What if after I had told you 18 months ago that when I set up this blog to write about cool music, cool people and cool things that I would be reviewing an album that at times reminded this writer of New Model Army, Crusty Rockers The Levellers you would of raised an eye brow right!
What if I said they chucked in a load of Boomtown Rats Sax?
Oh and the lead singer has a voice that is somewhere between the geezer from Crash Test Dummies and Gary from Reef, but making Gary sound as smooth as Tony Bennett!
And if you were still following this blog by then – how about an album of songs that jumps right out of the 80’s rock scene and owes as much to Born In the USA Springsteen, Hot House Flowers and The Waterboys as it does to current artists such as Sam Fender, Blossoms, Catfish and the Bottlemen?
You’d thing this new writer was off his not so young head and too many disco biscuits had rattled his brain beyond any kind of understanding of what makes a great album in 2021.
What if I told you that all of the above is true, that Hardwick Circus have released an album that incorporates all of the above and more, so much more that this writer listened to the album 3 times in a row straight and wrote this review straight afterwards.
Trust me – this is all I ask – read on and then go listen to it.
Hardwicke Circus are a 6 piece band from Carlisle – literally the last place in the UK before your Scottish (well nearly) – thats all I know about them – but I’m going to find out more – so lets focus on the album.
The Borderland is an assured debut album as you will hear in many a while, its also one that will surprise you almost at every turn.
Lets get the elephant in the room out of the way first – vocalist and guitarist Jonny has a voice that to say its going to be marmite to a lot of people is putting it lightly – none more so then the opening track Guiding Light – a vocal so deep I’ve not heard since that strange MMM MMM MMM Song by Crash Test Dummies – its a brave opening song and maybe thats the point – you get over that and then your into the album that by the end of it your probably saying he’s the best new vocalist around and has a richness n tone to it that is matched by few others – at its best its part Frank Turner, Joe Strummer and even David Johansen from the New York Dolls. You decide – I know where I sit (now).
But what about the songs – well I’m pleased to say it’s full of stadium filling/gig singalong belters such as recent single Walking on Broken Glass thats a triumphant a tune you’ve heard for a whle, filled with that 80’s style sax – with a hook to die for. Nowhere left to run and Lets make new mistakes are incredibly great pop fused songs that will sit happily next to the best of anything your favourite acts have put out in recent years. You get Tom Petty, 80’s REM and with Lets make new mistakes synths which could make Blossoms pack it all in – its that good.
Hands Up Don’t Shoot may just be the best of the bunch – a song that tackles racism and police brutality head on. Its brave as its catchy and shows depth to the band as well as a social consciousness which is a theme that runs through the whole album.
Lockdown (of course there would be) is a song that sounds like Peter Gabriel wrote it – the 80’s influences are everywhere but in a gritty real way that that made later era Dexy’s so essential.
They even have time to put in a song written about and dedicated to Tyson Fury – The Ballad of the Gypsy King is a Madness, Glam Rock Stomper if played by Peter Buck on Mandolin. When they make a film of Tyson’s life if this isn’t on the soundtrack then there is no justice in the world.
The slower ballads are also really great – Carry the Torch especially which is particulary heartfelt.
Final tracks A reason to Believe and The Debatable Land end the album on a high and The Levellers influence on the The Debabtable Land can’t be avoided but for me its the power and vision of Joe Strummer and The Clash that shines through.
I should really dislike this album – and I’m sure my early 20’s me is sneering even now – but I’m different now and I would be quite upset if I was to miss out hearing this album because I have a feeling it’s going to take the band to another level. As a newish band I can only think of the likes of The Heavy North, Sam Lambeth and maybe a few others that are carrying this type of blues, country, rock n soul off with any type of style. So for me thats just perfect!
Its out now – so do yourself a favour – park your preconceptions at the door and go and have a listen.
Let me know what you think – please share you thoughts with the band as well.