Mark Ayling: Out of Step, Out of Time – album reviewMark Ayling – Out of Step, Out of Time (Octave Slant)

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Out now

Mark Ayling is just an acoustic guitar and vocals but packs more of an emotional punch than many a band, or so says Ged Babey.

Now, I probably would never have reviewed this had I not seen him live.  One man and his guitar.  A lot of the buggers about. They usually have beards. Cos its fashionable. Mark doesn’t. Thankfully.

I wrongly assumed Mark was approaching fifty, an old punk bastard, like myself and a good proportion of Louder Than War readers, but it turns out he’s in his mid-thirties, and has a wise head on comparatively young shoulders. Which is why he’s worth checking out, because as a songwriter he is actually, very very good indeed.  To do solo, you have to have good songs and some sort of presence.  A good voice helps and Mark has a tuneful voice albeit a bit like that of the singer from anarcho-doom merchants The Mob. Devotees of Patrik FitzGerald and TV Smith I imagine will like Mark’s work if they haven’t discovered him already.

Also he uses his initials to form a cool Crass-like logo for badges and the like.

His earlier EP a mate of his described as sounding like he was singing from the bottom of a well, which is a touch cruel but pretty accurate. On this album though its spot on. A touch of reverb, which hints at a Joy Division influence, particularly when he holds a note then drops a bit in key.

The songs cover relationships and middle aged angst as much as socio-political observations and find links between the two. Love on a tight budget. Thwarted small-town ambition and so on. The personal is the political but done with a bit of compassion and empathy. It’s difficult to get humour into songs like this so the criticism could be made that overall it’s a bit of a downbeat album but there’s enough vacuous shiny happy shit around so sometimes it’s good to wallow and sing the pissed-off blues.

On his website he gives the background to a lot of the songs so there’s no need for me to second guess them.  My two favourites are Proud City Father which started off as a contemporary re-write of Ralph McTell’s Streets of London and the yearning, beautiful lament called I Wish.

Trying to pinpoint why I like Mark Ayling so much compared to other solo guitarists, male and female is difficult but I think it’s something to do with the fact that in his head and when he writes these songs he can hear them played by a full band. Consequently he doesn’t leave any space where there’s not a full-pelt strum or sustained vocal note. He is a relentless one-man wall-of-sound. And that sound is the beat-beat-beating of his heart, because that’s where the songs come from. His songs are a poetic cardiogram of his life. He doesn’t need treatment though because the cardiogram of poetry and musical encephalogram is his self-help artistic cure. And it’s there for us to share. Well, buy. And I suggest that you do.

~

 Mark Ayling’s website is here: @markayling.net and he’s on Facebook.

 All words Ged Babey, find his Louder Than War archive here

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Ged Babey is 56. from Southampton, has written since 1985 for Sound Info, Due South, various fanzines and websites, contributed to Record Collector magazine and was sole author of 'Punk Throwback' fanzine -the name of which was taken from an insult hurled at him by the singer with a young band he managed for a while. Ged believes that all good music and art has a connection with punk rock.

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