David Lance Callahan - English Primitive 1

  by Kimberly Bright

published: 12 / 4 / 2022

David Lance Callahan - English Primitive 1

Label: Tiny Global Productions
Format: CD
The legendary Wolfhounds frontman David Lance Callahan may be an anti-hero but 'English Primitive I' proves he is a national treasure


David Lance Callahan would deserve a built-in fanbase simply based on his C86 band The Wolfhounds alone. But then there was his experimental ‘90s band Moonshake and now a righteous and wonderful solo album, his long-awaited first, 'English Primitive I''. This is a diverse, weighty, and sometimes perplexing – in a good way – album. It is not a continuation of Callahan’s charming 2019 solo single ' 'Strange Lovers'. He utilizes raga, traditional English folk, first generation psychedelic wyrd folk, punk, West African Gnawa, and more exotic-sounding scales than anyone this side of prog rock. There is a persistent droning pedal note in the background throughout that has an unsettling effect. Callahan has been described as a social documentarian, and that description certainly fits this material. 'Born of the Welfare State' might someday be covered by Billy Bragg to celebrate the original post-war ideal compassionate society – the NHS, state schools, housing, healthy food, and subsidized job training – in contrast to the attacks on these institutions today. Callahan told writer Malcolm Wyatt in November: “Like it says in the first line of the song – it’s the very peak of civilisation, the Welfare State, we’re one of the richest countries in the Western world there’s ever been, and can afford to support the people who are falling behind or who aren’t as able as others. The danger is, as heard in the song and the accompanying video, that under the surface we’re taking it too much for granted, and gradually – ever since Tony Blair got in – the Governments have been chipping away at the NHS and other parts of the Welfare State, farming them out to private companies, who certainly won’t be considering their clients with too much empathy. But as I discovered this morning, because I’ve got a friend who’s a doctor, it says in the song about – half-jokingly – how we don’t have scurvy and rickets anymore. But we do! They’re back. So we need it more than ever, at a time when the whole thing is being eroded by vested interests.” The dramatic 'One Rainy September' is about a man coming home from the army, having an uncomfortable dialogue with his daughter. Callahan shows a good sense of balladry and timing here, as their alternating parts reveal his PTSD, difficulty adjusting to civilian life, her resentment, and their estrangement. His growly voice is perfect for the setting. The one love song here, 'She’s the King of My Life', has the great line “I know my weakness/But I’m making progress.” 'Goatman', 'Foxboy' and 'She Passes Through the Night' are long and involved, sounding like dark pre-New Age pagan epics. The deceptively quiet closing track 'Always' could be a warning or a tongue-in-cheek commentary on smug people who think they know better, always, than everyone else: “We are the reasonable ones/We won, we always win.” Or it could be up to the listener to determine who “we” are. The album artwork is eye-catching and probably allegorical. It’s so good to see an artist take this much care into an album cover, even if it’s going to be a small thumbnail on a device or a CD. It shows a black and red striking, surreal, shattering stained glass window, overseen by blackbirds looming in the margins. It was a long timing coming, but 'English Primitive I' may well be one of those classic, genre-defying albums that will be looked back on as being more influential than anyone suspected it would.

Track Listing:-

1 Born Of The Welfare State Was I
2 Goatman
3 Foxboy
4 She's The King Of My Life
5 She Passes Through The Night
6 One Rainy September
7 Always

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