Since co-founding and being the raging roar of punk band Crass in 1977, Steve Ignorant has challenged and examined life and society with voracious intent. It is a constant part of his art whether music or in other mediums, a skilled confrontation which never loses its potency it seems, certainly taking his new band and release, Love And A Lamp-Post ,as the freshest example. Slice Of Life is an acoustic project employing poetry and spoken pieces within a maybe best described as folk street punk embrace. It is a fascinating window upon life, a snarl at prejudices and wrongs with gentle personal contemplation. The album ebbs and flows in potency at times but at no point are ears and thoughts less than thoroughly involved and wanting more.
Slice of Life sees Ignorant linking up with pianist/vocalist Carol Hodge who also worked with Ignorant on the Last Supper project, guitarist Pete Wilson who again was part of Last Supper, and upright bassist Lucas Martin. The result is a release which swiftly sparks the imagination as it makes its reflections and incisive commentary on a life we are all part of in some form or other.
The album’s title track starts things off, a caress of acoustic guitar soon lying with a pungent expression of keys and dark bass shadows as vocals provide the crooning narrative. It is a tantalising proposition, melodies a tangy hue to the plainer but no less magnetic and eventful tones of Ignorant. There is a drama to the lyrical and musical character of the song which is more black and white TV play like than cinematic but certainly a visually sparking essence soaking the whole album and is reinforced as the opening of next up Killing Time lures with a smiling street bred skit. It reminds of the Johnny Wore Black album Walking Underwater from earlier this year which employs samples taken from a documentary based on the streets and real everyday life. As the opening to the second song leads into its captivating heart, the track also reminds and confirms something Ignorant said about Love And A Lamp-Post recently; “Years ago I read a book called Brighton Rock, for days the atmosphere of that story stayed with me and I’ve always wanted to create an album that would have the same effect on people.” Blessed with siren-esque harmonies from Hodge which seduce as this time Ignorant’s expression of piano keys colour his potent words, the song makes it easy for thoughts to slip into the small and imposing creative theatre and inescapable honesty of its incitement. The track mesmerises the imagination much as its successor Happy Hour with its initial sixties like melodic temptation leading to a more sultrily exotic stroll of radiant keys and smouldering chords. The piano of Hodge is a lingering tempting providing rosy colour to the rawer reality of vocals and seductive bass.
Next up is You, a short spoken prose piece pointing an uncompromising finger at portions of society and those who govern it. Thoughts bring forth references to the recently released Waging War album from UK punks The Duel, which used a similar ingenuity to matching success between and to open songs. It is a potent piece benefitting from its brief presence, a short sharp poke before Here I Stand steps forward with its guitar and vocal questioning. It is richly effective bait for thoughts but spreads further into the passions with the delicious flames of trumpet provided by Dave Land.
Eleven Chimneys is like its predecessor a song which opens with strong appeal but finds greater compelling persuasion as other elements join the spine of provocative vocals, this time it being the temptress like harmonic breeze of Hodge, her voice as virulent a lure for ears as her rigorous piano charm and Ignorant’s lyrical prowess. The song serenades as it opens its personal angst, bass and guitar adding varied shades to the elegant yet unfussy nature of the excellent encounter.
From the wonderfully anthemic The Way Things Are where everything resourcefully colludes to raise an emotional call to arms, the album moves into the riveting spoken tale of The Home Coming. It is a sublimely descriptive portrait of a lonely soul, memories and bleak hues of life the persistent scenery for the heart of the track’s protagonist. With slim but complimentary hints of piano, the piece is a powerful moment on the album, though not one personally to explore with every listen of Love And A Lamp-Post, more a moment to use sparingly to keep its potency at full strength.
Final track Slice of Life leaves imagination and ears basking in another masterfully crafted embrace of low key but vivacious melodies with passion fuelled and uncompromising words. The song is an irresistible finale to an enthralling and thoroughly enjoyable release. There has been no diminishing of Steve Ignorant’s discontent and ability to challenge society’s ills over the past three decades and more, it just comes with broader invention and absorbing adventure as proven by the excellent Love And A Lamp-Post, which as the band name says is just a warts and all Slice Of Life.
Love And A Lamp-Post is available now via Overground Records @ https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/love-and-a-lamp-post/id925320410
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