In these turbulent times, there are several good bands fronted by female singers inhabiting a small and somewhat crowded avant-pop-prog crossover shed, with an inkling for experimentalism, and a jazz sensibility. Bands such as Moe Tar, Infinien, District 97, Inner Ear Brigade, Half Past Four, and the current pack leaders Bent Knee come to mind. Most if not all of those I mentioned are from the other side of the Pond. Well, now us Brits have our own variation. A Formal Horse have been around for a few years now, and have produced three EPs that hinted at their talent. Now with the superbly named Here Comes A Man From The Council With A Flamethrower (surely the best album title of last year?) that nascent talent has coalesced and the result is an album of sixteen short but perfectly formed alternate universe pop smashers that will have you twitching in time, whether you like it or not.
Rather than leaving this listener breathless and grinning like a loon, such is the effect that the Knee’s mighty Courtney Swain’s powerful pipes have on yours truly, Hayley McDonnell achieves sonic nirvana in a more subtle and refined, nay, British way. Her considered yet powerful voice is the contrast to guitarist Benjamin Short’s relentless sturm und drang, Last Track On Side Fun being a case in point, where Hayley’s clear and concise tone is the counterpoint to Ben’s full-on Pete Townshend grooving with Kristin Hersh moves.
In these days of genre mash-ups, it is no surprise to consider that Hersh’s Throwing Muses may very well be an influence here. Of course, that may just be my veteran’s ears searching for connections, but it’s definitely there for me. That Ben is a fan of Fripp surely cannot be in question, just listen to the furiously speedy precision picking at the beginning of I Just Called To Say I Like You. Of course, you do not need me making probably pointless comparisons, you can listen for yourself over on Bandcamp.
The longest track on Here Comes A Man From The Council With A Flamethrower is the 3:58 of Unison 3, so the listener’s attention is never prone to wandering. There is no fat on this record, every second counts, and at 43:20, which is a perfect length for an album, it never outstays its welcome. Because there are so many songs on here, and as a result so many ideas, whizzing by at a hundred miles an hour, it has taken me quite a while to get into the record, as it is a labyrinth of quite dense proportions. The huge rolling thunder of the frankly stunning final track, Anyway, probably sums it all up, and brings together all the tumultuous and turbulent torrents of creativity that course through the veins of this fine album.
Here Comes A Man From The Council With A Flamethrower, if you need it categorising is “progressive pop”. It is not Prog. This is a good thing, for as a friend of mine* contends, Prog is “… music mostly listened to by fossilised old people with no sense of humour”. I was going to put that at the beginning, but figured it would only alienate half my potential readership. See, I do consider your feelings, pop-pickers! Have a nice day…
*You know who you are! 🙂
01. Magazine Zooey Deschanel (2:08)
02. Bird (2:35)
03. I Just Called to Say I Like You (3:49)
04. Petroleum (2:55)
05. Boarded Doors in Bedford Place (1:19)
06. Bee (3:40)
07. Last Track on Side Fun (3:40)
08. Coda (1:46)
09. Lonely Doe Young Doe (3:47)
10. Here Comes a Man from the Council with a Flamethrower (2:05)
11. Unison One (1:56)
12. Commons (3:22)
13. Cherub (2:07)
14. Unison 3 (3:58)
15. Boarded Doors Reprise (0:48)
16. Anyway (3:25)
Total Time – 43:20
Hayley McDonnell – Vocals
Benjamin Short – Guitars, Vocals
Russell Mann – Bass Guitars
Mike Stringfellow – Drums
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 22nd November 2019