Mad Staring Eyes – Talking To The Operator (Review)
Review by Rob Carnevale
THEY may hail from north London but Mad Staring Eye’s third album, Talking To The Operator, is as much rooted in Americana as it is contemporary English folk.
Recorded live onto tape using all vintage gear (including The Pogues’ 1962 Ludwig drumkit), the six-piece have crafted a quietly assured LP that arguably rewards the more patient listener – those who get a kick as much out of story-telling as they do easy melody-making.
Their influences range from Bruce Springsteen and early Fairport to The Band and Van Morrison, albeit relayed via the rogue ‘cockneyish’ charm of lead singer Alex Simler.
Highlights worth checking out include the folk-rock London Road, which recalls the tale of “a mean old man who was driving a cab” (a story rooted in London but delivered in classic American style), and Home, a warm slice of folk that is full of yearning and passion (the flute work is particularly good here).
There’s a bittersweet beauty to Don’t Lead Me On, which combines some great riff work with more flute and an almost Talking Heads-style of delivery at times, while Experiments has an upbeat country-rock vibe that makes the most of the band’s penchant for pedal steel.
Album closer Homing Girl offers up a rousing, even foot-stomping finale that actually has the dubious honour of leaving you wanting more of that style of song.
If the remainder of the album sometimes gets a little too side-tracked in low-key folk or country-tinged musings, then there’s still plenty to consider in the song-writing and stories they have to tell.
Mad Staring Eyes won’t appeal to all tastes but they are a band worth checking out, whose style should easily find a place (and a warm following) on both sides of the Atlantic.
Download picks: Home, London Road, Don’t Lead Me On, Homing Girl