Describing the stance his new band adopts when performing material from his lengthy back catalogue, former Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant said “our approach is driven mostly by trance and psychedelia and the musicians’ relationships to African music”. So it is with this new album of nine originals and two cover versions.
African, Celtic and Middle Eastern influences nestle alongside more familiar strains of blues and bluegrass. Keyboard player John Baggott brings electronic loops and drones; Justin Adams switches from guitar to bendir, djembe and tehardant; Juldeh Camara adds touches of Ghanaian kologo and bluesy West African riti.
Sixty-five-year-old Plant’s voice is weary and weathered – nowhere more so than in Turn It Up where he reflects of his time in the States with the country singer Patti Griffin: “I’m lost inside America/I’m turning inside out/I’m turning into someone else/I heard so much about”.
Their romantic split – and Plant’s return to home to West Midlands – has imbued this record with a melancholy, reflective and even at times nostalgic tone. Had it been included in this year’s Mercury Prize list it should have own hands down.
Recorded at Cottage Road studios in Leeds with Eagulls/Hawkeyes producer Matt Peel, Pulled Apart by Horses’ third album is perhaps their most fully realised.
The gnarly, distorted guitar riffs, kit-splitting drumbeats and throat-tearing vocals are both disquieting and invigorating.
Their penchant for song titles such as Lizard Baby, Skull Noir and Bag of Snakes is equally macabre and verging on self-parody. Yet it’s backed up here by musical rigour of the kind you’d find on records by Nirvana, Pixies and The Jesus Lizard.
“I’m gonna throw my s*** and just see what sticks,” howls vocalist Tom Hudson in key track Grim Deal, summing up the band’s entire approach. Right now it seems to serve them well.
In his sleevenotes for this compilation of 80s material from Dave Kusworth’s Rag Dolls, fellow traveller Pat Fish, of The Jazz Butcher, notes: “That songs of the quality of Sparrows or Lucky Smiles should be obliged to wait 30 years for release could be seen as bordering on the unforgivable.”
Here they’ve been lovingly put together by John Purcell and Chris Coleman, two long-time enthusiasts of the Birmingham singer-songwriter who went on to form The Jacobites with cult performer Nikki Sudden.
Re-recordings of tracks such as Pin Your Heart To Me and Snow White later turned up on The Jacobites’ classic double album Robespierre’s Velvet Basement but even in their fledgling form they’re a wonderful amalgamation of Dylan-esque romanticism and ragged Faces-like riff rock. With the inclusion of alternative mixes, rehearsal takes and a live track, this album finally does justice to a neglected talent.
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