❉ The redoubtable Mr Westmoreland has constructed a series of arty, spiky, clever songs.
Some albums (and some artists for that matter) can end up sounding a bit…samey, each track much like the other, with little to make any single song stand out. Even very good albums can fall into this trap, the music and lyrics bleeding into one another, so that the point at which one song ends and the next begins becomes less clear than you might expect and, great though it may be, you begin to pine for a bit of variety.
This is not something you could say about Micko & The Mellotronics, as the single taken off their new album on Landline Records, ½ Dove, ½ Pigeon, amply illustrates. Noisy Neighbours is a peak slice of New Wave goodness reworked for the 21st century. Imagine a coming together of The Jam, Blur and Arctic Monkeys, throw in a bit of Pere Ubu and even a smidgen of Half Man Half Biscuit, and then somehow got all of these disparate influences to coalesce and create something actually new.
That’s Noisy Neighbours, a riff heavy slab of pop rock, with a killer hook and a lyric about twitching net curtains, unbecoming slapping sounds and general antisocial behaviour. It’s both very funny and guaranteed to get your foot tapping (even dancing if you’re that way inclined, and there’s enough space).
Flip the record over though, and the other side – and it’s definitely not a B side, this is a AA if ever I heard one – opens with gentle hand-picked guitar, and a soft vocal, before Neil Innes (yes, that one, the one from the Rutles and the Bonzos, in one of his final sessions) joins in on piano as well as providing a glorious string arrangement (You Killed My Father). The only thing obviously tying the two tracks together is main man Micko Westmoreland’s voice and the wonderful observational lyrical content, which is as British as pop and crisps, bowls and snooker, the Kinks, Madness and Pulp.
The whole album is like that. Backed by a band who obviously know their stuff (and given their lineage, they should do, with former members of The Banshees, the Specials and The Higsons all on board) Westmoreland constructs a series of arty, spiky, clever songs in which horrible dictator’s equally horrible missus, Imelda Marcos sits cheek to jowl with anxiety guru George Eifert, glamorous New York abuts against kitchen sink Leeds, and horns, guitars, violin and some really excellent bass and drum work anchor it all in place.
It’d be redundant for me to pick favourite tracks from this album (a debut for this band, but not for the redoubtable Mr Westmoreland – those with an interest in his earlier work should look out the equally fabulous Yours Etc Abc from a few years back). There’s not a song on here which isn’t a winner.
It’s (hopefully) late in the day, but I think I may have found my favourite album of the lockdown.
❉ Stuart Douglas is an author, and editor and owner of the publisher Obverse Books. He has written four Sherlock Holmes novels and can be found on twitter at @stuartamdouglas