Arriving seemingly fully formed out of nowhere, well, Boston USA to be precise, Body English make music that may well be described as intelligent pop, avoiding as it does any obvious traits that would make for easy genre pigeon-holing. The players on this album must have a long history in music, such is the skill on display, but Stories of Earth is their debut album nonetheless.
The instrumentation is varied, the closing mini-epic The Humour in the Heart of the Old Grey Mountain even utilising an orchestra. Elsewhere the tunes take their cues from the strummed guitar of leader Clint Degan, with the rest of the band providing intelligent accompaniment. Clint provides the occasional short’n’sweet solo, often sounding not unlike Bill Nelson in his Be-Bop Deluxe days, but the overall emphasis is on ensemble playing, and the song is king. You will not find any jazz influence or extemporising here, which is why it sits comfortably within the vastly wide definition of “pop”. The only slight reservation I have is regarding the occasionally over-fussy drumming, sections of Sound Asleep being a case in point. I’ll put it down to youthful exuberance and trust that the ever important “less is more” lesson is eventually learned.
Opening track Kiss Them has a summery vibe to it that conjures visions of Sunday afternoon summer municipal park festivals, and intelligent ’80s pop of the Hue & Cry kind. The string section adds to the floating atmosphere, prevented from becoming dreamy by the choppy guitar chord progression. I am also put in mind of Steely Dan, such is the intelligence displayed in the arranging. A nice touch is the organ occasionally fleshing out the fulsome instrumentation, which is a satisfying without ever being overbearing.
Lyrics deal with love, found and lost, and politics of the personal kind, and are largely revealing an optimistic spirit making the best of the sometimes trying circumstances of relationships. “If you have to leave, just do it slowly” and “You flower me in poetry, you bludgeon me in prose” being two fine examples of poignant writing. In other words like all good pop, the subject matter is life itself, warts and all. There’s no escapist fantasy to be found here, but an overriding feel of optimism has even the saddest lyric leaving you feeling it can only get better. To write these kind of lyrics is no easy task, which is why intelligent (that word again) lyric writing in pop is a relatively rare thing. The first line I quoted comes from Do It Slowly, which ends with a marvellous but short redemptive guitar break, the smiley that ends the thread so to speak.
Prose and Poetry balances the tension of the instrumental chorus with the world weary words of the verse with particular panache, and some rather fine guitar playing from Clint. This is pop, but there are more than enough tricksy time signatures and intricate instrumental interplay to keep the prog fan sated, have no fear. Guest vocalists Christie Beaulieu and Yasmin Solomon make a good show of turning the band into a prog-pop Abba with the feisty tale of domestic angst that is I Don’t Wanna Be A Housewife (For Someone Else’s Family), a cracking tune that with some judicious editing would make for a great single.
Unfortunately all the YouTube videos seem to have been taken down, but all the tracks are available for streaming through Bandcamp (see below). It is difficult to believe that something that has obviously had as much care and attention put into it as this superlative album is up on Bandcamp at “Name your Price”, but at the same time sadly indicative of the ever decreasing worth placed on recorded music these days. Grab it for nowt by all means, but this fine band deserve your support, so spend a measly $10 on the CD, or make a suitable donation when getting the download and thereby encourage them to make more of this wonderful music. The world needs talent like this to prosper.
Oh, and their Facebook page has a desultory number of Likes for such an obviously talented bunch – what’s the matter with people these days?
01. Kiss Them (6:32)
02. You Were Something Else (5:20)
03. Prose and Poetry (5:31)
04. I Don’t Wanna Be a Housewife (for Someone Else’s Family) (7:20)
05. Do It Slowly (6:02)
06. Rock n Roll Will Save You (3:27)
07. Sound Asleep (5:40)
08. The Humour in the Heart of the Old Grey Mountain (10:38)
Total time – 50:30
Clint Degan – Vocals, Guitar, Organ
Cullen Corley – Drums
Kirsten Lamb – Upright Bass
Afghan Dan Harris Levine – Guitar, Synthesis
Todd Marston – Piano
Tim Lillis – Piano, Organ
Christie Beaulieu & Yasmin Solomon – Vocals (track 4)
…and full string and brass/reeds sections who appear throughout in various combinations, with far too many members to list!
Record Label: n/a
Year Of Release: 2016