Sunday, 26 October 2008

Bellowhead - Matachin (Navigator 2008)

Bellowhead are described as folk-big-band, mixing folk, rock, jazz, soul and world music into a veritable smorgasbord of layers to bring out their quissessentially British outlook on the world. They are currently the South Bank Centre's Band in Residence, feature 11 musicians who play over 20 instruments and 6 actual singers. Them's the facts, now for the second album, 'Matachin'- it's musicially ambitious, incredibly admirable and wholly underwhelming all at the same time. Musicians will appreciate who they are and what they are trying to achieve by bringing together all the styles influences and players but the finally product doesn't quite reach the potential invoked by the idea itself. The music is phenomenal, veering betwen classic folk, marching band and bluesy jazz, with subtle rock and world music tinges throughout. The problem for me is the main sung vocal, weedy and pithy and somehow managing to make the amazing music he is sound-tracking sound a little school-band. 'Roll Her Down the Bay' starts well in a bluesy manner, plumping along, but as the main vocalist begins the song descends into something less worthy than its intentions. Even the harmonies going on behind him are better than him. This is no lashing out, it's just a feeling that this is a band that probably works better live than recorded and would benefit by a main vocalist with more personality, especially seeing as the musical bits are so damned talented and well put-together, full of layer, subtly and ambition. Unfortunately, quirky bordering on zany often sounds better than it is in execution.

Evidence that live, they work better:

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