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Repomen - Songs They Never Play On the Radio

  by John Clarkson

published: 20 / 1 / 2007

Repomen - Songs They Never Play On the Radio
Label: Phantom Power Records
Format: CD


Eclectic and versatile official debut long player of unpredictable Sheffield band the Repomen, which, released seventeen years into their history, is an amalgamation of both old and newly recorded songs

While their initial intention was to release an entirely retrospective rather than a studio CD, the veteran Sheffield band the Repomen have never ever been, even to themselves, a conventional or a predictable act. Now that 'Songs They Never Play On the Radio', their official debut long player, has come out at last seventeen years into their history, it is neither and both of these, being an amalgamation of both old and newly recorded songs. The group, a four piece, which consists of Pennyblackmusic writer Denzil Watson (vocals, keyboards, piano) ;Ric Bower (12 string guitar, vocals, glockenspiel, melodica) ; Simon Tiller (bass, vocals, tambourine, glockenspiel) and James Hughes (drums and occasional guitar), first formed in 1990, and recorded two cassette only EPs, 'Burst' and 'Omen', before splitting up in 1992 and then reforming in 1996. Since 2000, they have recorded six further EPs, 'Lights Out/She's in Love' (2000), 'Reel Me Cuber/Eyes on the Road' (2001), 'Save Yourself/Lauren Bacall' (2002), 'Moonlight Driving/The Finest Line' (2003), 'Out of Here' (2004) and 'Dietrich' (2005), all which have come out on CD, and also last year released a split 7" single, upon which their track was called 'Trophy', with another local act Screaming Mimi. The 13 track 'Songs They Never Play on the Radio' consists entirely of songs recorded since 2002. What comes across as immediately impressive and striking about it is how diverse both lyrically and musically the Repomen, who started out as a pop punk act, have become over the years. 'Dietrich', possibly the Repomen's best in a long line of fine moments, is a gusty, forceful number with a huge sound which tells the bizarre tale of a burglar who continues to ransack the house he has come to rob, despite having firstly found one of its occupants already dead, and the other in the process of killing himself. With spiralling, whirlwind guitars from Bower and Tiller, and peals of brass from local trumpeters and special guests Balor Brass, it recalls Dexy Midnight's Runners at the height of their fame. 'Trophy' is similarly macabre with spiky lyrics from Denzil whom adopts the persona of a vicious member of the Louisiana underclass, who, caught in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans, takes as his prey one of its richer and more helpless victims ("For years I've lived inside your system/Now it's my turn/Your credit cards won't help you now/It's just survival"). It features jangling Buzzcocks-style guitars and bubbling keyboards which eventually thrust their way up from beneath the guitars to take main stage. 'Lauren Bacall', however, is a brooding, slow-burning alt. country number, which, with tingling piano effects and Bower on vocals, tells of a romance that has turned sour. "Her black and white face on a second hand TV is closer to me now than you could ever be and more real" Bower sings with bittersweet acidity to his former love about the Hollywood actress of the title. Yet, rather than just taking the obvious route of picking the main tracks from their EPs, the Repomen have also put amongst the old numbers on 'Songs They Never Play on the Radio' some obscurities. The title track, which takes it name from a biography of Nico, originally appeared on 'Sunset : False', a compilation on a one-off Italian label Slow Noir. A hardcore number with powerful, slowly lumbering guitars, it tells of the fallen Velvet Underground chanteuse's last years as a heroin addicted junkie in Manchester. ‘A Different Situation’ from ‘Dietrich’ seems on the surface to be a breezy indiepop ballad, but its seemingly wistful lyrics point towards something darker, telling of someone contemplating suicide after the collapse of his relationship The enigmatic, mysterious 'Fold' , one of the B sides of 'Out of Here', also features Bowers on vocals, and with his operatic, near falsetto vocals and its swirling synths and keyboards ,in contrast again, has an epic sense of fragility and recalls the Associates and the late Billy MacKenzie or the Cure at their most frail and tender. The seven minute 'Dive...Diver', which originally appeared on the 'Save Yourself/Lauren Bacall' EP, and which closes 'Songs They Never Play On the Radio, is meanwhile a beautiful, floating acoustic number about the lonely, existential existence of a deep sea diver, and finishes in a wash of sea and bird sound effects. The new songs prove to be equally captivating and enthralling. After a brief 'Intro', a thirty second fragment of moody, industrial post rock, the album opens with 'She Lies' which jumps, to surprisingly strong effect, between savage hardcore chords and King Crimson-style prog rock 70's vocal harmonies and back again. It tells of the deceit a couple have come to rely upon in order to survive together ("She tries to hide but there's no point/I can see right through her/Why should I seek a truth out/when it only hurts ?"). About the superficiality of modern celebrity culture, 'Next Best Thing' is a brittle and jagged indie guitar number with handclaps and choppy keyboards ("Look at my picture/look at my face/There's a lie somewhere/There's a line in the wrong place"), while 'Slaves'', a growling slow-paced brass number which once more features Balor Brass, is an anthem for the poor and the vulnerable and again recalls Dexy’s ("It's a crime to lack compassion/To turn away and take no action/yeah/The Jennies on the block/this time they've lost the plot/Now they're all slaves to fashion"). Of the two other remaining new tracks, 'Needle’s in the Camel’s Eye' , originally planned for the 'Dietrich' EP, is a poppy start-stop cover of the old Brian Eno song from the former Roxy Music star’s 1974 debut album “Here Come the Warm Jets’. 'A Better Day ' meanwhile is a 60’s Canterbury folk style number , which, telling of two lovers’ battle to stay together amidst alcoholism and the wrong sort of friendships, finds Bower serenading with Sandy Denny sound-a-like and local singer Anna Nibbs against a backdrop of hazily cascading guitars and synthesisers. Difficult to pinpoint, impossible to slot into a formula or an easy category, and now in their late 30’s and early 40’s all too old to be of much interest to the youth-orientated music market or the average A and R man, the Repomen’s songs indeed may never get much airplay on the radio. They are, however, durable proof that there is much more to Sheffield musically than its current wave of revivalist brittle-sounding baby-faced guitar bands. For fans of off-kilter pop and rock, the Repomen- intelligent, thoughtful, creative, inventive and provocative -and the lucky-for-some thirteen tracks on ‘Songs They Never Play on the Radio’ have multiple rewards.

Track Listing:-
1 Intro
2 She Lies
3 Songs They Never Play On The Radio
4 Trophy
5 Next Best Thing
6 Fold
7 Slaves
8 Needles In The Camels Eyes
9 A Different Situation
10 A Better Day
11 Lauren Bacall
12 Dietrich
13 Dive... ..Diver

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