‘The Light Of Ancient Mistakes’ is the new album from Hats off Gentlemen It’s Adequate and, again, we are offered an intriguing collection of songs, some of which are based on books and authors that Malcolm Galloway has read and been enthralled and inspired by. These books include works by Adrian Tchaikovsky and also the likes of David Cornwell, who wrote as John le Carré, and Conservative MP Chris Bryant. Other tracks are inspired by the works of Sci-Fi authors Iain M Banks and Philip K Dick. So, whilst not a concept album, many of the tracks are thematically linked to literature. This makes the album unusual and also challenging to listen to at times. However, the music is of their usual extremely high standard and there is a lot going on musically which grabs your attention.
The album has several instrumental tracks that combine to make a musical statement. This is pretty different to their last two albums, ‘The Confidence Trick’ and ‘Nostalgia For Infinity’, although the Science Fiction angle is covered by the choice of authors whose works inspired the music. There is some excellent music on this album, including the up-tempo opener Sold The Peace and the sad and aching hurt of Sixteen Hugless Years, which is based on the experiences of childhood neglect. This in itself is a sobering and desperately sad song, it is song where the hurt is palpable and deeply heartfelt. The track really makes an impression as you hear the hurt in the lyrics, all portrayed by Malcolm in a passionately delivered vocal. Also impressive is the song Glamour Boys which is about a group of mostly homosexual or bisexual Conservative MPs who were threatened by the reveal of their sexuality by Chamberlain’s government of the day. These men stood against appeasement and were prepared to suffer for their feelings and their different lifestyles, remember that homosexuality was actually a crime in that time. Many of these MPs paid a high price as a result.
Amongst all this heartache and pain you have interspersed some shorter instrumental pieces that act as a musical sorbet in cleansing the palate before the next song, for example the brief and deeply personal i’mtiredandeverythinghurts, Malcolm’s reflection on coping and living with an invisible disability (chronic pain due to Ehlers-Danlos syndrome) and how he feels when folk ask innocently, and with well meaning, ask how he is doing. It is a surprisingly upbeat track, very brief but it makes a good point about how we ask and often fail to understand or comprehend each other at times.
The next big track is Walking To Aldebaran, which is inspired by the Adrian Tchaikovsky novella in which miscommunication between an astronaut and a malfunctioning, but well intended, machine leads to a monstrous transformation. Parts of this inspiration comes from the novella and other parts come from rhythmic patterns inherent in Peter Maxwell Davies‘ ‘Eight Song For A Mad King’. This is a very diverse track, often jarring and abrupt, with a lot of sequenced keyboards and Chapman Stick. It is highly developed and has great sounds contained within its nearly nine minute duration. It is, ultimately, another rather sad and forlorn piece though. Goodbye Cassini is a flute led tribute to the space probe that explored Saturn and its icy moons. When its fuel supply was exhausted on September 15th 2017 it plunged into Saturn’s atmosphere, still returning data to its end. A rather profound tribute to what was a ground-breaking and important scientific research mission that last nearly twenty years and covered nearly five billion miles. The Man Who Japed is inspired by Philip K Dick (who wrote ‘Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep’) and the album’s title track was inspired by Iain M Bank’s ‘Look To Windward’.
The album is an interesting concept and also a very rewarding one ,especially if you delve into what thoughts lie behind the songs and then take the time to let the music work its own magic on you. Within this release you will find many excellent musical passages, some thought provoking words and some deep and important themes and questions. For me, this is another fine, well thought, considered and expertly delivered musical statement from Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate.
Released September 9th, 2023.
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