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BELLOWHEAD - Broadside

BELLOWHEAD - Broadside
Navigator Records NAVIGATOR073P

With something that does feel at times like the channelling of the explosive energy of a simultaneous discharge from a man-of-war, here’s the fourth album from the extraordinarily unique and joyful juggernaut that’s Bellowhead!

Over 12 tracks, mostly their inimitably radical re-engineering of trad pieces, the party continues with all the theatricality and managed musical mayhem the 11-piece band can muster on a recording with a consistently ‘live’ feel. For sure you’ll never hear Byker Hill, Roll The Woodpile Down, 10,000 Miles Away, Betsy Baker, Thousands Or More, and Lillibulero like this anywhere else. Likewise, the Grand Guignol grotesquerie of the unsettling Black Beetle Pies and spooky Wife Of Usher’s Well, and operatic drama of the incendiary events of Harry Wincott’s Old Dun Cow, complete with period fire brigade bells and all, will surely remain unique!

The range of references and echoes from across the musical spectrum is awesome and diverting in itself. Orchestrally big in number and instrumentation, with a consistently bold and brassy (often honking and burbling bass) backdrop, they somehow interweave classical, jazz, funk, prog. rock, and world music influences, with the soundscapes of the fairground and circus, theatre and cinema (contemporary Arthouse included, with parts worthy of a Peter Greenaway soundtrack!). There’s so much cleverness to revel in with the layered complexity, Blockheads-like pin tightness, the serendipitous delights of eccentric rhythmic and melodic twists, and measured moments of discordance. Your feet can have a serious work out too!

Encapsulating so much musical heritage, often wittily referenced, it’s a pity the recent sporting extravaganza’s ceremonies didn’t accommodate their dynamic and entertaining showmanship as one of our national treasures.

Kevin T. Ward

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This album was reviewed in Issue 93 of The Living Tradition magazine.