These are troubling times. Russian bots influencing elections on both sides of the Atlantic. An American president surrounded by criminals. And an unprecedented polarisation of the political spectrum.
And what’s trending on Twitter?
Pete Doherty eating breakfast in a greasy spoon cafe…
Good to know we are focusing on what’s important.
There are some that say troubled times bring forth great art. For example, the severe social difficulties seen in Britain in the mid seventies begat punk rock. Although the “severe social difficulties” may just have been the thought of a double album by Genesis.
So the 2016-2020 vintage of pop and rock albums should be interesting. Will they be angst-fuelled protests against the Man, or will they seek to escape from all the worry and uncertainty?
Sweet Billy Pilgrim’s fifth album Wapentak, released just last week, seeks an alternative way of reflecting the turmoil in the world. It asks what if, instead of arguing about what separates us, we seek the common ground that brings us together?
The result is eight songs of uncommon beauty, at the same time revealing a writer who like many of us is angry and uncomprehending, yet ultimately hopeful. “Why the Long Face” sees Elsenburg wondering whether he is the only person who is looking at the state of the world and asking “What is going on?!”
Opener “Asking For A Friend” – video below – takes a Twitter phrase and turns it on its head.
But it’s not just about the lyrics.
Now a two piece consisting of Tim Elsenburg and Jana Carpenter, the duo wrap their voices together like Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. Melodies intertwine and combine (a Sweet Billy Pilgrim trademark).
“Shelter of Reeds” is a multi-part seven minute mini-epic. Beginning acoustically, then taking a A Day In The Life tangent before revolving again around a walking piano motif enveloped by orchestration. It is complex and yet never sounds anything but simple.
“Why The Long Face”, on the other hand, could contain a nod to Steely Dan.
The end result is a five-star success and one of Sweet Billy Pilgrim’s most satisfying albums. It was enough to earn the honour of being The Mail on Sunday’s Album of the Week. And if even that less-than-conciliatory journal can see something valuable in what Sweet Billy Pilgrim have to say, maybe there is hope for all of us…