Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Slice of Life - Don't Turn Away - album - cover

Review: Slice of Life. 2019. Don’t Turn Away. Overground Records. LP | CD | digital download. Released 16 August 2019.

FOR A PROJECT that emerged from discussions amongst a bunch of musicians biding their time in airport departure lounges in the closing weeks of The Last Supper tour, Slice of Life has proved to be a remarkablly productive and a resilient musical collaboration. From the moment the band formed, its live and studio activities have wrapped around the other commitments of band members for whom it’s far from their only creative outlet.

As Slice of Life’s identity has crystallized, the band has shown itself just as home on the stage of major festivals as it has been at tiny, cramped punk shows or when holding court at art centres, micro-pubs and other quirky venues across the country and beyond. When it comes to longevity, by the turn of this year, Slice of Life will have been in existence longer than Schwarzenegger (1992-95), Stratford Mercenaries (1995-99) or, for that matter, Crass (1977-84).

As a live act, Slice of Life is definitively Ignorant’s show. He’s ably backed by his trio of talented musicians, but it’s Ignorant who fronts the act, handles the introductions, tells the jokes, delivers the side-stories and pulls the reminiscences and recollections from memory while the band await the next musical cue. Away from the live experience, when you listen to the band’s studio work, the material is immediately reframed in a more collaborative light.

This latest release shows the band growing in collective musical confidence… The result is a compelling mixture of the melancholic and the militant

Don’t Turn Away offers a collection of impassioned, emotionally literate, heartfelt songs which alternate between the empathic and the indignant with an equal sense of confidence. Extending the lyrical vista of 2014’s Love and a Lampost, this material sees Ignorant exploring the themes of personal frailties, of self-doubt and of mental resilience alongside wider concerns of resistance and righteous rebellion. This latest release shows the band growing in collective musical confidence, while frontman Steve Ignorant’s lyrical preoccupations see him move further into more personal, reflective areas alongside wider social and political concerns. The result is a compelling mixture of the melancholic and the militant.

The spartan, stripped back sounds of the band provide few hiding spaces and without the comfort of volume and projection it’s hugely important that they’re tight and rock solid. Carol Hodges brings both a power and a disarming, lilting quality to her work on keyboards, setting the emotional tone for many of the songs. She’s also an extraordinarily accomplished vocalist, although only gets the chance to really show those talents on a few songs here. Pete Wilson on guitar and Pete Rawlinson on bass have developed a great partnership, and in the studio it’s even more evident how effectively the pair craft a rich, full soundscape through clever musical choices and astute understatement.

They craft a space in which Ignorant can make best use of the power of restraint or fully let rip. Ignorant is completely at home belting it out there, but here he allows the quietness of his vocals on different numbers to reveal the vulnerability of a voice pushed to the edges of this singer’s comfort zone. In thinking through his delivery, Ignorant makes great play in his phrasing of hitting (or deliberately sliding past) the subtle percussive beats of the band.

Title track Don’t Turn Away sets the tone perfectly; framing the album’s key creative tension between razor-sharp and sometimes bitter lyrics and beautiful, unfussy acoustic musical arrangements. The seething, barely contained rage of Your Day Will Come, its tense, terse invective pushing against the lightness of the jazz-infused melody, its disarming singsong textures and its rich vocal harmonies.

The Right Way shares a similar juxtaposition, its delicate musical motifs providing a perfect backing for Ignorant’s storytelling. This time his ire is directed towards the self-obsessed keyboard warriors of the web, whose arrogance and disdain can often hide resentful self-doubt. (Its simple but seductive chorus is also an irresistible earworm).

S.A.D. is a thoughtful and sensitive appreciation of mental health challenges, depression first among them. Its explores the sense of weakness and vulnerability that can overwhelm those afflicted by its darkness, and urges empathy and honesty in confronting the stigma and silence. It’s one of the most powerful and affecting moments on the album.

A thoughtful, personal statement of outrage which sees Ignorant push his voice to the point of cracking with the strength of his conviction

The Story Continues might sound more like the title of a Conflict song, but this is a more intricate and its layered affair, with the feel and texture of a confidential late night fireside chat about the iniquities of the world. Song for Myself sees Ignorant calling once again on the spirit of Alan Sillitoe (author of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning) to deliver another melancholic and beautifully atmospheric reflection on self-doubt, loneliness ageing, endurance and personal resilience (“The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Gigger”, perhaps?)

