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The Levellers re-level
on 28 June 2012
There has been a degree of malcontent amongst some Levelers fans regarding some of their most recent releases,I was never quite sure why, I like to hear a band twist and turn rather than be staid and oh so predictable. But if there was an album that harks back to the halcyon days of the Levellers revelling in the ambiguity of folk, blended blissfully with rock music then "Static on the Airwaves" is the one that nails their folk roots firmly back on their mast.
So they are back with another album, destined to be played at fests, summer parties and the like , in the manner that "Levelling The Land" did all those years ago.
Here we have an album that harks back to the truly folky rock feel of their very early material and it does not disappoint, and all by the original lineup.
They still wear their politics on their sleeves, but the issues have moved on a bit- desolate high streets ( "our forgotten towns") , virtual reality ("second life") war and so forth.
The fiddle comes to the fore on many tracks, most noticeably on "after the hurricane"- I don't think its any co-incidence they chose Sean Lakeman to produce, brother of folk star Seth Lakeman, it oozes folkiness throughout. There is a confidence on this album which was lacking on the slightly metallic feel of their previous album, and is arguably their best effort since `Zeitgeist'.
In an age when the divide between rich and poor is more apparent than ever its great to hear a band shout out loud about it, with enthusiasm tinged with a musical maturity that comes from being together for nearly 25 years.
Criticisms- is any band beyond them ? I think the weakest tracks are the first two, not quite sure what that first track is really all about. But oh boy, that blast of fiddle from the very beginning of "Our forgotten towns" is quite majestic and raspingly biting and continues throughout the remainder of the track, only added to with the very occasional bass note...powerful indeed. Contrast this with the more prosaic and wistfully played "Alone in this Darkness"...gorgeous stuff.
Its also interesting to note there are no photos of the band, just some artwork.....almost eschewing all notions of celebrity...I once heard the band pay themselves the national average wage, do they still ? They attract quite a bit of flack for wearing their politics on their sleevies...well I admire 'em for it. How much was this album , as in compared to an average new release??
This is , overall, a belting album, dare I use the phrase 'return to form'...ok just did, cos this album is. The Levellers have Levelled out again and aint it grand!