This is an odd but interesting album: it’s a “collective” project orchestrated by Yorkshire-based journalist and author Mark Hodkinson and sees him bring together five vocalists and 30 musicians to create what is probably a bit of a Marmite record.
His previous bands / albums include Black September, a rather fine indie effort that has survived many a cull of our iPod. It’s lasted in our favour courtesy of its easy charm and low-fi indie sound.
This new one is similar but with more spoken samples, often pertinent comments on modern life. It opens with Love On Love, which samples Charlie Chaplin’s speech in The Great Dictator, mixed with a Nada Surf riff.
Chaplin’s speech could apply equally well in today’s anti-outsider world, as it opens: “In this world there is room for everyone. And the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone.”
The song itself appears to be about loving everyone, with a nod to the cruelty of social media as Chaplin says, predicting Facebook startlingly well: “We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical. Our cleverness, hard and unkind.”
It all ends giving Zuckerberg the finger: “Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men — machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines!”. Take that. Hun.
The music that accompanies all this is almost chill-out, a contrast to the hard words.
A more standard song follows, Why Are Churches Shaped Like Rockets, then Americans in England, with another spoken section (possibly about the end of the war and the discovery of the Holocaust), “You have no story like I have” says the old narrator, the music a trippy but melodic series of sounds, interspersed with military snare beats.
The album is generally a mix of folk and electronica, but it does head into indie in places — the title track is one, very like his old band Black September, which in turn was Bowie-influenced, as is Nurture The Heart, which opens with dub.
If I Could Be Where You Are is more trip hoppy; we also like How Do The Dead Come Back, Mother?, which has a pleasant piano riff before going trippy, and an appealing 1950s radio voice delivering the song title’s question. The eastern-leaning (that’s India, not Hull) The Girlfriend Self Help Book is also good.
We like this, and fans of electronica and/or spoken word/poetry and music should like to it, too. Hodkinson seems a little too keen on stressing that it’s fine by him if it doesn’t sell much, saying in one interview that he’d be happy if it sold a few hundred copies, but it’s better than that and he should come out fighting. Rather like the Flaming Lips’ recent early tracks compilation, it has more the feel of a sampler than an album, but it’s well worth a listen, and thought-provoking to boot.