Saturday, 12 March 2016

Big Hogg - Big Hogg, album review

Fucking Prayer

I’ll start with fourth track Rabbit Plateau, a gentle, flute-led acoustic track that begins instrumentally and then eventually arrives at its folk leaning melody, a beautiful Randy California-like guitar at work within. This is followed by the harmonious with horns song Duke of Shakespeare Street, flute again as on the whole album a prominent instrument, and Sophie Sexon leading the beautiful singing, just before the birds join in at the end.

Next, Bad Salad Boogie, delivers the band’s and this album’s flipside, a wild sax opening that smooths into those horns and flute again – this instrumental core having echoes of jazzrock from before, but retaining a Britishness [though a Glaswegian band whose members may not have voted to stay…] which is more brass-band and even light orchestral.

The gifted outfit is Justin Lumsden (electric and acoustic guitars, vocals), Sophie Sexon (flute, vocals), Richard Merchant (trumpet, tenor horn and cornet), Ross McCrae (trombone), Alasdair C. Mitchell (bass guitar) and Nigh Gaughan (drums, percussion), and whilst owing much to folkrock and other of the 60s and 70s [main songwriter Lamsden has been quoted in an interview that his record collection contains nothing beyond 1976] there is a contemporary take on its clever manipulations of old, and some new, on this album. Indeed, eighth Remember Handsome Tony mixes Beefheart, Dr Feelgood and Blood, Sweat and Tears in its pumping, spoken-narrative performance, horns and organ driving it all onwards.

The album opens with When We Were Young which has another Beefheart echo, more in the rhythmic jolts than singing as Sexon is a Captain of Sweet, and female. Perhaps the sound here is also Principal Edwards, but whatever, it is a great start. Dog People follows with that BS&Ts sound very much in evidence in its horn-orchestrated start, the flute joining with the runs. Then the saxophone creeps in literally, another spoken narrative [Beefheart-esque again or Jim ‘Dandy’ Mangrum in the growl] adding to the gothic/horror theme, bass pulsing, organ whirling, horns and guitar riffing: it is playful in its crossovers. Third Turn to Prayer mixes it up yet again with horn triumphs and then spoken narrative, this time Sexon providing the comic line about fucking prayer, and the song explodes. Wonderful.

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