(Or:- the best album of the year)
(Or:- the best album of all time)
(Or:- newly in love)
(Or:- Kingdom finally come)
|Photo by Ester Segarra. Full Don't Hear It...Fear It gatefold album art.|
I could write a Pihkal-length book about this record, and I’ll definitely be doing a retrospective at the end of the year, because if something is able to beat Don’t Hear It… Fear It this year it will have been a truly stellar year for records, so look out in December for some kinda ‘Living with Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell’ retrospective. Don’t bother reading the rest of this, go straight to Rise Above records and grab yourself one of a very limited number of pressings of this record. If you have any soul at all, if the neurons can still fire in yer brain and you haven’t been swallowed whole by forty years of music industry pelting you with disappointingly shit shite bands then this record’ll propel you backwards in time Marty McFly style ‘till you’re partying with Sir Lord Baltimore all over again. I adore this record, I’ve got high on every femtogram of this record’s 181 grams, loved every decibel and cried litres of joy-tears; the entire edifice is flawless in every conceivable detail. Verily, I love it more than life itself, and after one listen I was hooked. I became convinced it was the best record I had ever heard midway through the second listen and fell deeply asexually in love with its creators, the volume conquistadors, the powerchord pioneers, the decibel disciples, the holy trinity. It’s time for a big noise from a little band from England, and it’ll change everything.
Let the record show that I received the debut album by Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell at 11am exactly on the 21st of July 2012. I took a handful of mescaline to make the most of the fury I expected, and chewed up a buncha Mexican mushies I’d been saving to tide me over until the mescal started working. I ripped the cd, put it on my iPod and decided to go out because it was a blue sky day. The first listen (my first listen to Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell at all) was much the same as when I fell into that Vincent Black Shadow trip with nary a backward glance, realising instantly that these are a buncha guys who get it. Just as Vincent Black Shadow was the patron saint of Stoogification Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell most closely ape the work of Sir Lord Baltimore, a band still fresh from wiping off my copious drool week-to-week, although they also take from a whole psychedelic pool of mid-seventies rock influences and this album even features Tony McPhee of Groundhogs genius fame. This trip down memory lane in a forward-looking timeship takes the form of clattering rock ballads from when Sir Lord Baltimore were good, there’s more soul than most of the Mountain stuff, harder rock than the Groundhogs power-trio days, ‘bout the only band that can outpunch this workout is Pentagram at their best, but then again the targets were different…
After two listens I became convinced that this was not only the best album I had ever heard, but it was the best album anyone had ever heard. I walked the streets of Edinburgh looking at all the people going about their various concerns, none of them listening to Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell. I went into a shop and there were a coupla punky looking freaks behind the till and a few dreary bald people looking at things, I had to leave before buying anything because the greasy raucous racket in my ears was just so outside of everything I was seeing I started to feel nauseous. What the hell is wrong with these people? I kept asking myself as I gave it another spin, and another and another racking up ten plays in a day. Don’t Hear It… Fear It is one of those astral flights that comes along that almost transcends physical record form. It is so thoroughly joyously excellent in the very minutest details of its inception, creation, recording, pressing, distributing and listening that I feel compelled to send the disk on to someone else, and make copies and continue sending them across the world because this is the record of 2012 that cements once again the enduring ability of rock and roll to transport us. At the heart of this universal transportation is simplicity and relatability. Much has been made of the fact that you don’t need a masters in underground American rock of 1968-1976 to make sense of this record; it doesn’t demand Sir Lord Baltimore worship or even knowledge, the qualities of this record are entirely self-contained and freestanding; though for those with a thoroughgoing knowledge of the Groundhogs and Dust songs as well as a comprehensive understanding of the Litters album Emerge, this record will explode like a Saturn five on the platform into a hypermasculine lo-fi love letter to all that stuff. You’ll sit there laughing and feel compelled to fling open your windows and let all this music out into the world any way you can, shouting drunkenly at any passers-by “do you hear that? Do you fucking hear that!? These guys get it!” and they sure do; the Shovell, as their fans know them, and you will be a fan by the time this LP draws to a close. With rapierlike quickness they slice through forty years of “oh wasn’t it better in the good old days” ill-advised NME covers and slice right down into the bleeding bone marrow of what rock in the early seventies meant, and what it meant was now; not now as in contemporary because this LP is stuck, nailed and riveted to 1973, but immediate and instantaneous and that’s what this album is, hitting like a bombing raid with no warning until the whole thing explodes.
