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Phil Martin - Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

  by Andy Cassidy

published: 20 / 11 / 2013

Phil Martin - Don't Be Afraid of the Dark
Label: Brentford Records
Format: CD


Innovative and immensely enjoyable second album from Essex-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Phil Martin

If Phil Martin’s second album, 'Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark', is related to his debut, 'Before We Go To Paradise', its relationship must be that of an exotic cousin. A Quixotic and eclectic collection, the album gives a superb insight into one of music’s more febrile minds. Featuring over twenty collaborators, the album sounds, at first listening, like the product of someone in the midst of an identity crisis, but repeated listening identifies the unifying cords of Martin’s lyrical dexterity, his lilting, folky voice and his fevered imagination. The album opens with the brassy 'Grateful', a rousing and unashamedly poppy burst of colour. Whilst the song’s immediate sense is that of power-pop urgency, its lyrics hold, for me, the secret of Martin’s success, with such modern nuances as “you’re not the boss of me” invading the somewhat nostalgic feel of the piece. The title track sounds like an outtake from Paul Giovanni’s 'Wicker Man' soundtrack, all folky and wistful, but again the flourishes of creativity elevate the track from the commonplace: few but Martin would have dared to embellish the track with a choir sounding like the Mike Sammes Singers on pot, and even fewer would have the ability to make it work as a whole. Martin carries off this magic trick with aplomb. The album is a true melting point of styles and influences; third track, 'Raw Vegetables in Earls Court', sounds like a fusion of Madness and Dr Feelgood, while 'Frontline' is a mellow, confessional piece, with more than a suggestion of Syd Barrett. For me, the album’s highlight is 'Distant Len’s Enchantment'. It’s a rocky number, again with shades of Barrett, but this time bringing in flavours of the Waterboys or Kevin Ayers. Quite simply, it’s that kind of track on that kind of album – a sublime throwing together of styles that probably shouldn’t work, but, under Martin’s control, do so beautifully. Perhaps telling is Martin’s use of samples. Twice on the album, he uses samples from the Beatles’ movie 'Help!' In many ways, the album has its precursor in the Fabs’ 1964 classic – the abandonment of a central theme or feel, a keen ear for experimentation, and the sense that something bigger is on its way very soon. All told, this is a massively enjoyable album. Throughout, there is a feel of innovation, both lyrically and musically. It can, with all the chopping and changing of styles, prove to be an exhausting listen, but it is well worth the effort.

Track Listing:-
1 Grateful
2 Don't Be Afraid of the Dark
3 Raw Vegetables in Earl Court
4 Frontline
5 Dearly Departed
6 Distant Len's Enchantment
7 Getting Away with It
8 Intermission
9 High and Lonesome
10 Way Back in Modern Times
11 Lady of the Lager
12 Halfway Through June
13 Bitter and Twisted
14 Getting Away with It … Again

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Before We Go To Paradise (2012)
Largely effective solo debut album from English musician Phil Martin, who has adapted several classic poems and set them to music

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