Text: Paul van der Zalm
Liverpool calling… It’s quite a statement to call your debut EP Grand National and then have the title track be an anti-slogan against this famous horse race and the gambling around it (“I wouldn’t place a bet if you paid me”). These guys just do it and they do it convincingly, with the boldness of Sports Team, the tongue-in-cheek of The Fall and the combative spirit of The Jam. The guitar sounds support the staccato vocals and a minute or two in, you think it’s a perfect punk song, but then there’s an outro and a minute later another one, and the countdown to the next song begins.
That next song is called ‘Popshop!’ (a pop song about the consumption of pop songs) and is just as cynical, therefore it plays with your expectations and sounds more like an upbeat song like Shame or Franz Ferdinand could make. At the end of the song, you have to listen carefully to whether they are singing Popshop or Shut up.
Besides these previously released singles, there are two new songs on this EP: Crass is a song with a firm driving rhythm and spoken vocals that change into distorted, Dalek-like vocals. In terms of atmosphere, it reminds us a bit of protest poet Anne Clarke; at first ‘Slow Burner’ is a danceable song, especially because of the bass line, but through the sound of cowbells it inevitably ends in chaos.
Grand National is released today on the sympathetic label Nice Swan Records that also accommodates Pip Blom. On that label, they released the equally socially critical ‘(Don’t wanna get on) David Byrne’s Badside’ in May 2020, but that is missing on this EP, as well as the self-released songs ‘Not Yr Man’ and the ironic ‘Football’.
The fact that the EP is already sold out in pre-sales shows that the band has built up quite a reputation. Hopefully, we will soon be able to admire Sean Murphy-O’Neill (guitar/vocals/cowbell), Sean Thomas (drums/vocals), Michael Downes (guitar) and Sam Brennan (bass) live. We’re willing to take that chance!
Fun fact: at first the band wanted to shoot the video for ‘Grand National’ in a well-situated gambling office, but that (unfortunately) did not happen when this office became aware of the meaning of the lyrics…
Nice Swan Records