Matt Stevens - The Stratford Tapes

Matt Stevens – The Stratford Tapes

Here at TPA we have a decent, but not quite incestuous relationship with Bad Elephant Music, who send us their releases, a good proportion of which we have reviewed over the years. A fine label who promote independent music in all its many forms, with an obvious leaning towards the vaguely progressive. Nowt wrong with that, it’s what we’re here for, after all.

For some time, and quite sensibly in order to keep costs down, the review copies have been download only, so you can imagine my surprise when I was told I would be receiving an advance hard copy of Matt Stevens’ new solo album, The Stratford Tapes. You can never have enough CDs… well, you can, I have far too many. Anyway, it was a nice gesture, I thought.

David Elliott, who runs Bad Elephant Music like a bad-tempered secondary school teacher (only kidding, Dave!), has always had an irrational fear of vinyl, so I thought that the fact that the email came from “Bad Elephant Records”, rather than “Bad Elephant Music” was just his dig at me for making a genuine mistake in my online music quiz the other day, heavens forfend!

Well, crush the air out of me with a boa constrictor! The package delivered to my door, left there while the postie backs off the regulation two metres, looked just like a record in packaging. Recognising the label logo, I was grinning somewhat by now, but I was also a trifle bemused. I picked up the package, took it into the music room, and carefully opened it, and lo and behold, Matt’s new album is… a vinyl record!!! There was a note inside, that read thus:

“Dear Roger
I have come to the conclusion that your errant and oft-repeated assertion that, and I quote ‘… the vinyl LP is the true aesthetic physical expression of music as an art form’, is in actual fact nothing of the sort. It has taken me a good few years of wrestling with my conscience, and I hope you forgive me, to realise that you are in fact completely correct. My awakening happened while opening the six-panel foldout sleeve of Space Hymns by Ramases on the Vertigo spiral label, given to me by Simon Godfrey as a going away present, the cheeky fecker. It has taken me years to open it, but here we are. I believe you were a record collector? In which case you need no further explanation.

Therefore, in what I would have deemed only days ago as an utterly counter-intuitive move, I have set up Bad Elephant Records as a boutique offshoot for our bands and artists who wish to have very (I stress the ‘very’, I have not gone completely insane) limited pressings of their work on the true epitome of musical expression, the LP in all its appealing glory. You will notice with our first release that special attention has been paid to the cover art, and the lyrics are printed inside the gatefold as indeed they should be.

I look forward to your review.

Yours humbly – David Elliott – Bad Elephant Records”

As for the record, well, Matt tells me it is a compilation of tunes composed and recorded over the years after the infamous curry sessions out there in East London, where Mr Elliott holds court like a benevolent uncle (it’s his time out from being a grumpy schoolmaster). Some of the ditties sound suitably oiled, and I’ve never heard Matt sing before. Crikey! That baritone could knock Pavarotti over at ten paces. He’s been hiding that, hasn’t he?!

The first track is It Shone A Light, based on an almost Dylanesque chord sequence, the lyric obviously a relaying of the tale of David’s vinyl epiphany. And no, it didn’t happen in Soho, what were you thinking?!

There could be hit singles on here, if such things still existed. Matt’s cover of You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) with David adding his gruff tones to the chorus is a hoot, and will have you dancing ’round your cell… sorry, living room, like a pensioner in a hazmat suit.

Matt charges through musical styles with an inebriated gusto, and my favourite track has to be the thunderous layered guitars of Thirty-Three & A Third Kinds of Love, with David doing his best Gene Simmons impression on bass and backing vocals. I’m told they both wore tutus and make up for this one to get in the groove, and the result is tremendous fun.

Limited to a pressing of only 15 copies, all proceeds are going to David’s new charity, Vinyl Verisimilitude. Pre-order it now on Bad Elephant Records. And remember it could be an illusion.

Wash your hands!

Side One:

01. It Shone A Light (4:45)
02. Last Bus Out (of Stratford) (4:19)
03. You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) (2:58)
04. Gargamel’s Lament (6:66)
Side Two:
05. Thirty-Three & A Third Kinds of Love (12:01)
06. Weasels Stripped My Gretsch (0:03)
07. The Lights Burn Low in Rushden Too-nite (5:17)
08. Take on Me (1:00)

Total Time – 37:29

Matt Stevens – Guitars, Loops, Guitar Loops, Looped Guitars, Guitars, Baritone Lead Vocals & Guitars, Chicken (track 8)
~ With:
David Elliott – Backing Vocals, Bass & ‘Demon’ Facepaint (track 5)
Charlie Cawood – Spoons (track 6)
The Munich Philharmonic Orchestra – Triangle (tracks 2,4 & 7)

Record Label: Bad Elephant Records
Catalogue#: BER-VV 001
Date of Release: 1st April 2020

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