With eleven members ready to take on the end of 2012 and see in 2013 with a folk-inspired bang, Bellowhead’s fourth studio album Broadside is certainly set to warm your winter nights. Due for release October 15th, the 12 track album offers similar tunes to those the bands are renowned for. Of course, it’s undeniable that they offer listeners some of the most eclectic and original music from the evolving folk scene – having been compared to ‘folk kings’ Mumford and Sons and having mentioned folk-diva Laura Marling’s name a good few times, Bellowhead seem to have become stuck in the shadows of the radio-friendly bands of today.
Opening song Byker Hill, however, offers an epic opening of masterful proportions. While taking in the songs dramatic, string-backed melody and repetitive lyrics it’s easy to imagine them taking on the characters of pirates and donning their eye patches together in harmony with the rough seas. Honestly, towards the end of most tracks, I expect a great big ‘Ahoy!’ to come from the mouth of lead singer Jon Boden.
Old Dun Cow and Betsy Baker give off an ‘ode’ vibe rather than a ‘sing along’ one (yet I still find myself singing along). Lyrics such as ‘so modestly she turned her head/ though while her voice did quaver/ I thought it fair that I would wed/twood be with Betsy Baker’ give off the feel of a romantically inspired Shakespearean sonnet. Old Dun Cow offers us lyrics such as ‘the bloomin pubs on fire’ sang alongside a deep, throbbing brass section. The timing seems off at points, but it’s all a part of the magic – with drum beats placed beautifully between thundering bellows of Oboe.
As the album really jumps into action, 10,000 Miles Away gives us an even more upbeat (which seemed difficult at this point, having enjoyed three rather excitable tracks before it) string based folk song. It’s seemed fitting to burst into an old-timely jig, or to grab onto the arm of the next passing stranger and spin them around a bit. This incredibly odd, yet euphoric feeling carries on throughout the next few tracks – with Thousands or More making me strangely eager to find a barn dance to attend and Dockside Rant (which follows on perfectly from the former) emitting a truly addictive beat to dance along to.
As we near the end of the album, creepy sounding Black Beetle Pies begins to give off a definite Tom Waits vibe, alongside The Wife Of Usher’s Well and What’s The Life Of A Man. Let’s just say, each track could fit very neatly into a Tim Burton soundtrack. No need to worry though, because ending tracks Lillibulero and Go My Way retreat right back to the earlier sounds of the album. As I listened to Broadside it struck me that it sounds more like a film soundtrack rather than something that would be played on Radio 1 or Capital FM. Honestly, this is possibly what I loved about it the most. It gave me images of Jack Sparrow jumping around his pirate ship and Edward Scissorhands carving away at a piece of ice in the dark. That’s just me, though.
I urge all fans and non-fans of Bellowhead to buy, borrow, download or pre-order this album. It’s a sure-thing to cheer you up on the rainiest of days, and undoubtedly one of the best albums to listen to when drinking whisky before heading out to the old barn for a dance – as you do.