Music that tells an interesting story whilst being eminently listenable and catchy is great music – it grabs by the neck and fills your head and heart with joy. Luckily, this week’s featured artist is a band called Sergeant Buzfuz and their seventh album, Fox Pop, does exactly that. The band has had a revamp and now consists of William Barr (12 string guitar, mandolin), Ian Button (drums), Joss Cope (bass guitar), Stu Crane (slide guitar), Polly MacLean (vocals), Eilish McCracken (violin, keyboards, flute, whistle, vocals), Joe Murphy (guitar, vocals).
The opening track, ‘There’s Idiots, Then There’s Idiots With Money‘ ” is a song with a stomping rhythm that sets the scene for the rest of the album. Joe says that this track is “about me imagining I’m attending one of those Mansion House dinners where the Chancellor gets summoned to report to the City” and the protest is there for all to hear. It’s very catchy and the intricate guitars have a Beatley feel that conveys a feeling of warmth and comfort juxtaposed against the discordant lyrics, not to mention the unexpected change of tone in the shape of a flute solo.
‘Theresa McKee‘ follows on and shows a refreshing, lively blast of pop peppered with mandolin and acoustic guitar; the folk roots are loud and clear here, as with my favourite track, ‘The Tongues They Wag Away’. A blend of male / female vocals singing a list of things that “they say” is tempered with a simply beautiful declaration of love, proving that the simplest of lyrics can be the best:
I just want to listen to your voice and the rain on the pane
Sergeant Buzfuz is a band with a sense of humour and a witty lyric or two which is borne out in ‘Who Art In Seven Hills‘, a clever and humorous re-work of The Lord’s Prayer, replacing names and places with those of Joe’s native Sheffield (think Ian Dury). The interlude makes way for the jolly off-kilter harmonies of quirky ‘Rare and Racy‘, a jaunty, racy look at the very topical planning laws, in this case, a second hand record/book shop in Sheffield which had to close when the council, having to obey new Tory Government planning laws, approved the property owner’s plans to turn the building into flats. Again, the biting wit of the protest song is displayed.
If punk is your thing, then ‘Rear View Mirror‘ and ‘Fill in the Blanks‘ are full of classic, catchy punk riffs celebrating the everyday lives of musicians (“play the wrong chords”) and for the former particularly, the aim seems to be to sing as many words as quickly and frenetically as possible. Having said that, it hangs together very well. To finish, ‘Your Time is Tomorrow‘ is graced with beautiful female vocals and immense danceability, while ‘Back to the Willow‘ brings us neatly back to the catchiness of the first.
If you want something new to listen to that will make you think, laugh and dance a lot, possibly all at the same time, you could do a lot worse that listen to Fox Pop.
Lead singer and writer Joe’s advice for aspiring musicians was written before lockdown but is still timely and profoundly practical:
Write about what matters to you and be honest.
Have a part time day job. In the modern music industry you need more time than ever. On top of being a musicians you’re a gig agent, a social media organiser, a graphic artist, a video director, a press promoter, a radio plugger etc. You also need to put bread on the table and be able to pay for equipment, recording etc. So work, but do it part time. Consequently, don’t live in London, it’s too expensive.
Work with people on the same wavelength as you. Be solo until you find like minded people. Work with people who take the music seriously but not themselves. To find them, organise your own gigs, release your own records, play live as often as you can – your songs will get better and you’ll meet like minded people.
Join The Musician’s Union for advice and support.
Support your small local venues by going to gigs there. Boycott corporate venues. You know why, right?
If you believe in yourself, keep going.
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