly a new string to the bow of the band, and suggests a much happier outlook to the album compared to their fun, but down-key, second album.
The level is thankfully kept high as the second track comes in. ‘Out of the Shadows’ is the logical mix between their aforementioned debut hit and follow-up ‘He Said He Loved Me’ but throwing in some glam seventies dance into the mix. Immediately catchy with its pop-synth structure and huge chorus this is surely a big contender for a future single and the best song on the album for me.
Bringing some piano into the mix, third track ‘Shine The Light’ has to have the honour of the best opening lines of the year. ‘I dreamed of Euromillions / I dreamed I scooped the lot / And I’ve got two words for my boss / And the second one is off’. Another jaunty song with more well written lyrics, building up another story, but not neglecting a singable anthemic chorus, ‘Shine The Light’ also mixes in some engaging production effects and vocal trickery that, though disrupting the flow a little, add some variety to the three minutes.
Sadly, though, after three corkers of tracks, they do drop the ball a little with ‘Depth Charge’, a Benny Benassi-style track complete with lawnmower-beats (you know what I mean). And though the slow reggae feel isn’t completely unlikable, it seems unusual for a band laughing at the bassline genre in track one going to embrace it here to ear-irritating effect. Production-wise it’s interesting and the Caribbean rap in the middle adds some variety but not my cup of tea thanks to its overpowering and difficult backing though it does get more enjoyable with subsequent listens.
Thankfully the situation is remedied by the arrival of the sunny, uptempo ‘Warts N All’ that continues the style and perkiness of the first trio of tracks, with Reverend’s speedy vocal delivery really appealing, throwing in Facebook references amongst its well written lyrics that, like much of the rest of the album, eschews his previously politicised lyrics for something more fun but still offering some social commentary, becoming a poppy number inspired by some classic Scissor Sisters but with some cutting words amongst its catchy chorus. Some vocal trickery and an acoustic-style ending only add to this great track.
‘Yes You Do’ is a quieter point on the album and though it’s not as inspired as the other tracks its throbbing backing, instrumentation choices and slower ballad pace make for a nice change.
Second single ‘The Wrestler’ which follows, kicks in with an alarm sound and becomes a 2012 version of the excellent ‘What The Milkman Saw’ but with a bigger focus on wrestling-focused metaphors, building on its inspiration and becoming even better. It speed and well produced layers make this a cracking track that, though not as spectacular as ‘Bassline’, hits you between the eyes and you won’t be able to stop singing along to this.
‘1+0’ is another shift in style for the Reverend and though the chorus is perhaps not the strongest on the album it’s not a weak track and bridges the album well and is certainly a grower. ‘Noisy Neighbour’, the penultimate piece on the album, kicks the album back up and though the story could be deemed to be a little cheesy and lyrics like “turn the music well down” don’t help but it’s delivered with some cheeky panache and you can’t help enjoying the hooks, both vocal and musical, that are delivered.
Closer ‘What Goes Around’ has a lot to live up to after the epic album finisher that was ‘French Kiss In The Chaos’ track ‘Hard Time For Dreamers’ but it almost hits there with a likable chorus in between its gentle verses, tying the album up nicely and in a much more positive fashion.
The real shame of the album is that it comes in at just over thirty minutes which is much shorter than I’d hope for but what is on the record is excellent and the strongest of the band’s album, and available online for a bargain £3.99 on some sites. A strong, genre-shifting album that waters down the political commentary to more social observations but ramps up the quality of the lyrics and musical production. Very much worth a listen.
But if you do feel the album is shorter the deluxe edition with a second CD is worth picking up for a few pounds more. Beginning with a slurred answer phone message from former drug smuggler Howard Marks it moves into a clubby tongue-in-cheek look at drugs that isn’t afraid to cock a snook to the establishment. It very much sets the tone for this second disc (or disk as it’s mistakenly labelled) with songs that flow into each other using the similar beats. The battle between lead vocals and rap on this opening is effective and the lyrics, though hardly highbrow, flow well with some ear-catching rhyming and it’s always great to hear a track with the word ‘muntered’ in it.
The track melds into ‘Sister Midnight’ after it becomes a more traditional dance track, blending nicely even if the track itself is far too repetitive for the majority of its opening. I can certainly see the appeal in a club set but as a track to hear at home it’s a bit too samey for my liking. This song in turn then bleeds into ‘Deeper Down’ featuring Matic Mouth who will appear again on this disc. A more ethereal track that the Reverend takes more of a back seat on, this is a better tune with a catchy hook and some impressive beats, further cementing this second disc as the band doing clubs.
A further bleed connects it up to ‘Nothing To Say’ with Kimmi Kub joining Matic Mouth which sees the autotuned Reverend battling with some slow-paced rap. It’s not a track particularly to my taste but it’s an enjoyable bridge in the track and keeps the variety high enough to not let it become stale.
The mix continues seamlessly into a remix of album track ‘Depth Charge’, the first none completely new track, and aside from an appearance from rapper Kano and The Music’s Rob Harvey which are fun additions, is not actually that much different from the original when you strip away the collaborations.
‘Wife Her Up’, once more featuring ‘Matic Mouth’, connects up and this is one of the highlights of this CD with some catchy rapping and the titular chorus, delivered over a slow beat. It’s followed by the James Welsh Remix of lead single ‘Bassline’ which isn’t again a huge departure from the original in style but does throw in some stuttering vocals and a throbbing, er, bassline, creating another style to the previously less-hardcore track.
The highlight of the album for me though is the new version of second album song ‘The Hidden Persuaders’. Though it doesn’t quite squeeze into the album long mix as well as the rest it’s a great alternative version of one of my favourite tunes on their previous album and gives the chorus a well-made club feel and even if Black Twang and Roots Manuva’s contributions seem weird rapping about Christmas shopping at this time of year (even if the weather is Wintery) and lyrics such as ‘fart more’ do seem misjudged in the general feel.
‘Acid House Wife’ feat Carl Barat and Steve Edwards brings back the throbbing base and is an OK enough track but not really anything special – at least until the shift to the toe-tapping ‘Lucy’ section rescues the track – before closer ‘Faster Faster’, with Richard Hawley, sounds more like it would fit on the main album, with the style much more focussed on their indie styles.
With an extra ten tracks doubling the length of the album by coming in at just longer than the main piece, it’s actually a collection that could stand on its own and the way each track mixes into the next is a neat trick not often put into an album like this. It does seem like the last four tracks have been bolted onto the first six but I’m not going to complain about a bonus disc that offers much more than the usual handful of half-baked b-sides. It’s almost like it has become a double album.
So whether you have purchased it with one or two discs I heartily recommend picking up Reverend and the Makers new album – up there with the best of the year with a great mix of pop, indie and dance and the usual well written and observational lyrics.