In 2012, Guardian journalist Dorian Lynsey declared that indie rock was dying a slow and painful death.
Now, 2017 has come along like a skinny jean, knackered Converse-wearing zombie apocalypse, to resurrect some of the classic indie bands that defined the genre’s golden age. From The Wombats to The Pigeon Detectives, these bands that were ones-to-watch in the noughties are now celebrating ten years since their debut albums were released. While some have fallen off the radar almost entirely, and others have had flaccid attempts at revival, Reverend and the Makers have quietly been churning out decent albums. Earlier this month the Sheffield band celebrated the ten-year anniversary of their debut ‘The State of Things’ by releasing their sixth studio album, ‘Death of a King’.
For the follow-up to 2015’s ‘Mirrors’, the band headed overseas to Thailand to record the album, as frontman Jon McClure told Cooking Vinyl: “we loved the recording abroad thing after the last album (recorded in Jamaica). Gives the albums a flavour of their own and so we thought we’d give Thailand a try.” Encouraged by Pete Doherty and Carl Barat’s love of Bang Saray, McClure and the band decided to record ‘A Death of a King’ in Karma Sound Studios, in which The Libertines recorded ‘Anthems for Doomed Youth’.
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The title ‘Death of a King’ itself is a reference to the death of the countries longest reigning monarch (King of Thailand Bhumibol Adulyadej) and the cultural influence of their surroundings is prevalent on a number of tracks. Bang Saray is a two-and-a-half minute instrumental fusion of traditional Asian and Indian percussion with ripples of Western guitars. An echoing gong kicks the track off as a soothing melody plays on a Thai xylophone; once it’s finished it will make you feel like you’ve been on a trip around the world to ‘find yourself’.
A stark contrast, opening track ‘Miss Haversham’ begins with haunting violins that sound like a score from a horror movie. The tension descends from gothic undertones to an upbeat and soulful southern country blues riff. McClure sings, “are you building a wall around your house so no one can get through to you” alluding to Charles Dickens Great Expectations.
‘Auld Reekie Blues’ incorporates strong influences from the 60s rock and Motown era. Other than light accompanying piano, the opening is stripped down to McClure’s bare vocals, and the body of the song has the swooning, dreamy elements you might find on a Beatles or The Last Shadow Puppets track.
Similar to ‘Black Widow’ from fifth album ‘Mirrors’, lead track ‘Too Tough To Die’ sees Reverend and the Makers doing what we know them for best: it’s in-your-face rock and roll, with explosive guitar chords and filled with attitude that’s been startlingly absent in the recent indie scene.
‘Black Cat’ is the most musically set-apart from the whole album. Shrouded in witchcraft and sorcery, the song features a full brass band and sounds like it could have been written for the extended entrance of a pantomime villain. Even the lyrics, ’witches brew’ ‘can you do the voodoo too?’ seem over-dramatic and forced, this one falls a little flat.
There are a couple of surprise guest appearances on ‘Death of a King’, including The Coral’s James Skelley on ‘Lisa’ – as McClure and Skelley sing ‘what’s g’warning darlin’ Lisa’ this country folk track with an urban twist could almost be mistaken for a Jake Bugg song. Northern punk poet John Cooper Clarke also features heavily on closing track ‘You Can Have It All’, bringing back that strong element of social realism that featured on their early work such as ‘Heavyweight Champion if the World.’
‘Death of a King’ is Reverend and the Makers most innovative and self-assured album to date. Although there are fleeting moments where their experimentation doesn’t quite pay off, stepping out of the confines of indie disco and introducing quirkier sounds into their arsenal is a bold move that makes for a thoroughly enjoyable listen.
‘Death of a King’ is out now via Cooking Vinyl. The track listing is as follows…
- Miss Haversham
- Auld Reekie Blues
- Bang Saray
- Too Tough To Die
- Monkey See, Monkey Do
- Black Cat
- Autumn Leaves
- Time Machine
- Juilet Knows
- Black Flowers
- Lisa (feat. James Skelley)
- Still Down
- You Can Have It All (feat. John Cooper Clarke)