Released 8 September 2015 via Proper Music
Redefining the rhythmic base and structure of Hammer horror-metal prog folk, Blackbeard’s Tea Party has been one of the must-see bands on the festival circuit over the last few years, with gigs from Borneo to Glastonbury and Cropredy to the south of Spain. The band has one of the great front men active on the scene today with Stuart Giddens. He’s a camp and sneering boy-slut, a corrupt nightmare panto ‘Buttons’ and a darkly humorous theatrical menace comparable to the sensational Alex Harvey.
Giddens tells Kemptation:
“I guess I’m trying to mix the intensity of Nick Cave and the anarchism of Kushal Gaya (Melt Yourself Down), with the camp of Neil Tennant, Grace Jones and Gideon Conn. The song writing owes a lot to Nick Cave (again!), Jarvis Cocker and Jacques Brel – narrative songs with more than a hint of black humour.”
Meanwhile cool and beautiful, every straight woman’s secret fantasy, the beautiful Laura Boston-Barber rakes the crowd with fiddle-fire and steely blue eyes; a mega mix of styles and influences.
The unique sound and stage show has been honed over many years of busking in the streets of their native York and dozens of festivals and clubs up and down and up again the motorways of the UK. The dual percussionists Dave Boston and Yom Hardy lay down a complex and ever-shifting backdrop. Boston tells Kemptation:
“My percussive style is influenced by Malinké djembe and dundun and Cuban rumba and bata, mainstream influences Jim Hendrix, James Brown and Fela Kuti. Not so mainstream Papo Angarica, Los Munequitos and Mamady Keita.”
Co-percussionist Hardy namechecks Rammstein and Marilyn Manson as influences and both share a passion for the late John Bonham.
Underneath these complex and bewildering rhythmic patterns flows bass-meister Tim Yates’ thundering subsonic gymnastics, guitarist Martin Coumbe switching effortlessly between crunching power chords and snaky lead lines.
This release – produced by Yorkshire punk and hardcore man Dave Boothroyd (new band Larrakia) and recorded at his Reel Recording Studio – is the band’s first studio album after a several homemade recordings, and sees them on the verge of a breakthrough to the mainstream, their following built almost entirely on the relentless hard work of the band and the dedication of their fans. So have they succeeded in capturing the anarchic fire and spirit of their astonishing live shows?
Their tight and punchy sound is encapsulated in ‘Jack Ketch’ a bloody mock horror romp and with a power and grace quite astonishing, reminding of ‘Larks Tongue’ era King Crimson. Blackbeard’s Tea Party gives a nod to prog in the instrumental ‘Star of Munster’, Barber’s fiddle breakdown soaring over Boston and Hardy’s poly-rhythms before Yates’ bass duals with fiddle and guitar.
Some of the songs do miss the mark a little; Giddens is often singing at less than full tilt and the material can be a little derivative. The hackneyed ‘Stand up Now’ grates on repeated listening and some of the instrumental work can be over complex.
But this is thrown into relief when the band move up a gear with ‘Close the Coal House Door’ which closes the album. Preceded by the powerful prog folk riff-fest ‘Lose Shoulder’, the album climaxes with the story of the Aberfan disaster, written in 1969 by Geordie legend Alex Glasgow.
It’s here that Giddens finally finds his range. Stripped of the comic pretense that can inhibit his work, his voice radiates cold fury over sparse and metronomic percussion patterns. Giddens recounts the simple lyric, the story of the tragedy that claimed so many young lives with a rare anger and intensity over a metronomic rhythm pattern and eerie bass counter melody, before the band lurches into a meaty riffage, Boston-Barber’s screaming in rage and judgement.
An important album from a band just coming into its pomp. Catch Blackbeard’s Tea Party on its autumn tour soon. They reach London and the legendary punk venue the New Cross Inn on 11 October 2015.
Artist: Blackbeard's Tea Party
An important album, a bold reimagining of the genre, a redefining of English metal-folk rock from one of the best live bands on the circuit.