It is time for the nature of music reviews - at least for popular music - to change. There's no need any longer to read a review to help you decide if you want to buy an album. All of these tracks can be heard on various places online - either in part or in full, often in different arrangements, sometimes in video - and the lyrics too are freely available. So you can listen, and read, before you decide whether to buy. The traditional reviewer role of helping you decide whether or not this music will be for you, is redundant. It's time for 'reviewers' of popular music to become critics and commentators, to promote discussion rather than offer guidance. With that in mind, here's Johnny...
Very much part of the current British Folk scene, albeit South African by birth, Flynn is a 25-year old actor, poet and songwriter. He went to Bedales, one of the most expensive independent schools in the UK, and has acted in some very prestigious Shakespeare productions. His voice is expressive rather than melodic. He may not quite hit the notes, but he feels them.
The CD insert that is devoted to Flynn (the other insert is devoted to his backing group, The Sussex Wit) rather alarmingly (or a larumingly) cites Shakespeare and Chaucer as his storytelling forebears. Flynn himself says that he has always been interested in "...storytelling as an art form. Real epic storytelling. You hear that in Chaucer, and it's mirrored in traditional folk and in the blues." Quite so, but it's not mirrored in Flynn's own songs. They are not sustained narratives, do not tell a story. They are word pictures -- fragmentary, evocative and sometimes enigmatic. Nothing wrong with that, of course. In fact, they are for the most part fine lyrics, it's just that they are not the stories he seems to think they are, and not of the tradition to which he aspires.
The versions of 'The Box' and 'Tickle Me Pink' (and I think others) are different from the single and EP versions. If you already have those versions, you might welcome the changes, as you are getting something new, some added value. Or, if you have not heard the singles versions, you might feel short-changed, as you are not getting the versions that attracted attention originally.
The musical backing is innovative and very satisfying, with wonderful use of discordant strings and prominent drum rolls, and indeed some excellent guitar work from Flynn himself, especially on 'Tunnels'. The album's coda, a brief instrumental (organ) reprise of Shore to Shore, is a nice touch, and a fine way to end the set.
I think it's a shame that The Sussex Wit doesn't get billed on the album cover. Flynn is of course the front man and songwriter, but the band is still a big part of the overall sound. They get their own separate insert, but it would have been nice if they had been given equal billing.