Published on 6th December 2015
Simon Godfrey – Black Bag Archive (Volume 1)
British musician Simon Godfrey is responsible for a lot of things.
But there simply isn’t enough evidence.
He also does quite a lot of music.
He lives in Philadelphia, in the United States. When resident in the UK he was making a lot of music including Men Are Dead and as a component of the band Tinyfish, who made three albums between 2006 and 2010. Simon is one of the new breed of musicians who are very much in contact with their fans through embracing technology, using blogs and video diaries and regularly conversing with them using social media. He has also released music as his alter ego, Shineback, the first act to have signed to Bad Elephant Music, and since settling down in the States he has produced Motherland as himself. He has also recently been gigging with Valdez, a veritable Supergroup comprised of bassist Tom Hyatt (Echolyn), drummer Paul Ramsey (Echolyn), keyboardist Joe Cardillo (Cold Blue Electric) and Simon Godfrey on guitar and vocals.
He’s a busy chap! Now I get to review this EP – Black Bag Archives (Volume 1).
I’ve been giving this a lot of time over the last few weeks while driving around in my car and that’s when I got the idea that it should be me who reviews it. Loads of ideas about how to describe the songs were popping into my head as I listened. Of course, as I sit here at a computer I can’t remember most of them. Except one: Into Idle Fury is the illegitimate love child from an unholy union between Nine Inch Nails and some people using musical instruments from the Gabriel era of Genesis. Or something. So if that is the best idea I had it is just as well that I am starting again.
Into Idle Fury, as Simon explains in a video diary, was originally written for the fourth Tinyfish album but it was shelved when the album didn’t come to pass. All of the tracks have been salvaged from unfinished projects and ideas that Simon has recorded, stashed away on a variety of media over quite a long time, found again and resurrected. If variety is the spice of life then not only are Kellogg lying to us when they sell us those tiny packets of cereal (because I would NOT make a curry from them) but this must be a spicy little collection of songs.
All the way through the album I found myself asking why. Why were these ideas shelved? There isn’t a track here that I would skip in favour of another. Considering that they came from the mind of man who defines freedom as the chance to walk around the house in his underpants when his wife is away, two tracks in particular have absolutely no right to be as mind-warpingly beautiful, namely, Ghost Train and Papaya Whip. The latter has chord sequences that I just wish I knew how to put together. You know how you come out of the cinema after watching Tim Burton’s Batman and you ARE Batman – or at least, you want to be? Well for me Papaya Whip is the musical equivalent of that. Only I don’t want to be Simon Godfrey because that would be too weird. Would it? [EDITOR: Yes]. And let’s not forget that this song was, in a manner of speaking, on the cutting room floor.
I’m a bit conscious of how “fan-boy” all this seems but really you should consider this as if it were one of those “Bad News Sandwiches” that your boss gives you. You know,
“Well, Phil, Your work on [place a thing that you did reasonably well here] was great”, followed by;
“You did [place something they want you to improve on with a vague threat to back it up] which needs improvement”. Followed by;
“But despite the [blah blah blah], we’re very happy, but no bonus for you”.
Well, just to show you that I am not just gushing about Simon, here’s the bad bit in the middle of the sandwich:
I thought there wasn’t enough of it. At just under 32 minutes it seemed a bit short.
Anyway, the rest of the sandwich:
When I first heard that this was coming out I confess that I thought – only for a split second – that it might just be a hastily gathered collection of badly put together, partly-written and badly mixed demos that would appeal only to Mr Godfrey’s most ardent fanatics. When the opening noise of a cassette being loaded into a tape deck came out of my speakers followed by a tinny snippet of some hastily-recorded idea I thought I’d nailed it. Not in the least. He’s a little tinker, that Simon Godfrey. I think that was his little joke. So some of the vocals are a tiny bit raw but the mix is good to my ear. There are surprises around each corner and this really has been compulsory listening for me this week.
One of the tracks here is a demo version of a song that was to appear on the Tinyfish album, Big Red Spark. So if you haven’t heard any Tinyfish and you like Weak Machine maybe this album could open up a whole new chapter in musical discovery for you. You are a musical explorer, aren’t you? Otherwise, why else would you be on The Progressive Aspect looking at album reviews?
With more to come every five or six months I’m hoping that Mr. Godfrey hasn’t set the bar too high with this compilation. Not all music that I like is easy to write about but this just was. If I get to review the next Volume I hope it is equally easy to write about. Somehow, I suspect it will be.
01. Into Idle Fury (8:12)
02. 2nd Bravest In The Queue (3:37)
03. Ghost Train (4:34)
04. Weak Machine [original demo] (3:49)
05. Papaya Whip (3:30)
06. Wear My Name (4:05)
~ Bonus track:
07. The Inaccurate Man (ft. Peter Jones of Tiger Moth Tales) (4:02)
Total Time – 31:51
Written, recorded and performed by Simon Godfrey with Peter Jones on track 7
Record Label: Bad Elephant Music
Release Date: 30th November 2015