The Levellers – Static on The Airwaves (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
BY NOW you know what you’re going to get with The Levellers and they duly deliver with tenth studio album, Static On The Airwaves.
This is rousing folk-rock with the intelligence to back up its assertive nature… sometimes political, sometimes historical, sometimes merely observational of the current social scene. But with the fiddles still providing the familiar backdrop, these are songs that mostly always find a way to please without sounding too much like they’re preaching.
Highlights this time around include the first track proper, We Are All Gunmen, which actually introduces an electronic backdrop to embellish the trademark sound, as well as an imagined world that is perfect and free from trouble (“bankers pay is justified and all nations come in peace”). It also demonstrates a nice sense of humour and/or irony.
Reality soon beckons, however, with the furious folk rock jig that is former single Truth Is, which implores people to speak their minds, and After The Hurricane, which reflects on New Orleans post-Hurricane Katrina and in the lead up to the election of Obama. Both tracks provide further highlights, though.
There’s an epic flurry of strings weaving their way furiously throughout Our Forgotten Times, which reflects on the ‘forgotten, boarded up towns of Britain’. It’s urgent and pretty rapid-fire but hammers its points home in stirring fashion.
The band’s sense of history is evident on tracks like Raft of The Medusa, which features fiery fiddles and a stirring tale of a doomed 17th Century voyage, and its equally rousing follow-up Mutiny, which tells the story of Jesse Robert Short (of the Northumberland Fusiliers) and his plight during the Etaples Mutiny of 1917.
The Recruiting Sergeant, meanwhile, sees fiddles trading blows with banjos and stirring up a good old craic, while recalling another fascinating historical tale. It brings the album to a close on something of a party vibe, complete with earthy central vocals and a knowing sense of humour.
All told, Static On The Airwaves continues to find The Levellers’ in good health musically and lyrically and just as appealing as ever.
Download picks: We Are All Gunmen, After The Hurricane, Mutiny, Truth Is, Raft of the Medusa, The Recruiting Sergeant