Staring Down The Barrel is a great, adult album full of good tunes, witty lyrics and steaming great grooves. In 2004, bbc.co.uk said about the Blockheads last album, Where's The Party, that 'the Blocks are on their own label and the album, unless some benevolent sponsor steps in, is most likely destined for obscurity.'
Well, that album opened some doors and lo and behold, a benevolent sponsor in the shape of EMI stepped in. That's right, that EMI, the one that has the Beatles and Coldplay. It is testament to the accomplishment and downright tenacity of the group to find themselves in such illustrious company.
The musicianship here is remarkable, of course. MD and co-writer Chaz Jankel delivers some hummable epics and the band is as tight as they've ever been. What is different is that they have decided that Derek Hussey is to be the album's sole vocalist. In Hussey, they have a song stylist who takes on former leader Ian Dury's mantle with accomplishment. Comparisons, inevitably, are going to be drawn, but this is Derek, not Ian, you are listening to.
Hussey's lyrics make you both giggle and think and are sufficiently three-dimensional to not simply be a disgruntled old bloke railing against 21st Century. He uses terms like 'shove off' and 'rozzers' with such great sincerity; you think you've found a lost artifact from the 50s.
Staring Down The Barrel, with its Peter Blake sleeve, musical and lyrical references to the group's thirty years and some very modern concerns in the subject matter, is a rather enjoyable romp. Whether it sells is another affair, but as a signpost to their stunning live work and a postcard to prove they have survived without the wondrous Dury, it does the job. --Daryl Easlea
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