The second album from Midlands based Star Botherers is a fine mix of Folk, Punk and social commentary.
Now if one band has dominated the Celtic-Punk scene on these islands in the last twelve months it has to have been Ferocious Dog. The runaway success of their recent album The Hope has only continued their rise in popularity and they’ve plenty more in the bank to come too. Along with their success they’ve managed to ferment a whole crew of regular support acts wherever they go that play a similar kind of broadly left-wing Folk-Punk. Some of these are pretty damn good with The Silk Road, The Leylines, The Whipjacks leaping to mind, but also many more are drippy studenty singer-songwriter types, a band that I knew existed in same milieu as FD but I hadn’t heard was the Star Botherers. Coming from the same small town as Ferocious Dog, Warsop near Mansfield in Nottinghamshire, they have a good relationship together with FD covering a few of their songs and Broken Soldier features on the new FD album, The Hope. It’s an area famous pretty much just for coal mining which ceased in the area 30 years ago but like most mining communities continues to define where they live.
Tales Of Layton Rakes is the Star Botherers second album after debut Happy Angry from 2017, which itself was preceded by a handful of demos that are now unavailable. Some of the tracks from those early days have been re-recorded here and the one or two I have heard have benefitted from the update. The album opens with, I think the album’s best song, the modern sea-shanty ’13 Years In Oregon’ a gloriously updated version of a track that appeared on their very first EP. The song steams along at a great pace telling of a life on the sea with some great lyrics and nice vocals from Andrew putting on a sort of Yank drawl. It’s a great wee opener and not what I was expecting from a band that I had imagined were prone mostly to jokey songs. The first of the modern tracks is up next and ‘Spoons’ is, as most UK based residents will know, the nickname for the cheap and (sometimes) cheerful (sometimes not) pub chain JD Weatherspoon. In the modern day of gentrification it’s often the only place in some city centres where working class people can afford a couple of pints. It’s common these days for people to bash Spoons under different guises but underneath it’s always that the owner of Spoons was prominent in the ‘Leave’ campaign. This is followed by ‘Blackpool’ and a list of things about why the town is “Shit, Shit, Shit”. Catchy and it chugs along with a story about a day out in the famous seaside town. ‘Let It Stand’ tells of the plan to erect a statue of Maggie Thatcher in her home town of Grantham not far from where the band are from. Needless to say it’s not universally popular but to to everyone’s surprise the band are in favour but as a way to remember what she stood far. ‘Just Around The Corner’ is another older song re-recorded. A jaunty folky tale of working your life away to make a decent life for you and your family and the breaks you get and more often don’t get. All quite serious stuff but hidden away in the kind of song that you could easily end up swinging strangers around a dance floor to. ‘Another Lidl Song’ is about the cheap but popular Lidl supermarket that is the fastest growing supermarket in Britain. ‘Kyle And Norton’ compares the two staples of British telly swopping their shows and how they get on. A clever and witty song.
‘Freethinker’ is another re-recorded song that has been covered by Ferocious Dog and it sounds like FD copied it note perfect! ‘Swearing In Songs’ is a slower Country-ish number with rather understated swearing considering the subject matter. ‘Silence Is Acceptable’ almost reaches Celtic-Punk in it’s intensity with a roll call of people and groups who fought for rights for all while ‘He Got Dreads’ I would say is about the kind of person who sneers at Spoons and Lidl and working class people in general. All the songs here are written by lead singer Andrew Hawkins with the exception of the next song, ‘Oddly Excluded’. Originally recorded for inclusion on the tribute album The Pete Drake Project (Vol. 1) and is one of the album highlights here. The album ends with ‘Sailors Grave’ and another marvelous song about the sea. Bit more Punky it definitely lifts the album at the end.
The album is released tomorrow and is available for pre-order below. It was recorded, produced, mixed and mastered by Joel Howe at the Black Market recording studio at home in Warsop and the CD comes with a whopping 16 page lyric booklet. Lyrically it they do seem caught between being an outright jokey band and their more serious material. A balance that will come in time I’m sure. Overall it’s a great album but like most Celtic or Folk-Punk it’s probably best to hear these songs in the live context as it is undoubtedly perfect for drinking and lepping about to!
(You can stream and download Tales Of Layton Rakes on the Bandcamp player below)
Buy Tales Of Layton Rakes Bandcamp