Vinyl, Tape and CD Reviews


- Review by Jack Rabid

The indication that this is a watershed album comes before you even put it on. It's true the Neurotics upgraded their already topnotch punk-pop with Stax horns last time around on '86's REPERCUSSIONS. But this time, the sleeve credits list, in addition to the trio's bass, drums and guitar, the following: alto saxes, trombone, accordion, penny whistle, two female backing vocalists, keyboards from (Ex Garry Newman CHRIS PAYNE) and even the multi-talented political poet ATILLA THE STOCKBROKER on violin!
These instruments are arranged superbly throughout, yet the record is carried by the bass, drums and guitar as ever. Bolsheviks has all their best strengths, the exciting zip of their early stuff, only set to slower, more manageable tempos. There's another punk-ska-reggae number, "Never Thought," which as a 12" single comes with five live b-sides from East Berlin. Including BEN E. KING'S "Stand By Me." The soul influences still work their way in very modestly and there's even a scathing acoustic number, "Africa" (which originally appeared on the "Not Just Mandela" anti-apartheid compilation)

The dynamic flourishes of drummer SIMON LOMOND and bassist COLIN DREDD are still here in force, on what have to be STEVE DREWETT's finest songs and best singing in his ten years in the Neurotics. Add it all together and you've got a whale of an LP, with all of the Neurotics burning passion, but with some real style, and Drewett's direct arrangements.
This album is so good and the attitude so strong, that at first you don't notice how great the lyrics are. And for a mix of songs about relationships and politics nobody in the world can beat Drewett, not even his far more famous friend Billy Bragg who is good at this too. Bragg by the way, sings backup vocals on "Africa" with its great line "Well, Live Aid raised millions of Dollar, Pounds and Francs, but a pillar of Apartheid are the western banks."

Steve Drewett is definitely one of the best political songwriters in the world right now, and one who understands the pain, ecstasy, frustration, and complexities of male/female relationships as well. He sounds like he means it so badly, he's far from dogma 'cause he personalises everything. Even when he writes about homelessness, he paints a good picture:

"At Holborn station the vagrants greet my eyes/ It's a wonder they survive these cold and bitter nights/ The chill I feel comes not from these cold winds/But from seeing youth pulling food out of the bins/ And hour by hour their numbers increase and you know" ("Never Thought").

The best song, "Inch Away" takes a battered wife's viewpoint without making a TV docudrama out of it:

"He'd break down and cry and beg forgiveness once again/But she'd heard all those lies far too many times/She'd make herself look good like any girl would/ The makeup hides the scars...The beatings went on, and he started on the kids."

Really dramatic stuff. "The Loneliest Jukebox" is a mix of comedy and sorrow over a break up. "Keep The Faith" is a mix of rage over Thatcherism and an incite to change things etc. etc. This album has all their best strengths, the exciting zip of their early stuff (yet at slower, more manageable speeds), the dynamic touches of drummer Simon, punk-ska-reggae, the soul influences of the last LP, the acoustic number, and what has to be Drewett's finest songs of this 10 years, and his best singing as well. The arrangements of all these instruments into post-punk soul mod rock 'n' roll pop have direct appeal. I've said enough about Drewett in the live reviews (put link in here), but it can't be emphasised enough.

Do what's necessary to get this people, as great, modest, strong and believable as Steve Drewett and co. are, they are among the only people who deserve every morsel of your complete attention you can give.

(Note: the cover is an original late 30's U.S. toilet tissue advertisement at the height of the red scare. The title of the LP is taken from this ad.

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Simon Lomond-Demon Drummer with a smile like a frog