Review – Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate – The Confidence Trick – by John Wenlock-Smith

Music is at its best when it challenges you to think and to possibly to change your perception and understanding of things and situations. Well ‘The Confidence Trick’ (the new album from Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate) may just help you in that respect. The album is partly conceptual in nature and, certainly, many of the songs share a common theme, often viewed from different angles.

The concept is that overconfidence can be viewed as a good trait and yet tends to lead to bad decision making, in that said ‘confidence’ is often mistaken for competence and this is where our problems often begin. Certainly this holds true in politics and can explain why people like Donald Trump and Boris Johnson have fared well politically. The fact that Trump is a sociopath and arrogantly self promoting didn’t really affect his inability to change the U.S. political system, it was his self confidence that swept away much of the barriers to the presidency.

This album reflects on these themes and uses intellect to make its points in a very admirable way. There is also the clever use of instrumental tracks that subtly support the themes of the album.

There are some fabulous passages in this album and the musicianship is very fine indeed with some fabulous emotive guitar lines and stirring synth passages and keyboard playing from Malcolm Galloway. There is also the excellent bass and Chapman stick playing of Mark Gatland and the hauntingly beautiful flute playing of Kathryn Thomas, whose classical training adds gravitas to the tracks on which she is a part.

A definite highlight is the excellent World War Terminus that explores how war unfolds and how these overconfident, yet mostly misguided, individuals believe they can win the chosen conflict when often they simply cannot or never could. Yet, such is their self belief (mostly misplaced), that they make rash decisions and unsustainable actions. All of this is contained through the excellent and challenging lyrics that abound on this album.

Another Plague was written prior to the recent lockdowns and refers to a government exercise in 2016. One in which we failed to learn, or even to make ready our preparations, for such a pandemic as happened in 2019 and which thousands of lives were lost because of incompetent government action or a complete lack of. The song is very direct and is uncompromising at laying blame at the government’s door. It’s a song that deserves to be widely heard but sadly won’t be, as folk only buy what they already know and what fits their requirements. It is almost criminal when music like this really warrants a far bigger platform and focus to be heard.

Folks like me can certainly help raise the profile but it’s getting the public at large to embrace change that is the difficult part. But those open minded individuals who embrace new music will find loads to enjoy and appreciate in this album, chock full as it is with excellent music and quality and intelligence. This really is a very rich seam in which to mine for nuggets of gold.

The album also has touches of modern classical and minimalism in it’s tracks best shown on Refuge, which is based on the family experience of Malcom’s Grandmother and her treatment at foreign hands. The track is instrumental but still conveys much, including a sense of joy and also wonder and gratitude for those that helped her to survive.

The title track is also very strong indeed and is a perfect summation of the albums themes and songs. All in all this album really impresses with some fabulously fluid guitar parts, majestic synths and solid musical backing throughout.

This is definitely a step further for the band and, impressive as ‘Nostalgia For Infinity’ was, this one is both totally different and also even better. ‘The Confidence Trick’ has so many worthy tracks like Perky Pat, Lamprey Lava and All Empires Fall, all of which show the skill and flair the band have in the music they craft and create for our aural pleasure and long may such a fine creative streak continue.

Released 15th July, 2022.

Order here:

The Confidence Trick | Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate (bandcamp.com)

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