Jonathan Beckett is a singer/songwriter/guitarist, revisiting some of his earliest work with his band Moscow Circus.
This new recording of a song from 1987 shows the timeless appeal of his work; he is not afraid to challenge with his thoughtful lyrics, this time using various train metaphors as a platform(!) for philosophical musings on mortality and destiny. The messages are wrapped in some surreal imagery, as demonstrated in depth on his 2016 long-player ‘Resounding’, previously reviewed on this site.
On this excellent outing he is given formidable backing by Peter Temperton on bass and Tom Parratt on drums, with Jonathan providing extra keyboard texture to counterpoint the serpentine guitar figure around which the song is built. The wordplay is used to good effect throughout the song and particularly in the hooklines of the chorus ‘…the pain in my head is a train running red…life’s so short anyway…it sure stops me dead in my tracks….’
There is the possibility of two more songs to rescue from the archive and then hopefully some new material and more live dates to follow….
In these days of political and social upheaval it is good to have something to rely on; this year is the 35th anniversary of the first recordings by Southend band The Get, and here they are on stage at the Corner House with singer Bruce Gordon strutting around and delivering a set of punk laced with irony and wit on songs like, ‘Dalek’, ‘Batman And Robin’ and a concise guide to the music industry on ‘Hit!’. They have a newish EP out, and from that ‘You Made Your Bed…Now Lie In It’ could be taken as a commentary on large government decisions, or just as a diatribe against an ex-partner…
I have enjoyed and reviewed the album ‘Resounding’ by Moscow Circus (https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2016/08/29/moscow-circus-resounding-lp-released-june-2016/) so it was great to get an opportunity to hear it live at last. Songwriter Jonathan Beckett delivers the complex lyrics, vocal nuances and jangly guitar parts effortlessly and the four piece band are a tight playing unit.
‘Timebomb’, ‘Bleed For You’ and especially ‘Princess Rainbow’ were all highlights, but there were newer unrecorded tracks too including the enigmatically titled ‘4000 Weeks’ (that’s 77 years…Hmmm).
The set ended on another high with the noisy rocker ‘Ex-Genius’. This music had a long gestation time and has rarely been performed but tonight it was definitely job done.
One of Cambridge’s finest, The Scissors are seasoned presenters of spirited mini-movie songs and taking the stage quite late in the evening they featured many cuts from their 2016 album ‘Haunted Mirror’.
As I see so many guitar bands, it is always good to hear some keyboards too, especially when it is the timeless timbre of a Hammond organ, rolling in on ‘Do You Believe In Modern Love’ or more ska-laced on ‘Gone’. The strident guitar line and theremin wail herald ‘Why Don’t You Cry?’; their standout torchsong which is always a highlight of the varied set.
A quick encore of the album title track (as recently featured on charity compilation ‘Cambridge Calling Volume 1’) ended the trio of authentic acts in the welcoming setting of The Corner House (and all for free too…!)
Music and lyrics can be many years in the making; this album from Nottingham-based four piece Moscow Circus was mostly written and played live during 1987 to 1991. Finally it has been recorded by the reformed band, giving a neat ambiguity to the title, is it ‘resounding’ down through the years or re-sounding for this new era? The good news is the album sounds fresh and relevant, as well as drawing confidently on its many influences.
‘Timebomb’ is the strong opening song, a mix of unrelenting bass, insistent guitar line and paranoid lyrics. It all motors along like a hybrid of late 80s Bunnymen/Cure/REM which is a good combination. ‘Bleed For You’ is densely worded, as is most of this album, this lyric cleverly showing the power balance in a relationship but not in a direct narrative. There are many well-crafted lines from twists like ‘…you ate my words like you always do…‘ to surreal ‘…I should have worn my other shoes, I can’t reason in these they give me the blues…‘. The track rocks along with a repeating guitar figure. ‘Clarity’ is a quieter piece, with spoken ending ‘…on the continuum between wrong and right…’
My favourite is ‘Princess Rainbow’, a lyrical confection about an imaginary relationship (or is it?) and a hook chorus, reminding me of Robyn Hitchcock on top form. Seeming to usually be the outsider appearing within the song, lead singer/composer/guitarist Jonathan Beckett comes up with some good lines in ‘Snapshot’ (…I need to know I’m not the only human in the race….’).
There are plenty of words to get absorbed in but the music is good too; a sensitive keyboard sound at the end of each section in ‘Wintersong’, blazing rock in ‘Ex Genius’ and swirling psychedelic organ in ‘Coconut Shy’ and ‘Between The Lines’. The album ends with the reflective mood of ‘Chances’, fragmented words over six minutes of dark, brooding drums and guitar.
Patience is a virtue, this album was worth the wait…