Death Is Not The End said Dylan, words which unfortunately have been a signpost for much of the last 12 months as numerous musicians signed off. We’re not subscribing to the curse of 2016, people come and go and there is an age thing of course, the baby boomers at the end of the mortal coil. Still it’s sad to yet again have an album that is probably going to be remembered as much for the passing of an artist as for its musical merit.
Cakehole Presley‘s bass player Mark Humphries died just a few weeks after this album was recorded, not headline news but a shock to his community in Cardiff. The album (their second) carries a quotation from him in the sleeve notes, the release a tribute of sorts to him. As such it’s a fine capture of a band who are typical of those who toil at the coalface of rock’n’roll; local heroes with the chops and song writing savvy to rise above the norm but unlikely to command the attention of all but the most finely attuned movers and shakers. A pity really as it’s a bloody good listen, earthy and honest reminding one of the early days of Lindisfarne along with a hint of the better pub rock bands; folk, country, rock and good old ballardeering here aplenty. If anything there’s just a touch too much variety on show as they move from hammering home a sixties type R’B rave up on Great Together into the dreamy protest swirl of Sweet Dreams (Little Darlings), an anthem to the poor and huddled which has a quiet grandeur about it. The softer (with a whiff of Celtic romanticism within) songs just tip the scale over the rockier ventures. In the Used To Be is jauntily nostalgic, Reeva, a touching celebration of grandchildren. Sweetheart is Dylanish in its sinuous delivery while Sunderland captures perfectly those moments when a gray and drizzled life that is only punctuated by bus timetables is coloured by thoughts of a whimsical wonderland.
Aside from a foray into a woozy cabaret world on the Weimar Wurlitzer of Cobbled Streets & Syphilis there’s a shimmering guitar driven pop song on Hope I’m Reaching Your Heart, the opening song on the album while the closer, Don’t Let The Bastards Grind You Down, is a fine sing-along barrelhouse carouse. Overall, the album is a rousing listen and a fine farewell to their departed member with an unlisted last song, a simple folksy ditty, their eulogy.