Reverend And The Makers
(Wall Of Sound)
In which Reverend And The Makers return for their third album which becomes more political by dropping the politics for the reality of the everyday
Great pop music can be many things, it can be escapist, it can be euphoric, it can be about love and loss, it can also be about the everyday, the magic in the mundane, the soundtrack to real life, a modern urban folk music.
It take a special talent to make magic out of the kitchen sink, to tell the story of real world with an intimate touch that doesn’t sound patronizing. The impassioned giant of Sheffield who speaks clearly and with a volcano of emotion John Mclure of Reverenced And the Makers made his name with this kind of writing. He then became a spokesperson for a generation that didn’t speak, a maverick spirit whose inteligence ruffled feathers of the lazy and complacent and terrified the mundane keyboard warriors.
Too smart to get labelled Mclure has ditched the politics and his the new album sees a return to their most concise and perfect work yet. If Shane Meadows could made great contemporary pop records, mashing the rush of indie with the hedonistic pulse of electronics and dance then this what he would sound like. Mclure may be a politics graduate but instead of hiding in an ivory tower he has soaked up the musical pulse of his hometown and mashed up the indie and the baseline, the sound systems booming out of council blocks, all night clubs in beaten up warehouses and the power of the song to make a record that captures the urban sprawl of modern UK music that is a long way away from the whiney hipster world.
By deliberately swerving the politics that have dominated his thinking of the past few years, John Mclure has, conversely, made his most political record yet. Like the soundtrack to a film of his native Sheffield, the album is aural reportage on the everyday, the big stories and the little stories of a northern city in the grand tradition of fellow Yorkshiremen Pulp but with a more in touch feeling.
John Mclure is one of the most engaging of modern musicians, Sheffield bred he is six foot plus of pure high IQ attitude and passion and a key player in the city’s recent musical revival. Breaking through in 2007 with the top ten hit “Heavyweight Champion of the World” from their first album, ‘The State of Things’, and then not quite consolidating it with the second 2009 studio album, ‘A French Kiss in the Chaos’ their mix of indie guitars and electronics updated the form adding heartfelt vocals and a social consciousness quite rare in a lot of modern music.
The new album, after a three year break, takes this a stage further and gets them back on track with every song sounding like a 21st century pop, marrying indie melodies with the sparse electronics that dominate his home city- it’s the sound of bedsits cranking their music, soundclashing across the city night.
Mclure got a name for himself as one of the few modern musicians capable of social and political comment and is in big demand round the world for his forthright opinions. Musically in the past few years, feeling that a modern musician has to be engaged with the current musical debate he has been on the run from indie- working with the Reverend Sound System whose beats based sound was quite different from his original muse and a highly effective reflection on urban culture.
Last year though, worn out from always leading the pack he took some time out and decided to return to his roots both geographically and musically by putting Reverend And The Makers back together.
The resulting album is the sound of someone who has lived the dream, had the success, the hit albums, traveled the world, played the stadiums but is still fascinated by his own roots. The magnetic draw of the north and it’s powerfully unique musical cities like Sheffield that have that great experimental pop heritage tempered by a blunt social realism that is so attractive and is at the heart of all great British pop.
”ËAfter touring round the world, coming home was amazing, I wanted to write kitchen sink tunes that describe our own fucking life. With ”ËHeavyweight Champion’ I was known for those kind of songs, that’s what I’m into. I want to write about normal people without being to grandiose about it. I wanted to write songs for my brother and my cousins back in Sheffield and not about snorting coke with celebrities in back of the Limo. The songs seem to have a theme to them- a lot of them are about escapism- the girl hiding herself on Facebook or someone dreaming of winning the lottery, or trying to escape who you really are, or someone out of their heads or somebody wanting to shag another bird, they are the themes I’m attracted to- the escapism, people can’t wait for the weekend to be off their nut or make loads of money and escape.’
It seemed the closer Mclure got to home the further away everyone else wanted to be from it.
”ËI may have escaped by being in a band but I’m still there really, maybe you escape in your head but you always come back. ‘
The album also sees a return to the hook strewn guitar flavoured electro indie pop of his initial musical forays with great choruses and melancholic rain swept tunes. Classic northern pop.
