David Lance Callahan

English Primitive II

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The follow-up to last year’s first volume, English Primitive II continues the themes introduced previously in a harder, more electric and psychedelic style.

The songs were mostly recorded during the same sessions but, if EP I showcased the ‘songs of innocence’, this new set comprises ‘songs of experience’. Callahan's lyrical themes here are frequently the sleaze and corruption of our ‘betters’, the intentional and unintentional brutality meted out on those weaker and the sometimes perverse ways in which this happens. There are moments of reflection among the broken mirrors, but they allow scant solace or reassurance. Dressed in another of Scottish artist Pinkie McClure’s witty and detailed stained glass creations and recorded at home and under a railway arch, EPII rises above its origins and invades the wider world, in all its colour, gritand glory. Each song serves as a monument to its internal tale – in fact, the whole LP is as much a collection of musical short stories as it is an album of songs. Opening with Invisible Man, the impression of a regular person with hidden grievances, biding his time and waiting to lash out is given. Waves of distant samples ebb and fall as the warped guitars swell and crash behind the main themes. We don’t know when this explosion will happen – we only know it will.

A sleazy celebration of Britain’s position as the laundering capital of the world follows in the form of Beautiful Launderette. It’s good that we keep everything nice and clean for the whole planet, isn’t it? Business as usual, keeping the globe turning – that’s our role and we love it. The Parrot rocks like only a prolonged evisceration of governmental mouthpieces and their court stenographers can. It’s a thankless task making sure that the powers that be retain their authority in all things and patrolling the borders of what is allowed to be said and believed, but somebody’s got to do it. If you’re providing a service, you’ll need to present a united front against the grievances of the public, so you’ll need The Scapegoat. Mistakes and accidents can’t be the company’s fault, so you’ll need to pay someone to be publicly and repeatedly sacked to make it appear as if you’re solving problems and getting better. Lessons will be learned, going forward. The disturbing tale of Bear Factory begins side two and is the real-life story of the murder of one of the singer’s primary-school classmates in the 1970s, and true in every detail. The victim’s body was never found but the killer justifiably imprisoned for life. A more ancient scent of death pervades The Burnet Rose. This ground-hugging plant covers the graves of the victims in a seventeenth-century plague village on the Yorkshire coast to this day, commemorating their sacrifices when all around have forgotten. It’s this particular songwriter’s favourite flower. Orgy of the Ancients describes the intimate intricacies of ageing politicians and the press as they decide whether to go to war. In grotesque scenarios worthy of Caligula, they decide the fates of our children. And it’s not even half the truth. To finish, the songwriter looks back to an admired predecessor, when he sets William Blake’s famous poem London in a groovier setting than we’re used to – in the form of London by Blakelight. If London swings, it’s from the Tyburn tree. 


Invisible Man
Beautiful Launderette
The Parrot
The Scapegoat
Bear Factory
The Burnet Rose
Orgy Of The Ancients
London By Blakelight

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