Saturday, November 10, 2012

JOHNNY 5TH WHEEL AND THE COWARDS Music To Shake 'n' Shuffle To

‘Happy Clappy/Doom Jazz’ is the third track on the second collection from Lancashire's Johnny5thWheelandthecowards. Well, if the cap fits... the title of that breezy brass-and-harmonica party hoe-down doubles nicely as a musical summary of a good part of this rum collection of vaudevillian cabaret pop. But it’s not all rag-time japes - said song also contains the line “Bad juju on the rise / feels like Crowley is pissing in my eyes" neatly demonstrating how everything is not as straightforward as it first appears in the looking glass world of Mr 5thWheel and his merry troubadours. This dark-and-light album follows earlier singles including the AA side ‘Nancy/In My Laboratory’ (“Jacques Brel quietly rakish with a folky air” and “a nifty piece of boffin-pop” respectively was the opinion here back in May) and is a piquant smorgasbord of tall tales, askance observations and relationships-with-a-twist delivered with some fine enunciation (no lyric sheet needed here).

So this 36 minute, 12 song sojourn includes stop-overs for the tipsy piano-and-barbershop apology (to a son or family pet?) of 'Spike' and the 3am agree-to-disagree relationship soft-shuffle duet/duel of ‘Conversations With You When You're Not There’; the smoky suburban crime jazz-blues of ‘Where Did I Sleep Last Night?’, the cafe accordion waltz of self-doubt ‘My Finest Hour’ and the bowed saw wail of country lament ‘Blame In Campodia’. Maybe not as deviant or wildly maverick as their copy book suggests, the knotty moods and assorted settings for songs are as varied as the appropriated styles.

As the skiffle-calypso of ‘Yes We're Stealing Your Soul’ admits: “Yes we're stealing your soul / but you were pissing it down the drain”. For a nation of time-wasters listening to too much mainstream earnest ‘indie’ ear-drool, Johnny5thWheelandthecowards should be a “stout and red wine mixed” antidote of clever, engaging pop. Sadly their sweetly companionable if not wholly soul-stealing tune-smithery will probably go over-looked.

Johnny5thWheelandthecowards Music To Shake 'n' Shuffle To [BUY]

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