We suspect people who remember Tom Robinson back in the day will like this, while younger listeners will find it harder to digest.
While the Tom Robinson Band did have some good tunes, the music was often second place to the lyrics, which were never less than entertaining. Songs were either just songs about nothing much (“2-4-6-8 ain’t never too late / Me and my radio truckin’ on thru the night”) or were angry political rants, in which Robinson took a stand and espoused his cause, often using sarcasm: “The British police are the best in the world / I don’t believe one of these stories I’ve heard.”) There are no shades of grey. Or else they were nostalgic tales of friends and family: “I just want to tell you about Martin / Cos nobody I know has got a brother like him.” Only the Now is his first album in 20 years, so he’s had a lot of time to get think.
Opener Home In The Morning is one of the standouts, and could be a song about someone visiting Dignitas or equally just about walking out. Don’t Jump, Don’t Fall, another tender song, is apparently about someone jumping. Both are witty and warm, and rather lovely.
Merciful God on the other hand is more abrasive, with Robinson ranting about anyone who believes God’s will is to murder the innocent; the eastern sound to the music suggest he’s mainly looking at ISL. Risky Business is also a bit of a rant, about the bankers: “Sue me suckers / I don’t care no more.” Merciful God is balanced by Holy Smoke, about a young lad ripping out pages of the bible to roll spliffs (“inhaling Revelations and Creation / 2000 years of wisdom up in smoke”) and Ian McKellen as a stoned God.
Billy Bragg appears in The Mighty Sword Of Justice, a tirade against the legal aid cuts of recent times.
Robinson is pretty much on top of form, both for good and bad: intelligent and incisive, witty, overly theatrical and slightly preaching. As fans from his early days we like it; fans of Chumbawumba and the like should also appreciate it. We’d say he’s bringing back protest music but that would be untrue: young fans have Enter Shikari screaming their way to a fairer world.