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Tales Of Layton Rakes – Star Botherers

Review by Tanya Russell

Lyric Lounge Review first encountered the Star Botherers whilst searching for food near The Secret Forest Stage many years ago at Bearded Theory Festival. Half a song in, all thoughts of sustenance were abandoned as we were quickly captivated by the band’s dance inducing melodies and mirth inducing lyrics.

It is no surprise, therefore, that after the miserable malaise of the last couple of years, that has left us all pondering the fate of live music and grass roots bands, the news that the Star Botherers were set to release a new album created as much joy at Lyric Lounge Review as hastily drinking several pints of Illicit. We expected witty lyrical dexterity with a social conscience and storming tunes, alongside songs that give hope that we will overcome adversity and we were definitely not disappointed.

’13 Years’ opens the album and is a familiar track due to its inclusion in live sets with lyrics that suggest that worse things really do happen at sea and a stomping tune that will really get the crowd rocking on the 8th January, 2022, at The Old Cold Store, where the album will be played in full. You want to get your copy on the 10th December release date, however, because you will want to know all the words as Star Botherers’ crowds definitely sing along.

The bouncy melody of ‘Spoons’ melds a jaunty sound with some very evocative imagery as singer Andrew ‘Bart’ Hawkins paints a vivid picture of the ubiquitous pubs and the people that frequent them.

The next track, ‘Blackpool’, with a chantable chorus and a seaside inspired rhythm, continues to showcase Hawkins’ deft eye for detail as the lyrics depict Northern holidays that strike a familiar chord and track our plucky protagonist as he pursues love but loses a tooth.

As someone with a vehement hatred of Thatcher, ‘Let It Stand’ feels to me like a song that needed to be written. Hawkins’ unique take on the statue, that it should stand as a catalyst for social action and a reminder of what happens when politics has no conscience, is intellectually interesting and the song itself again accentuates the Star Botherers’ brilliant ability to couple catchy melodies with astute lyrics. The band make you think whilst they compel you to dance with their skilful combination of gritty realism against a musical backdrop that is effervescent with energy.

The same stylistic slickness is evident in ‘Just Around The Corner’, a shrewd deconstruction of the way that the sale of council houses actually perpetuated the cycle of deprivation that is an absolute delight in their live set, even if it does mean mourning Bob every time the song ends.

‘Another Lidl Song’ is one of those songs that plays perpetually in your head because the tune is so contagiously catchy and highlights the Hawkins’ ability to meld mirth with cutting social commentary. It also gives us a possible reason for the tragedy that befell Bob.

Followed by ‘Kyle and Norton’, again showcasing the lyrical flair that will make you love the Star Botherers as Hawkins explores what would happen if Norton and Kyle switched television shows and then the absolute belter that is ‘Freethinker’, a song that should be familiar to fans of Nottingham band Ferocious Dog, as they perform it in their live set. It is a blistering tune with lyrics that will have the crowd chanting along at the launch night as it encapsulates what it means to see a different way of life.

The pleasant melody of ‘Swearing In Songs’ is a sardonic counterpoint to the song’s conclusion, with the tongue in cheek advice disregarded as the words to be avoided become a tumbling torrent.

The sentiment behind ‘Silence Is Acceptance’, coupled with a mesmerising melody that is part punk-folk, part-ska, easily makes it one of my favourite songs that has been released this year. It is a stomping celebration of those who speak out and is a joyful celebration of affirmative action in the face of oppression, bigotry and injustice. I look forward to shouting along to it at Nah Then Festival as it will be a great addition to the live setlist.

On which subject, it is great to see the much loved during live sets ‘He’s Got Dreads’ on the album. It is a brilliant song to sing and dance along to and it is even more amusing when you’re mate who has dreads and a camper van is stood next to you in the crowd so you can grin and point to them every time the chorus comes around.

Bringing the album to a close is a great version of Pete Drake’s ‘Oddly Excluded’ and finally the high octane ‘Sailor’s Grave’, again sure to be a live favourite and an incendiary way to end the album with its compelling rhythm and lyrics that take us on a vividly drawn journey in this song that is bound to prompt a celebratory circle pit at the album launch.

The Star Botherers’ second studio album is released on the 10th December, 2021, as both a download and physical release. The launch party, with support from the always amazing Headsticks 2, the brilliant Dan Ottewell and the marvellous Muddy Summers and the Dirty Field Whores, on the 8th January, 2022, at The Old Cold Store, Nottingham, is bound to be a belter so we’ll meet you at the barrier because this is one album launch you will definitely not want to miss.

Editor of LLR since 2005

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