The joyous Diffability sees Ignorant channelling Ian Dury’s songbook, in a riotous and sympathetic shout-out to the weirdos, the outsiders and the “non-normal” of the world in a celebration of uniqueness and individuality. It’s the most straightforwardly upbeat song in the collection, and benefits from that contrast.

Three songs on the album have evolved from the time that Ignorant was fronting Stratford Mercenaries. Slaughterhouse is as passionate an acoustic number as it was as the frothy singalong Won’t Get Me on the 1998 album No Sighing Strains of Violins. Originally appearing on the same album, Stretford Blue is always a highlight of the Slice of Life live set, lit up by Ignorant’s raging vocals as he takes aim at the posturing and plastic rebellion of those who profit from the system they profess to despise (Hodges’ singing is completely ace on this too). Stratford Mercenaries’ song This is Our World here morphs into the fantastic and fitting endpoint Whistle Down the Wind, a thoughtful, personal statement of outrage which sees Ignorant push his voice to the point of cracking through the strength of his conviction.

This is a powerful, assured, convincing set of songs that show Ignorant setting down a marker and asserting his own independence of thought. Back in 2011, The Last Supper tour generated criticism as well as excitement, but that sense of hostility seems to have quietened, affording him more space to perform and switch between whichever voice from his repertoire (from full-on punk to reflective acoustic artiste) he chooses. Next year’s tour of Crass songs will see him reinhabit the former; it’ll be fascinating to see where his experimentation with his other musical and lyrical personas will take him next. On the strength of this album, who the hell would want to turn away from finding out?

Slice of Life. 2019. Don’t Turn Away. Overground Records. LP | CD – Available from Overground Records.

THE REBELLION 2019 punk festival gets underway on 1 August in Blackpool, with many original wave anarcho-punk artists performing across the weekend.

Rebellion 2019 - Slice of Life

Slice of Life, 1 August, The Opera House

Andy T, 1 August, Almost Acoustic

Rebellion 2019 - Rubella Ballet

Rubella Ballet, 2 August, Pavilion Stage

The Subhumans, 2 August, Empress Ballroom

Lost Cherrees, 2 August, Opera House

Hagar the Womb - Rebellion 2019

Hagar the Womb, 3 August, Pavilion Stage

Citizen Fish, 3 August, Club Casbah

Paranoid Visions, 3 August, Arena

Conflict - Rebellion 2019

Conflict, 4 August, Club Casbah

Culture Shock, 4 August, Club Casbah

LAUNCHING AT REBELLION this weekend is a new six song vinyl, CD and digital download EP from Hagar the Womb.

Released by Grow Your Own Records, Hagitate will be made available as a 10-inch six track vinyl (pressed in a glorious red and black marbled design) complete with lyric booklet, as a CD (with gatefold cover and booklet) and as a digital download.

Hagar the Womb - Hagitate - Grow Your Own Records

Poster for the Ignorant Tour 2020

STEVE IGNORANT IS heading out on tour next year to perform a set of Crass songs, back by a full band.

Back in November 2007, Ignorant attracted some controversy when he put together a band to present a live version of The Feeding of the 5000 at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire with a backing band of guest musicians. In 2010, Ignorant attracted both criticism and enthusiastic support when he announced plans for an international tour, which would take songs from across the Crass catalogue out on the road.

That tour concluded in 2011, with Ignorant declaring that The Last Supper performance in London on 19 November (at which he was joined on stage by Penny Rimbaud and Eve Libertine) would be the last time that he would play Crass songs on a stage.

Since then, whilst performing with Slice of Life and Paranoid Visions, Ignorant has continued to weave selected Crass songs into the live set – in a semi-acoustic way with Slice of Life and in full-on punk rock style with Paranoid Visions (such as at the Rebellion festival in 2017).

This latest news about Ignorant’s plans in relation to the Crass canon does not appear to have attracted much in the way of critical reaction, and it appears that there’s a great deal of interest in acquiring tickets for the shows, which are now available to purchase online. Confirmed dates so far are:

Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
Friday 3 April 2020

Newcastle University Students Union, Newcastle
Saturday 4 April 2020

The 100 Club, London
Friday 17 April 2020 [buy tickets direct from the 100 Club]

Concorde 2, Brighton
Saturday 18 April 2020

Club Academy, Manchester
Friday 24 April 2020

Scotland Calling Festival, O2 Academy, Glasgow
Saturday 25 April 2020

The 100 Club listing provides more details about the upcoming tour, and reports that further dates will be forthcoming:

Steve will be starting his Tour in April 2020 in the UK and will then take it to the continent and the rest of the world. He’ll be performing Crass songs 1977-1984 with some Ignorant classics with his band.

