Tom Slatter – ‘Happy People’.
I started off this review by writing a load of overblown drivel about Steampunk Troubadours and Stalinist Dystopias.
But then I stopped, because I realised there is not a lot that needs to be said about this album.
It is BRILLIANT.
What can I say about this album that doesn’t sound hyperbolic? It is, glorious, filled with horror, tenderness, despair, love, grime and beauty. Whilst being much darker and more serious than any of Tom’s previous albums, it is imbued with a humanity which hasn’t been as obvious before (unless songs about men transforming themselves into machines counts as humanity).
I have suspected for a while (since first hearing Rise Another Leaf from “Three Rows of Teeth”) that Tom actually has a large romantic streak running through him. On this album he has really found this voice – songs such as Satellites, Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said and Fire Flower Heart highlight this.
By the third song Satellites, with its lovely bass line, the album really gets into a stride which doesn’t then let up until the end.
Flow My tears, The Policeman Said is, I think, about a once honourable man who is now lost in some nightmare Gulag. I may be wrong. But it is superb, full of little musical flourishes and curlicues.
Even Then We’re Scared with its hint of a Black Sabbath “War Pigs” riff tells of how even with guns, fire, prayer, walls, databases and hiding under our blankets we are still scared of unnamed monsters.
“If you’ve got nothing to hide, then why should you be worried? There a price to be free…”, I don’t for a minute believe that Tom approves of the way our world is turning. I would love to hear the last 20 seconds live, as a 10 minute wig-out by a full band.
Fire Flower Heart is imbued with a delicate poignancy, lamenting the loss of a love who could possibly prevent disaster. Or maybe she would encourage him to press the button?
I get the feeling that all Tom’s previous works were a flexing of musical muscles, practicing for the real thing. This album is the real thing.
In no small part, I suspect that the excellence of this album is due to the work of two particular people – Jordan Brown and Daniel Bowles who between them played bass, keyboards and guitar and provided production expertise. They have found a way to get the best out of Tom.
Michael Cairns’ drumming contribution is tasteful, thankfully never overpowering the songs.
There is a strength and depth to the musical arrangements throughout the whole album – everything has a purpose to it.
Bad Elephant Music continue to astound me with the excellence of their releases. If there was any justice in the world, Radio 6 and Jools Holland would be full of music like this.
I cannot recommend this album highly enough.
Tom Slatter – vocals, guitars
Daniel Bowles – backing vocals, guitars, keyboards
Jordan Brown – bass, backing vocals, keyboards
Michael Cairns – drums
Suzette Stamp – backing vocals
Released 17th March 2017.