The Blockheads’ latest release, Same Horse, Different Jockey is an album which has taken the band in new directions, both musically and re-establishes the band at the top of their musical tree. Much has happened over the 36 years since New Boots and Panties was released. Since then, the band have had chart success, deep, long periods of indifference, spats, come-backs, personnel changes, deaths and all of them have tried different avenues but nothing is as good as The Blockheads together and this album is proof. It is, of course, not the only album since NBAP. There have been several, including Laughter, Do It Yourself, Staring Down The Barrel and a few misses and minor hits, but living up to the expectations raised from NBAP and grabbing their own identity since Ian Dury”s death in 2000 has been hard…until now. This album is what fans and the music industry has been waiting for, expecting and, finally, it has happened.
One reason for its success is that it was built with and by the band, fans and families. Everyone seems to have come from near and far to put a little bit into the album. Kickstarter, the public funding platform, was used to allow fans to donate funding in return for rewards, fans offered photography kit, places to film, ideas, money and filming venues. Within a couple of weeks, enough money was raised to fund the album as well as three videos to promote it, the first of which supports the single “Express Yourself,” which is out now.
Mick Gallagher of the band recently said, “It is fantastic to be making this music again and this is some of the best work we have ever done”. Even the cover art was donated by artist Sarah Lucas – one of the best known artists of her generation and a close friend of co-manager Lee Harris. When she heard the band needed cover art for the CD, she gave them a piece, simply because Lee asked her. The cover has caused nearly as much discussion as the album itself. It is naughty, slightly shocking but so Blockhead it makes you smile.
The album opens with “Look The Other Way,” which is a catchy number. A touch of naughtiness, a smattering of razzamatazz and a driving beat introduce the tone of the album. Chaz Jankel”s piano playing adds funky riffs under the band’s solid music. The middle section has a rip-roaring sax solo by Dave Lewis. The band weaves in and out with the vocals in a tight, sharp unit. The song ends with instrumentals from most of the band and is cleverly structured to introduce each one with the sax taking up the counter melody. “Boys Will Be Boys” begins with spoken vocals, Derek telling the story of boys, well, being boys really; pints of beer, down the pub and mischief in the making. Bluesy overtones are underpinned with a steady, mesmerising drum beat, which is interspersed with guitar solos. “Undercover” tells the story of hidden cameras, CCTV and Big Brother watching everyone — whatever they are doing — and it covers nearly everything. A gentle vocal tells the story with the musicians, including Gilad Atzmon on sax, filling the gaps with well timed riffs and tunes.
“Express Yourself” is a tight, driving number with most of the band joining in with vocals and Terry Edwards adding trumpet. Again, the substance lies in the tightness and driving rhythms kept by the band right the way through. “Are You One Of Those People”, is a fine piece with all the band playing. “Confused” shows Derek’s vocals in a new light and you realise he is far more than simply a raconteur. He introduces an emotive overtone to the words, telling the story of a love affair gone wrong and regrets. The song is a revelation because Derek normally sings, using gravelly tones and with a touch of naughtiness and irony never far beneath the surface but here, the regret of the story is palpable.
“Frightened Man” is a complete contrast and establishes itself with a deep, throaty, raunchy beat; probably the influence of co-writer with Derek, John Turnbull. Derek performs excellent vocals over really tight playing by the rest of the band. “Sorry I Apologise” has more than a whiff of music hall with a quirky, jaunty tune which repeats and tells the story of a mischievous, drink loving guy who has offended people and trying in his clumsy way to apologise. It is a nod to the tongue in cheek style the Blockheads have done so well for so long.
“What’s The Deal Mamma” is a rocky, chirpy number with great vocals and tight, raunchy sound. Mick swaps organ for piano and excels with a music hall style of playing underpinning the vocals. It is a style where the band excels and there is a great guitar solo in the middle. The whole number is a good old rock and roll song- with a Blockhead twist of course. “Tommy Gun” finishes the album and tells the story of a lad who joins the army and how his training equips him for pain and fighting.
The songs are written by Derek Hussey and Chas Jankel with the exception of “Undercover,” which is Hussey/Norman Watt-Roy , “Confused” by Hussey, Chas and Mick Gallagher and “Frightened Man” by Hussy and John Turnbull.
As Mick said, this is some of the best music The Blockheads have made for a good while. It has a bit of everything the band are best at and a few surprises. Derek adds something unique with his vocals because he has the ability to add touches of poignancy and, while he is evidently playing the character of a cheeky chappy, tongue firmly lodged in cheek for the most part, he can turn in a heartbeat to dip into the wellspring of emotion to pull a few teary moments out of the bag.
The musicians back up the vocals with tight, driving perfection as expected. On a CD these sounds are great. Live, with an allowance for unexpected solos, added riffs and changes which we have come to expect, they will be truly amazing. You might — with a few notable exceptional tracks on some albums — argue the band never really made it back to the heights of New Boots and Panties but now, with Same Horse, Different Jockey, even though it may have been 36 years in the making they finally have.
Same Horse Different Jockey will be available for sale November 23. Visit The Blockheads website for more info.
Derek Hussey – lead vox all tracks
Mick Gallagher – Organ all tracks and piano on “What”s The Deal Mamma”
Chaz Jankel – Electric piano on “Look the other way” and “Undercover” and Piano on “Confused” and “Sorry I Apologise” also guitar on all other tracks
Johnny Turnbull – Guitar on all tracks
Norman Watt-Roy – Bass on all tracks
John Roberts – Drums
Gilad Atzmon – Sax on “Boys will be Boys”/Undercover”/”Are you one of those people” and “Sorry I Apologise”
Dave Lewis – Sax on “Look the other way”
Terry Edwards – Trumpet on “Express Yourself”
And all three horn players in ensemble at various places on the album
Backing vocals – Jankel, Turnbull, Gallagher, Watt-Roy