It also confirms the line-up for these tour dates as:

  • Steve Ignorant (vocals)
  • Carol Hodge (vocals) [Slice of Life]
  • Pete Wilson (lead guitar) [Slice of Life]
  • Pete Rawlinson (bass guitar) [Slice of Life]
  • Jay Bagnall (drums) [Paranoid Visions]

Shot in 2011, the short video below sees Ignorant reflecting on the upcoming final show of The Last Supper tour.

 

The Day the Country Died - Subhumans - jigsaw

A STRICTLY LIMITED edition 500-piece jigsaw of artist Nick Lant’s cover design for the sleeve of the 1983 Subhumans’ album The Day the Country Died will be available in-person at Rebellion 2019.

Limited edition 500-piece The Day the Country Died jigsaw will be available from the Subhumans merch stall at Rebellion….

Cover of Vive Le Rock - with anarcho-punk cover advertising features inside

THE NEXT ISSUE of Vive Le Rock magazine has a special focus on the history of the original British anarcho-punk wave.

Currently available for pre-order, issue 65 will explore how ‘how punk rattled the government gates’, and include coverage of Crass, Subhumans, Conflict, Flux of Pink Indians and Zounds amongst others.

Vive Le Rock 65 Anarcho Punk

Anarchy + Peace
How Punk Rattled The Government Gates

With…

Crass
Subhumans
Conflict
Flux Of Pink Indians
Zounds

Plus…

The Members
Flipper
Nofx
New Model Army
Thin Lizzy
Pauline Murray (Penetration)

And loads more!

Who was the greatest anarcho-punk band? Pre order now – the story of anarcho-punk with Crass, Subhumans (UK), Flux of Pink Indians, Conflict, Zounds and more!

The Cravats - Precinct - single re-issue sleeve

THE LIMITED EDITION vinyl re-release of The Cravats’ Precinct single is selling out predictably fast.

First issued on the Small Wonder label in August 1980, Precinct has been re-issued by Overground Records (following on from similar loving treatment of the Gordon and Burning Bridges releases), with each numbered copy accompanied with a set of intriguing ‘Cravfacts’ and the previously not-that-easy-to-decipher lyrics.

Although The Cravats are forging forward into the future with an exciting new single and LP due in the coming months, they haven’t forgotten the past or the fact that few folk were lucky enough, at the time, to purchase their classic Small Wonder single releases.

First single Gordon was re-released last year.

The End featuring Burning Bridges, The End and, the classic, I Hate The Universe also got the same treatment in 2018 with a whole art department of skilled craftsmen (The Shend) lovingly recreating the original sleeve and Small Wonder Records label until it looked close as dammit.

Now it is the turn of the much loved cacophonous classic from August 1980, Precinct with Who’s In Here With Me on the flipside.

Purloined from the BBC Peel session that first aired on 9th August 1979 and produced by the legendary Bob Sargeant, Precinct succinctly summarises the soulless shopping centre of Redditch New Town where the Cravats loitered and lounged about.

“If you like insanely fast, modernist punk – I can highly recommend this as being suitable for any form of physical activity.” Said somebody or other in Sounds on Oct 4th 1980 and they were right, as the thunderingly manic drums herald the start of this Orwellian onslaught.

Like the two re-releases that have gone before, there will only ever be 500 of these vintage vials of vinyl, each with an interesting insert of ‘Cravfacts’ as well as the near illegible lyrics to Precinct.

It’s only available through the Overground Records site or at forthcoming Cravats gigs (no bureaucratic business barcode soils this sleeve!) and won’t be around for long so pop one in your satchel, saunter home and file under, ‘Blimey, that’s rather ruddy good.’

While you’re waiting for the copy you ordered online to arrive by post, or you’re contemplating joining the lengthy queue at the merch stall at a Cravats gig to avail yourself of a copy, you’re welcome to enjoy the following aide memoire.
 

%d bloggers like this: