Sometimes it dawns on us just how simple it is to miss out on special musical moments as it is with matching ease to be given them. The missing of an email can unknowingly take away a realm of sheer pleasure but equally so the opening of an unexpected mailing can unveil the keenest bliss. This thought was once again brought to bear by a message from guitarist/vocalist Andrew Hawkins in regard to his band Star Botherers. The UK outfit had just unveiled their new album, Tales Of Layton Rakes and by his simple introduction and invitation we have found a new addiction.
Hailing from Warsop (Notts), the quintet spring a rousing proposal nurtured in the throes of folk, punk and rock ‘n’ roll around intimate and broader social commentary. With devilish intent and a mischievousness that is pure infectiousness in its own rights, the band is something akin to a fusion of The Radioactive Grandma, Arctic Monkeys and Headsticks but in every note, word, and deed uniquely irresistible as we soon found.
The successor to their 2017 debut album, Happy Angry, which a swift hindsight listen showed was no lightweight in enjoyment either, Tales Of Layton Rakes sees the band’s sound bolder, more varied and even more indignant in its breath. Fun though appears just as an urgent a need for the band in their writing and creating and the grin on our faces from its first breath to the very last proved their inescapable success.
The album’s title, Tales Of Layton Rakes is a reference to a certain Blackpool pub of a well-known chain and provides the base for many of its stories of people and life. Bringing a few older songs from the quintet’s first EP, each revitalised and eagerly uniting with new tracks, the release is a spirited and lively animation of the simple man living today, as often a kind of celebration as a reflection of trials and tribulations in that journey.
13 years in Oregon sets things off, Hawkins’ harmonica a humid introduction to the song’s subsequent cow punk toned saunter. There is also a great skiffle essence to its rhythmic and melodic shuffle, reminding a touch of eighties band The Shakin’ Pyramids melded with contemporaries The Woodentops.
It is a great ear grabbing start but soon eclipsed in the passions by Spoons and its instantly infectious jangle. The punchy beats of Brad Drury greedily manipulate song and reactions as the melodic enticement of guitarists Joel Howe and Ellis Waring with their array of instrumentation, including the Bouzouki, ukulele, mandolin and accordion across the album, already beginning their enterprise in getting the body swinging as a slice of pub shenanigans is shared.
Treading the same streets, the following Blackpool is a seaside tale of revelry and consequences in another contagion of animated sound. As soon found across all tracks, every note and syllable comes with its own mischief and fun, a devilment translated in the band’s individual and united craft as further evidence by Let it stand and in turn Just around the corner – Vidmix in quick succession. The first strolls through the Empire and subsequent repercussions of governmental tradition and the disrepair they seem to embrace with the keen removal of reminders of past wrongs which has emerged in its view while the second shares a tale of hopes and opportunities trampled into the ground. Both tracks are as spirited in folk punk nurtured sound and energy as they are impassioned in heart and tones, romping stomping songs which as you smile ensure you spare many a thought.
Another Lidl song is obvious in its premise, a history of changing public perception of certain brands as times get hard to a country folk tune which had us swinging and swaying like its puppet before Kyle & Norton sees those well-known TV celebs sharing shows and audiences for another cheek stretching romp sure to get the body bouncing as again we can testify to.
The voracious punk fuelled Freethinker is another of the major highlights of the album, its lofty heights spiked by particular peaks and none as rousing and compelling as this surge of defiance and passion. Even so it is constantly challenged for favourite song, the following Swearing in songs the perfect tip guide to PC acceptance for radio play. At heart though there is an underlying FU subversion, a dissent which soaks all tracks as the insatiable Silence is acceptance proves. The track is another instinctive addiction for us, its unbridled pace and attitude a delicious incitement of sound and invention delivered with gang roars and folk punk voracity.
That favourite song choice is again forcibly challenged by the next pair of songs, each declaration more convincing with every listen so no conclusion to the dilemma has yet been found. He’s got dreads is a portrait of that man you either despise, adore, or make fun of; might he even be a reflection of an unknowing part of you, but here he makes for the spark for another irresistible stroll of Star Botherers devilry its bounce musically and lyrically the trigger to communal uproar.
Oddly Excluded is a song originally written for Pete Drake project volume 1 with Drake providing the lyrics, Hawkins the wordsmith for the rest of Tales Of Layton Rakes. Its failed romance springs another insurgence of melodic and rapacious enterprise in the imitable Star Botherers sound and invention, its virulence an unstoppable orchestration of voice and antics for band and listener alike escalating in an upbeat maybe slightly warped finale…
With Sailors’ grave a folk punk shanty as ravening in infectiousness as it is prodigious in excitable sound and lyrical animation, Hawkins again like a show barker to the narratives within, Tales Of Layton Rakes ended as impressively and rousingly as it began with no dip in either or the devil spun craft of the band throughout. It proved one of those album’s our instincts and passions were borne for; thank goodness for that simple message from Andrew.
Tales Of Layton Rakes is out now; available digitally and on CD @ https://starbotherers.bandcamp.com/album/tales-of-layton-rakes
Pete RingMaster 16/12/2021
Copyright RingMaster Review