Sunday, 19 January 2014

The Blockheads: Same Horse Different Jockey

Same Horse Different Jockey
The Blockheads
The Blockheads are back!

Same Horse Different Jockey is the long awaiting follow up to 2009's Staring Down The Barrel. That's a considerable gap, but The Blockheads have been far from idle. They have been touring regularly and crafting the 10 new songs in between.

Track List

Look The Other Way
Boys Will Be Boys
Express Yourself
Are You One Of Those People
Frightened Man
Sorry I Apologise
What's The Deal Mama
Tommy Gun

Staring Down The Barrel is one of my favourite albums so I was eager to see what the new album was like. More of the same, a complete change of direction or something in between?

Look The Other Way is very much in the style of Staring Down The Barrel, with Derek Hussey's trademark understated vocal delivery contrasting nicely with the song's growing feeling of urban menace. With talk of mysterious shadows, deals going down, broken glass and bodies, it's reminiscent of No Go Central. It's a very strong opener and, at five minutes and 26 seconds, the longest track on the album by nearly a whole minute. The length gives the song plenty of time to breathe and allows the group to keep the groove going.

Boys Will Be Boys is a faster number and one of the two most immediately accessible songs, along with Express Yourself. No coincidence, then, that they were both selected to be released as singles. Both are upbeat, feel good numbers. We will have more to say about Boys Will Be Boys tomorrow.

Undercover starts with a Reggae-type beat, greatly enhanced by the introduction of some sublime clarinet playing, courtesy of Gilad Atzmon. The jaunty surface sheen belies the content of the song; it's all about the overuse of surveillance and the heavy-handed tactics forcing people to conform. Undercover is one of the most thought-provoking songs on the whole album and - just like Look The Other Way - represents a continuation of the themes introduced on Staring Down The Barrel.

The funky Are You One Of Those People is an angry rant against those ''who don't return their calls'', questioning ''how come your time is precious and mine means nothing at all?'' For the modern Blackheads, it's an unusually personal approach to one of life's frustrations, almost certainly based on direct experience.
Norman Watt-Roy
Confused is another step in a new direction. A slow ballad of regret, it reveals a different side to Derek's repertoire. Instead of inhabiting the persona of an onlooker to the action portrayed in the narrative, Confused puts the first person at the centre of the song. A sample of the lyric should be enough to sum up the ethos of this sensitive song:

''Don't have to look too far to know where it went wrong
The reason wasn't hard to see;
But now I know
I was the one who changed...''

The tempo picks up again on Frightened Man. Johnny Turnbull's guitar leads the charge of a man running from unspecified dangers. The relentless pace of the song matches that of the character's flight. A good one to play live, methinks.

Sorry I Apologise is pure vaudeville, with Mick Gallagher's keyboards well to the fore. Documenting a series of comic adventures, it represents the comic highpoint of the album.

Mick Gallagher
Derek Hussey - Vaudeville Style
British Rhythm and Blues - Dr Feelgood and Wilko Johnson style - gets a foot in with What's The Deal Mama, with Johnny Turnbull's rock 'n' roll guitar leading the charge through the albums fastest - and shortest number. In pace and style it reminded me strongly of the oft-covered Don't You Lie To Me, which is no bad thing, of course.

Norman Watt-Roy and Johnny Turnbull
Tommy Gun is (ironically) the album's only misfire. It's a simple enough tale of a young lad signing up:

''He's one of the crowd and he's doing us proud
Perhaps people think that he's crazy;
Without a bye or a leave one dull winter's eve
He decided to enlist in the army...''

However, I think the current ''heroes'' campaigns are a little too widespread, and the song a little too cliched to have the special qualities enjoyed by the other nine tracks on the album.

Same Horse Different Jockey is a delight, with cleverly crafted lyrics, enhanced by an unusual and distinctive delivery, fused with exemplary musicianship. It has been well worth the wait and I'm looking forward to hearing the new songs played live some time in 2014.

Blockheads Personnel:

Chaz Jankel
Norman Watt-Roy
Mick Gallagher
Johnny Turnbull
Derek Hussey
John Roberts
Gilad Atzmon
Dave Lewis
Terry Edwards

Chaz Jankel
Chaz Jankel and Derek Hussey share the songwriting credits on the majority of songs, the exceptions being: Undercover (Derek and Norman); Confused (Mick, Derek and Chaz); Frightened Man (Johnny and Derek).

As mentioned earlier, the cover of Same Horse Different Jockey has proved too controversial for some. Well, compare the image of a couple of ginger nuts with the cover of Staring Down The Barrel, which shows an oversized gun pointing at a child - which escaped the wrath of the censors - and one could draw a few pertinent conclusions over what we deem acceptable in 2014...

For album ordering details, please head for the Block Shop.

We've been covering The Blockheads all week. Here are links to earlier instalments:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

There will be one more Blockhead posting tomorrow...

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