Slice of Life – Love and a Lamp-post (Overground Records)
CD / DL / LP
Steve Ignorant will be in conversation with John Robb at louder Than Words festival on Nov 14/16. Tickets and more information from here.
Slice of Life are former Crass singer Steve Ignorant with friends accompanying him on acoustic guitar, upright bass and piano … Ged Babey is aghast at the thought that Steve Ignorant quite possibly owns a copy of Elton John’s ‘Song For Guy’, but still gives the album the thumbs up.
“Years ago I read a book called Brighton Rock, for days the atmosphere of that story stayed with me and I’ve always wanted to create an album that would have the same effect on people.”
I think that he has succeeded. But it’s not a wholly positive and uplifting feeling which you’re left with. It’s a bit of a bitter after-taste.
This is a contemplative and philosophical album by Steve; a man who has been through a lot in the pursuit of music & art which tells the truth and makes a stand. Life is therefore not a bed of roses, it’s a struggle, it’s unfair and you have to grab the good times and appreciate the moments of beauty when you can … and not let the bastards grind you down.
There is no comparison to his previous work with Crass musically. It’s not shouty rock. It’s mellow and tuneful, thanks to Carol Hodge and her vocal harmonies & piano-playing. But it’s still angry and full of hurt. It is one man’s worldview captured in songs of heartache and soul-searching after a lifetime of kicking against the pricks and being misunderstood and misrepresented.
As if in a deliberate break from the perceived political correctness of Crass, women are referred to as ‘birds’ and the language’s straightforward, but occasionally poetic. The starkness brings to mind the later work of Patrik FitzGerald. But the more tuneful bits (particularly the trumpet) sound a bit like Robert Wyatt.
The music of the Who, Bowie and Elton John are recalled in the songs like distant ghosts from Steves childhood.
He is still, according to the lyrics, “a fucker on a mission” and when asked “Would you fight for your country?” he replies:
“I consider myself at war… against a mass mentality, an attitude, that threatens my life and yours, it’s ignorance, it’s greed, it’s brutality … And it calls itself a society.”
It’s powerful stuff, but without the drums, rhythm and volume of a full band, more human, more ‘this time its personal’…
Of the nine tracks, one’s is a brief poem, another a short story read over delicate piano (a terribly sad word-portrait, which I have to admit skipping over on repeated listens to the whole album). The second song starts with a bit of Am-dram style play-acting dialogue, which, after you’ve heard it once becomes extremely annoying as it goes on for a full minute before the song comes in.
The rest of the material though is very good indeed. Honest, affecting, very gritty, every day dramas based on experiences and observations of human nature.
It is really good to hear Steve Ignorant singing new material and it being more suited to his voice and age and his take on the world in 2014.
The Last Supper tour and the gigs prior to it had all become a bit “Stadium Anarcho” as a friend put it. Crass has a huge legacy and their importance can’t be overstated, but Steve was always just an ordinary, if intelligent, punk who happened to become the singer. He didn’t ask to be cast as some sort of ‘Voice of a Generation’. This album is his chance to move on and he has succeeded in making an interesting album full of honesty and gritty charm.
Whilst adding the Facebook links to this review I noticed this particularly astute comment left by one Graham Burnett, who had bought a pre-release copy of the album at a Slice of Life gig:
“Full of true stories, poetry and top notch yet understated music from a minimalist group of totally class musicians (acoustic bass, acoustic guitar and keyboards), a million miles from the anger and noise of Crass, yet with no less authenticity and integrity, but tempered with maturity and unafraid to speak from his roots, truly songs of experience. ‘Eleven Chimneys’, with its nods to Burt Bacharach and Amy Winehouse, has to be one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. Yeah, forget all the ‘er why isn’t it Crass, why isn’t it pay no more than 58p’ – go and buy it and listen without prejudice…”
Couldn’t’ve put it better myself, thanks Graham. Grab yourself a slice of life. Oh, and it’s probably Carol who is the closet Elton John fan.
Finally, here is a great review by Graham Burnett of SOL Live at the Railway in Southend.
All words Ged Babey whose author’s archive can be found here.