Sir Lord Baltimore were cock rock before cock rock was a thing. Lady of Fire is about Garner taking a walk, meeting a lady of the night who tells him no man can do it for her including him, he does it and she’s so amazed she becomes his girl, macho motherfuckery made poetry by the Garn’s stunning ability to soliloquise and the seamless combination of lyrical rhythm with the pounding beat that comes from having a singing drummer. Of course it also made the band shit live, swings and roundabouts innit? For sure and there’s nothing quite that hysterionic in Admiral Sir Cloudesly Shovell’s arsenal yet but the very same Sir Lord Baltimore vocal tics, as if Gene Simmons and Patti Smith didn’t happen and the whole thing is totally original. The Garn had a unique ability to take shit cock-rock lyrics and turn them into the most sincere ballad Deep Purple never wrote, and the Shovell nail it, ‘cept without the weird singing-drummer slowdown that blights Kingdom Come. Y’know what else they fucking nail like a dead-on sniper plastering a target against a wall? The guitar tone on Kingdom Come. A lotta people don’t like that Kingdom Come’s guitar is buried under a mountain of multi-tracked noise to the point where the riffs are as tall as the Burj Kalifah and a million miles wide, but lost in cloud so’s you can’t hear a fucking thing, but I couldn’t get enough; the same thing happens on this record, humungous riffs dog-pile each other and slide guitar comes and goes over the riff glaciation that just buries everything. You’ll be amazed by their stamina because while you take a break from the guitar workout before the hidden track (oh, vinyl listeners, there’s a hidden track… yah! I know right! Who still does hidden tracks? Fucking Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell do! And it’s just as superb as every other slice of rock on this masterstroke album) you’ll be feeling like knackered shit warmed up and they’re just getting started. That hidden track is carried off just like every other tired and worn rock and roll cliché trotted out in the course of the groove and made fresh and revolutionary again, as if forty years of rock and roll didn’t happen (they might as well not have anyway) and we’re right back where we started. It’s the whole zero-sum attitude of this record that is so wonderfully bucket-of-cold-water refreshing.
For a few brief, wonderful drug-infused moments I became convinced that the final real cut off the album, Killer Kane was Cherry Red and I had been transported without noticing into the past where Cherry Red was just coming out; alas this was not the case but I can still hold out hope that the title is a William Peter-Blatty reference. Whichever cut you take from this album and however you slice it, Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell will probably be rightfully understood and described as the latterday Sir Lord Baltimore, brought back groaning from the dead with all the Christo-rock cleaned off; which they resolutely and unapologetically are, but so much more than that, Don’t Hear It… Fear It is a nostalgia-inspired throwback that is not nostalgia blinded, it’s a love letter to a bygone age of rock and roll that could kick start a renaissance of that same hard rockin’ (or should that be Haaaaaaaaawd RRRRRAAAAAAAWken!) music, it’s deeply self-indulgent without ever taking away from the sheer unabated joy that starts the second the record starts to spin and takes ages to fade in the afterglow. In a world of dreadful creative environs, mediocrities winning awards, masterpieces rotting in drawers, huge money for pathetic urban artists who wouldn’t dream of music as soulful, as loud, as obnoxious, as terrifically now as Cloudesley Shovell crank out in every second of this album; the existence of this record, aside from all of its other qualities, ought to be fiercely celebrated. The first two minutes of their LP seem to suck you back through a vortex of time, guitar chords running backwards through all the shit and right back to sweaty Brooklyn basements where Sir Lord Baltimore are being told to beat it by a big bouncer for blowing the eardrums of the audience, Speed King, Highway Star and Fireball are the only songs Deep Purple ever recorded, Iggy died just after finishing Raw Power “and on next, the Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell – don’t hear it, love it”
Written at peace by Steven