“a massacre of the epic – a locked-on pleasure-seeking doom-laden machine gun charge through modern society, and its intense mediocrity and distasteful recent past – beautifully massive in all departments and a right royal fuck-you fingers up to all that is top of the pops” – blurb about the new Black Reindeer album on Stephen Jones’ Bandcamp website
In the mid 90’s it seemed I was chasing down a new Britpop band every other day. It gave me a chance to feel like I was part of a scene and stand around with a few million other outsiders, secure in the knowledge that our chart topping bands were a treasured secret. In those days I relied on import magazines from the UK to give me news about up and coming bands (still do, to a lesser extent). A statement about a Babybird release in the UK music magazine Q caught my eye, comparing the act to The Divine Comedy and Neil Hannon. I made the trek to 3rd Street Jazz in Philadelphia and managed to secure an original copy of one of the 1st lo-fi albums. Nothing like The Divine Comedy to be honest – but it began a life long pursuit of buying anything Stephen Jones released. This has involved Babybird, Death of the Neighbourhood, albums released under his own name, and his latest project – Black Reindeer.
In late 2012 it had only been about a year since the last Babybird record (one that had once again featured famed actor Edward Scissorhands on guitar). I regularly check for news about Stephen Jones / Babybird releases and found that the Babybird name had apparently been retired again. There had been rumblings of something happening – videos posted to Youtube, tweets threatening an oncoming deluge of releases. In late October of 2012 the 1st Black Reindeer album was released exclusively on Bandcamp. A clear departure from the demented pop of Babybird – this was film soundtrack type music that recalled earlier Jones efforts like Plastic Tablets and the self titled double album by Death of the Neighbourhood. A steady stream of releases (including Babybird rarities, a Hollywood soundtrack, and a reconfigured DOTN album) followed, culminating in the release of the latest Black Reindeer album, all is good. I may change my mind when the next release comes out, but the 5th album of new material by Stephen Jones since October is the strongest one yet.
he’s just real lucky i didn’t do anything stupid (album highlights)
Love is Wrong starts the album off with a nod towards the past – subtle electronic beats with the golden voice of Stephen Jones, a rarity on a Black Reindeer album. Orchestrated breakdowns with an immensely catchy overall feel to the tune. I instantly knew I was in for something special when I heard this track for the 1st time.
Capitol Radio features a minimal electronic introduction before slowly building into an epic instrumental. A soundtrack to an imaginary film perhaps? Again features subtle beats throughout. The 1st 3 minutes and 40 seconds are an exercise in restraint before exploding in a wall of emotional resonance. Touching, but not in a creepy way.
Gunlaws starts out with a manipulated voice warning about the dangers of having guns in the house with kids around. Piano fades in and out of the mix, it is an unsettling vibe. “Some kids listen / Some kids don’t listen / You don’t leave guns around kids…loaded, unloaded…period”. Fascinating words over atmospheric music. Just shy of the 2 minute mark the music takes over, giving the track a cinematic quality that is nothing short of breathtaking. Probably my favorite track on this release. For today.
Hollywood You F&@king Bastard – the track slowly fades in before hints of drama enter the mix just shy of the 1 minute mark. The song kicks into high gear by about the minute and half mark and is the perfect music to your favorite chase scene in any Hollywood movie. How can so much emotion and drama be packed into a short instrumental track? Stephen Jones is a genius, and Hollywood should take notice. Perhaps that is what this song is all about.
Murdoch – beat higher in the mix with flourishes of electronic white noise throughout the song. A damnation of Rupert Murdoch? Impossible to say. I do know that when the epic strings and beat kicks in halfway through the song I am transported to a happy place. Another epic soundtrack worthy song
If you only know of Stephen Jones from his Babybird days, I implore you to check out his Bandcamp page here. This album is the finest from his Black Reindeer guise but everything he has posted is worth a listen / purchase. There are very few artists that I will consider buying everything and anything from – John Lennon, Joy Division, The Chameleons and related artists, Television Personalities….and Stephen Jones. I highly recommend checking out this latest album from Black Reindeer. You can read up on everything Stephen Jones has been involved with at The Bad Pages.
Verdict: Cinematic Masterpiece
For Fans of: Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, Sonny Lanegan, Babybird, Portishead
- love is wrong
- cameron and the wrath of god
- foreign aid
- capitol radio
- simon cowell
- katy perry
- chuck norris
- jimmy saville
- hollywood you f&@king bastards
- the bbc
- …and then they burnt the busker