Halfway People: The Transatlantic Express
If you have a gaping Alex Lusty shaped void in your collection since the demise of Rats From a Sinking Ship, the debut album from his latest project, Halfway People, will more than fill that hole for you.
Musically The Transatlantic Express moves in a different direction from Rats from a Sinking Ship, leaving behind the rap/punk crossover, the new band’s core sound leaning much more towards Rockabilly/Americana as its baseline. Never being one to stand still, and never afraid to try something different, despite the change in musical direction, this is very much a Lusty project, there is no denying that familiar timbre.
I’ll apologise now, forgive me as I feel a certain International Playboy with Irish Blood and an English Heart may be referenced several times in the following paragraphs. It’s no secret that Lusty, like myself has a penchant for the music of the arch Manc curmudgeon. You can take the boy out of Morrissey, but you can’t take Morrissey out of the boy…
Kitchen Sink Drama
Lusty’s trademark kitchen sink drama songs telling stories of the grittier grimy side of life are here in bucketloads. Take the album’s opening song, and the lead single Punches, the lyrics telling a tale of doomed love “you’ve got to roll with the punches, you gotta take it on the chin” over a sympathetic soaring riff. The band he has pulled together is pretty special. More about them shortly… Punches includes one of the aforementioned Moz references in its lyrics… “7/11 knows I’m miserable now” (add to this a mention of International Playboy on I Am All, All I Am – I could play this game all night…)
Hound Dog meets the Devil in Disguise in the hillbilly rock and roll of Devil Dog , as the band go full on Mystery Train rockabilly much to my delight. Whatever you may think of him. Steven Patrick has a knack for a song title, and you can’t help but think Alex is paying tribute in some of the song titles on this album, case in point in Pappy Come Home, lyrically a tale of a good for nothing absentee father, underlined by a sonorous bass line and a Pixies-esque space surf backing.
Sweetheart, Don’t Hammer the Nail
The song titles keep coming, No Matter What I Do, It’s Never Enough, Sweetheart, Don’t Hammer the Nail, I Am All, All I Am…And it isn’t just song titles that recall Morrissey and even The Smiths in places. Musically, one of the best Morrissey live line ups was the Your Arsenal live band of Boorer/Whyte/Day/Cobrin. I Am All, All I Am recalls that era, glammed up rockabilly/rock n roll. Hardly surprising though, if you didn’t already know, Halfway People has Lusty rekindling his musical acquaintance with one Boz Boorer (on Devil Dog), the Happy Martyr’s gelling magnificently on this album but major kudos needs to go to the amazing musicians that form the largest part of the inspirational tuneage on this album – Art Villalobos on bass, John Hernandez on guitar and Gus Arellano on drums.
Lusty makes a tongue in cheek exploration of the differences in the language and expressions between the US/UK in Our Special Relationship while the band produces an impeccably joyous jangly indie backing track. While on Tracey, You’re One Like No Other the soundtrack is ramped up a notch, and as Alex sings the chorus, I really want the subject of the song to be the diminutive Primitives front woman.
Sweetheart Don’t Hammer the Nail is an incredibly beautiful song, absolutely heart-breaking lyrically, with sweet guitar lines that recall The Smiths. I should point out that these songs don’t form any sort of plaigarism, or taking on loan. If anything, what they represent is Lusty paying tribute to music he loves and the songs that (possibly) saved his life. Anyway, enough of this tomfoolery.
The albums closing track, The Five Past Midnight Train takes up the baton from the country/Shadows tinged You Don’t Know Who We Are or Where We’re From and builds on this going down towards Johnny Cash territory, (well there is a train mentioned…) even on occasion hinting at Bad Moon Rising.
If you love rock and roll/rockabilly/hillbilly/country, there is something on this album for you. Exquisite playing from a band that seem to be able to put their hand to anything and superb storytelling from Alex Lusty as usual. The prospect of seeing this band play live is eye-watering.Let’s hope it happens one day…