McHale’s Permanent Brew – Lessons From The Darkest Storms…: Album Review

McHale’s Permanent Brew channel classic influences on their second album.

Release Date: available now

Label: 109records

Format: CD / digital

It might sound part of a quick-fire and bizarre stand up routine, but what do you call five blokes in a phone box? Check the inside cover of Lessons From The Darkest Storms… and you’ll find the McHale’s quintet all gathered thus in some barmy (possibly a suitably inmbibed late night) stunt.

A band who’ve been around since 2017, but with roots that go way deeper, Lessons… is the rather ominous sounding follow up to their debut album. Guitar-based Blues Rock is the name of the game along with a debt to some of the classic bands of the Sixties and Seventies. No wonder they’ve lived the dream, sharing stages with the likes of Dr Feelgood and Atomic Rooster.

The twin guitars of the McHales, Paul and Frank, plus some experimental, twisty turny, backward-y tape goings on herald the similarly melancholic sounding Out Of Luck. Goes with the blues territory I guess. Some background textures from Si Lomax’s keyboards provide the backdrop both here and throughout. It’s an interesting combo as the middle section of Dead Magpie, where the slide guitar is backed by a couple of interchanging organ chords, is very Floyd-y (classic period, not the angry Roger era). Only the busy percussion reminds us that it isn’tNick Mason in there. Talking of which, the relaxed tempo on Drowning By Numbers leads to an encounter with what must be a not-too-distant cousin to the Floyd’s Breathe. Very languid and given a more raw vocal, it builds into more standard blues territory; Oh yeah…

Another easy-paced seven minute journey sees Cracks (“maybe I broke some mirrors in my time“) lamenting bad luck whilst taking the lead from the ‘tread on a crack’ superstition and latching onto a full range of superstition cliches in the lyric. The weeping guitar solo matches the general mood. lest we forget the roots, Blues bases are covered in Angel On My Shoulder; brooding and moody in both lyric and atmosphere, while acoustic guitars make the occasional appearance in the arrangements, most notably in the album closing Look Up, offering a stripped-back and rootsy alternative.

The band kick into a nice groove during Burn. The initial low level intensity is helped along by a pacey lead line that gets backed by an increasingly passionate rhythm section who also contribute to a funky Beating Heart. The latter might have some having memories nudged by the sonar bleeps that were such a key part of Echoes.

Having earned their stripes as a big draw in the live arena and Blues Festivals, especially in their native North West, there’s a hint or several on here that there’s more to just the Blues in McHale’s Permanent Brew.

Here’s Breaking Smile from the album, live at Bournefest’22:

McHales’ permanent Brew online: Facebook / Bandcamp

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