Organic British folk meets desolate urban pop-rock...
As Sergeant Buzfuz (who, if you were wondering, take their name from a character in Dickens' novel The Pickwick Papers) release their third album, 'The Jewelled Carriageway', the band of nu-folk troubadours that stand before you now are a very different kettle of fish to the group that released 'Fire Horse' back in 2004; the rotating cast of musicians is long gone, and instead, core members Joe Murphy (vocals and guitar) and Kate Arnold (hammered dulcimer, violin, viola and vocals) are joined by Jon Clayton (cello and bass), Eilish McCracken (violin and whistle) and Martin Parker (drums) to form a rich and consistant quintet.
The band's 2004 sophomore effort 'Fire Horse' met with much critical acclaim, labelled as 'a gem' by some sectors of the music press; but is 'The Jewelled Carriageway' equally as desirable? Well, yes and no; claiming to epitomise the 'state of constant flux, contradictions and dilemmas faced on a daily basis, Sergeant Buzfuz mix the organic sound of British folk music with tales of urban desolation, to create a dark concoction of nu-folk meets pop-rock that is perhaps not one for the faint-hearted... While the haunting folk influences are evident throughout in the delicate sounds of the dulcimer, and cascading violin melodies, the desolate, helpless quality of Murphy's voice and lyrics shouldn't be under-estimated. 'Swallows' and 'It's Not What You've Got It's Who You Give It Too' both have hypnotic, enticing folk tunes that grow to rich instrumentals, they sit behind sad lyrics of longing and ugly truths.
There's a more instantly catchy melody to the political, 'The Television Will Not Be Revolutionized', and there's almost a rock 'n' roll riff lurking next to the violins and shuffling folk sounds of 'Pour It From The Kettle'. 'Who Are You' begins with some powerful fiddle playing, that soars passionately alongside dynamic strumming and Steve Harley-esque vocals, before the album draws to a close with the interesting and scrupulously researched 'Here Come The Popes (1st Millenium)', which charts the supposed filth, depravity and hypocrisy amongst the papacy, and (surprisingly) has an enjoyably catchy melody and is delivered in the typical story-telling folk style.
'The Jewelled Carriageway' is the kind of album that won't set you on fire straight away; at first, its melodies seem plodding and repetitive; it's pleasant, but not overly inspiring... but persevere, and it all suddenly falls into place. The gems are all there for those prepared to look.