Levellers last album of original material (2012’s Static On The Airwaves) came out eight years ago; it’s been a long awaited release for the Levellers faithful who could have been forgiven for thinking the band were heading in a completely different direction. Mark Chadwick et al have been busy putting together this splendid album.
Release Date: Friday 14th August 2020
Label: On The Fiddle
Format: CD / LP / Digital
I must admit I was a latecomer to the Levellers. I was introduced to them a few years ago at a show at Manchester’s Castlefield Bowl as a part of their series of summer concerts. The set was predominantly from the eponymous Levelling The Land album and the audience were jigging along to their infectious lively beat.
When they were included on the bill for Fairport’s Cropredy Convention they delivered some of their familiar songs in a more acoustic set which was met with some consternation amongst some fans; a little akin to Dylan’s electric delivery at Free Trade Hall in the 60’s! Fortunately for me I wasn’t that well steeped in the Levellers lore to be that disappointed and enjoyed their set as much as I had before.
The aforementioned fans will be thrilled with Peace, which returns to the more upbeat, stomping, jigging style. Some of the tracks will be familiar already after they recently released a handful of tracks as downloaded singles including the latest single Generation Fear, which along with Food Roof Family sets the tone for most of the other tracks.
The first single from the album, Food Roof Family, attacks the efforts of the media to misrepresent those who can not defend themselves. It sets the scene for a collection of songs brusquely tackling current issues as the Levellers insist on making strong, viable (gosh nearly said strong and stable…that would never do!) personal statements with their intent of hope for the future made crystal clear with the albums’ title.
“It’s an aspirational title,” says Levellers singer/guitarist Mark Chadwick. “We’re searching for peace. I’m not a religious man, but it feels like the devil is walking the earth right now, but that doesn’t mean there’s no hope.” That is an opinion that’s hard to disagree with and the culprits need not be named.
Four Boys Lost tells the tale of a tragic accident off the coast of Scotland when four young lives were taken away from an island community. These young men represented the future of that community, and the story reflects how everyone’s future is globally fragile today.
Ghosts In The Water and The Men Who Would Be King are both powerful commentaries and warnings of the dangers of letting political and ecological issues get out of hand.
Albion & Phoenix, shows that The Levellers are proud of the past but are wary that we must not be dragged down by nostalgia, the future depends on us moving on positively making crucial decisions to promote a worthwhile society. Peace. It is both a celebration of the Levellers’ past and a warning against the suffocating nature of nostalgia.
All eleven thrilling, pulsating songs are a commentary, in terms of a powerful retort, of our society which is on the brink of terminal gloom if we do not act positively. Despite their experience and longevity the band maintain the same level of anger and enthusiasm mixed with expert song craft, verve and direction.
There is little room for melancholy and like the dynamic fury of Our New Day, these songs are thrashed out and batter us in the way we like the Levellers to spurt out their music and thoughts into our lug holes with tunefulness and musicality never abandoned.
Not only are the group typically ‘tight’ musically but they are together in the purpose behind the songs illuminated by bassist Jerry Cunningham; “The album is about the state of the world and our state of mind,” …….“It’s the most anxious-sounding record we’ve done in a long time. It’s the way the world is. We’re just reflecting it. It’s an album of now.”
Produced at the band’s own Metway Studios by longtime collaborator Sean Lakeman (“He knows the Levellers better than the Levellers,” says Chadwick), Peace possesses the precision we expect from The Levellers, and hopefully fans will not only just jig and chant along but listen to the startling messages contained herein.
Listen to, and watch, Levellers great video to Albion & Phoenix. It’s a song that sonically encapsulates Levellers.