Interesting and Lyrical
John Parkes is a superstar of the underground. That doesn't mean that he wanders around signing autographs on the Central Line, becoming a nobody the minute he ventures above ground, but that he has a career dating back fifteen years, has been loved by the late and extremely great John Peel and is the frontman of many a band that sadly never quite made it.
This twelve track album from John Parkes isn't really Indy, and isn't really folk either, but a meeting point somewhere between the two.
Each track is acoustic based, with many taking the form of a lot of songs in that style, slow, thoughtful and very easy on the ear.
The down side of an acoustic record is that often the songs appear to be straining on a lead to be even better than they presently are, personally throughout this album I was wondering how it could have developed had a drum and bass come crashing in for a more powerful climax to songs. The great thing though is that you can really focus on the lyrics.
On paper the subject matter he writes about is more heavy going than the gentle musical backdrop, as they include things like obsessions about love and longing, lust, religion, politics, self examination, the meaning of life, television, angst and black humour. All of which makes up a fairly deep and potentially difficult twelve tracks of social commentary. That is until you start to listen.
In reality it's a record that is partly serious, but contains tracks that are viewing twenty first century life from an amusing angle. My personal favourite of these is 'Hippy Farther':
"I wish you were just a little more wild, and I wish you wouldn't do quite so well in your exams, and I wish you would get in trouble with the police once in a while. Because I am your hippy farther and I demand a little more disrespect..."
How many of us would have enjoyed the freedom of having a parent like that rather than one that nags you about your schoolwork and tells you that "you're not going out dressed like that!"
'Faithlessness less' is a great example of how artists like this can be in a win win situation with the music they create. The tracks with the most interesting lyrics aren't necessarily the most enjoyable from a musical point of view, however because of the story which is being told, your attention is held. 'Hippy Farther' is the one which stuck in the mind instantly from the subject matter point of view, but its tune wasn't as memorable. 'Eighty Years Old', which is considering getting old and whether you find you have regrets when you get there, is not as interesting as far as its words are concerned, but its tune made me want to press the skip back button more than any other on the album. Others worth highlighting purely from the catchiness of the tunes are 'Goodbye Ms Jones' and 'Cigarettes'.
This is a record which takes a few listens to really appreciate what is there, as on a first impression it is impossible to spot everything, its real strength is that on the fourth and fifth time you play it, you notice something that had passed you by before. It's not an amazingly complexed record, but is one which continues to reward long after you expect it to.