Sunday, 4 November 2012

Blyth Power "Out from under the king" cd 1996

Just a quick word about the blog before we start. The suspension of my mediafire account has not dispirited me at all, and I have switched to another server. I have spent the last 24 hours re-uploading all the files so technically, everything is back in order.

Folk-punk is one of these subgenres that makes me extremely wary and suspicious whenever it is mentioned in a conversation. In recent years, bands describing themselves as folk-punk were nothing short of horrendous to my ears: cheesy music about as threatening as an organic cucumber, very little anger and far too much joy of living, lyrics about how awesome and subversive cycling is, how great it is to have friends and making bloody vegan cookies for your friends. I don't dislike folk music, I definitely love punk-rock and I could eat cookies all day long, but when European bands start to fake American accents in order to play "folk-punk", you just know that something has gone terribly wrong. Anyway, Blyth Power are sometimes refered to as a folk-punk band, and if you take the term in its strictest sense, it is actually true. But please, leave Against Me and Defiance Ohio out of any Blyth Power-related conversations.

To be honest, I think Blyth Power is my favourite Joseph Porter's band. I love Zounds and the Mob and Null and Void are pretty good too but I would argue Blyth Power is the most special, the catchiest and to their great credit they survived the 80's, the 90's, the 00's and are still putting out records. "Out from under the king" was released in 1996 on German label Blue Bowl and oddly enough not on the band's own label, Downwarde Spiral Records. While "Paradise razed" is, to the band's own admission, a rather disappointing record, "Out from under the king" might be their best one, and I don't say this lightly, considering how magical "Wicked women" or "Alnwick & Tyne" are.

On this album, the keyboard is much more present - and let's face it, the addition of piano sounds on a punk record is always a challenge - but it never distracts the listener. On the contrary, it enhances the songs' tunefulness and dynamism, the keyboard just blending effortlessly with the other instruments. The production is absolutely flawless, very clear but not overproduced, miles away from the stifled sound of "Paradise razed". That Blyth Power were able to release such a brilliant work at a time when the band's popularity had declined is impressive in itself. How many 80's bands were that good in the mid-late 90's?

In terms of influences, the band basically improved on their old formula and the great sound serves that purpose perfectly. The songs bounce between catchy UK punk-rock and traditional folk-music and the song-writing is stronger than ever. Even the long and mournful ballad songs like "Katherine's will", with its pipe organ melody, and "Battle of nations" are winners. The cd's artwork is also probably the most original the band has ever done. It consists of pictures of little clay (or is it plasticine?) characters with tiny swords engaging in medieval battles. The sculptures look aptly grotesque and twisted and reflect well the band's surreal atmosphere of slight dementia.

The lyrics are typical Blyth Power's tales about History. "God's orders" is about the Crusaders; "Lord Clay Cross" is a song of love, loss and betrayal; "Westminster and Wandsworth" is a protest song using metaphors to denounce the Poll Tax and the constant war on the poor; "Emma" is a funny unreciprocated love song; "Katherine's will" is a gross description of the last days of a king from the point of view of his bitter queen; "Lambert Simnel" tells the story of a lord's bastard who tried to seize power but miserably failed; "Owen's tail"'s meaning evades me but I'd say it is a song about a bad, brutish sod named Owen who demands that his "heroics" be sung; "Father O'Brien" is a new version of an older song that appears on "Pont au-dessus de la Brue"; "Swing" is a parodical execution song in which the man about to be hung is a despotic lord; "Battle of nations" is a bitter song about war and the lack of opposition to it; finally, "The holly and the ivy" is a witty text that stresses the absurdity of religious teaching and praying.

Now, put some Blyth Power in your life, will you?


  1. great review...although I must say I actually think Paradise Razed is on an equivalent level with this cd...but its my opinion & this is your blog & I appreciate it & love it none the less

    shame its taken me a few years to really get into this blog of yours!

    1. I don't really dislike "Paradise razed" but I feel "Out from under the king" is more consistent, catchier and even more dramatical. But then the sound production on "Paradise razed" as I remember it is pretty weak, so it might have impaired the potential of its songs.