Friday 19 October 2012

Johnny5thWheel&thecowards - Music To Shake'n'Shuffle To

Album review by KevW

Let's be clear about this from the start: we're not going to be able to review this album without using words like 'quirky', 'off-kilter' and 'wacky'. Why? Because we're nowhere near as imaginative as Northerners Johnny5thWheel&thecowards, so we'll chuck in some obvious references to other 'madcap' music makers such as Syd Barrett, Kevin Ayers and Gorky's Zygotic Mynci too, and get that whole lot out of the way at the beginning. Should you be of the persuasion that there's little invention left in music that's being made with traditional instruments, and what is being created may have a unique sound but is essentially derivative or a combination of the work of past bands then you're probably not familiar with this oddball bunch.

'Music To Shake'n'Shuffle To' is their second full-length and doesn't really lend itself to categorisation. It's not simply a matter of there not being a style that fits, it's more that they defy any attempts to label them with a genre, even a made up one, not that that'll stop us trying. The head-scratching brilliance of previous single tracks 'In My Laboratory' and the surreal 'Nancy' both feature but the lunacy doesn't end there. The unusual, high speed baroque country (for want of a better description) of 'Happy Clappy Doom Jazz' couldn't be anything other than unusual with a name like that. Tempos and styles are mixed up as disorderly as a riot in a school music room, yet they always fit; there may be chaotic moments but they work perfectly and are always by design.

There are times when the music is reasonably conventional, such as 'Conversations With You When You're Not There', but the lyrics stay clever, witty and quite individual, not to mention somewhat creepy on the odd occasion. Ever wondered what country-folk-jazz would sound like? Check out 'Where Did I Sleep Last Night?' Psychotic, tropical lounge music? That'll be 'Yes, That's Right We're Stealing Your Soul'. Psychedelic acoustics with a musical saw? Head for 'Blame In Campodia' (sic). 'Music To Shake'n'Shuffle To' is one of a kind and despite what could be interpreted as novelty aspects that render it unlikely to stand the test of time, it's clever enough, fun enough and alluring enough to ensure that its lifespan will be one that's well worth investing in.

Johnny5thWheel&thecowards' website

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