‘Musically it’s probably more similar to the first album. In parts it’s more electronic, the subject matter is more akin to the first album as well. It’s more about day to day life than the others, I threw away my Che Geuvara posters for ten minutes! It’s not that I don’t feel the same way politically but making political music becomes boring for me and my audience. I like footy and having a laugh as well.’
The return to his original project was sparked by a song that he wrote that curveballed him.
‘I had song that just wouldn’t fit and it sounded like a Reverend And The Makers song. I thought I had left it too long I was fed up with what I was doing. I got right into political stuff and I was mardy all the time. It was making me miserable and I needed time off. I got fed up. I went a bit bonkers basically. I didn’t want to do it and fancied chilling out but I’m back in a good place now. I like dance music anyway and I wanted to make something that was up and that’s what the new album is doing. I wanted to make songs with what’s going on now. Songs about being off me nut, make songs about Facebook and Twitter, sing about being real life. I’ve done that doom and gloom stuff and I think there is a lot of reasons to be positive, even though there is a lot of mad shit going on. Basically, I cheered the fuck up mate.’
The new album sees a return to the social conscious that marked out his initial forays into music. This is small ”Ëp’ politics, the politics of the everyday, the politics of just getting by in the 21st century, the politics of normal people in normal towns living for the moment, 21st kitchen sink with the Internet and social networking as well as beer and fags and falling out.
‘My favourite on the album is ”ËWarts n All’ which is about girls posing in their pictures on Facebook and putting their mates bad pics up so they look better. So many of my mates are hooked up on Facebook- that’s the reality. I think it’s almost as big as the Industrial Revolution, at that time they would have said ‘what Industrial Revolution?’ you wouldn’t have noticed it, some now- everything has changed since the Internet has come through.
There’s songs on there about party culture and getting of your head.
‘I used to frown on that stuff but thought to myself escapism is for the people and I love getting of my nut as well. In Sheffield in the last few years there’s been loads of raves and I’ve been watching that. That’s the escapism. People work all week and want to go nuts at the weekend or want to win the lottery.’
Brassy northern life, hi tech in your pocket, post industrial, closed mills, bosrded up shops, drizzle n’ chips and wild weekends. That’s the great thing about the north, the post industrial town trying to pull themselves up from the decay, battered by the government and the recession but still full of people having a good time.
”ËThere a song called ”ËThe Wrestler’, it’s about the battle of consciousness- I’m writing songs about ordinary people, they get forgotten about, it’s a song about grappling with your consciousness, I’d seen the film, and thought consciousness grappling, that’s a good metaphor. I can’t really think of a band who have take dubstep sounds and bassline sounds and mixed with guitars, older indie dance band’s did it but this is a modern version. There’s loads of lyrical references about real life. I’m talking about things from right now and exist today. Snapshots of modern life.’
It’s this knack of taking snapshots of the everyday and of normal life and turning them into song that is McClure’s special talent.
‘Out of the shadows’ s a song which I had the lyrics for for ages. It’s about a boss I didn’t like- ”ËI’m coming out of the shadows into the Light’- it’s about being dead miserable when I didn’t need to be. I can’t be a flag carrier for other people’s causes. I’d done my bit, I felt down in the dumps but feel better now.’
The song itself is pure top 40 with Mclure’s very northern white almost soul voice fitting perfectly into a song of redemption in the gloom.
‘ ‘One plus zero’ is another kitchen sinker. ‘Noisy neighbour’ is what it says, it’s about turning my music up in competition, everyone knows that one. I still live in Sheffield. I live a relatively normal life’s. My songs are snapshots with a camera of where I am. There are a lot of northern references, I want it to be a 2012 album, like bands who made films on cine cameras in the sixties, it looks like 1969 and I want to be 2012.’
There is even a love song on the album.
‘Yes you do’ is a nice song for my bird, for my misses, I never normally write a song like that.’
Revered And The Makers are back to reclaim their crown. Never has real life sounded so good. The tumbledown of cheap drugs, gritty realism, thrilling escapism, sex and fish and chip suppers, hedonistic E’s, all night dance music in dank semi legal cellars, the comedown soundtracked by great guitar music, it’s all in here.
‘There has to be a band writing songs about real life again, there’s loads of songs about nowt. Im writing songs about what people can relate to.’ explains Mclure a man who has found himself and doesn’t need to escape any more.