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Static on the Airwaves by Levellers

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Reviewed on 15th November 2012.


Static on the Airwaves

By Levellers

The problem with reviewing a new album by a band you really like is just that - because you really like them you a) want their new album to be brilliant and b) you want everyone else to like them too.

Thankfully, The Levellers' tenth studio album isn't a let-down. 'Static on the Airwaves' is a cracking album; slowed down in places, but still packed full of tight playing and insightful lyrics. The production values are similarly brilliant, giving credence to the lyrics in all the right places yet still allowing the majestic fiddle playing and strident guitars to be noteworthy, but not overbearing, contributors.

And given half a chance I'd play it to anyone who'd listen. Repeatedly.

A 49 second reprise kicks the album off, setting out both theme and intent: this is The Levellers, anti-war-style. "Our fate is written, the die is cast. And we will not go easy."

Like the chapters of a book each song is separate but connected, seamlessly coming together to paint the picture, or in this case tell the story.

You'd have to understand the Leveller's politics and where they come from to appreciate the irony of Mark Chadwick belting out the line "Over the mountains and over the sea, by Hercules transporter to fight the Afghani, with a rifle in my hand to set the country free." Suffice to say The Recruiting Sergeant is not a pro-war song.

It's the sign of a good album when it contains a song that you think everyone should, no, everyone needs to hear. This album has several, but stand out tracks include opener 'We Are All Gunmen,' 'Our Forgotten Towns' and 'Second Life.'

The orchestral-esque string arrangement on 'Our Forgotten Towns' is inspired and the choir led chorus turns it into a fantastic sea-shanty mimic. The song has such an upbeat feel that it's easy to miss the message, until the last line hits you like a punch to the gut: "One more community implodes; And you're nothing, a nobody. Just another barcode." But this is what this band do - they write about the downtrodden and the dispossessed.

When The Levellers started out Thatcher was in power and the first Gulf War was just about to start. Twenty years on and its very much: "same story, different day." Yet throughout their two decades the band have always used music and song to wage their own war against governments, conflicts and the desecration of the land they call home: "No politicians, just compassion. Celebrity is out of fashion...We are gunmen all, guardians of the watchtowers, lighting up the beacons to bring our riders home."

Coming in just short of 42 minutes 'Static On The Airwaves' leaves you craving more, but one can have too much of a good thing. Or so they say. I would be tempted to say this is the best Levellers' album to date. If not that, then it is certainly the tightest in terms of production values.

If you get chance, go see them now, while they're on this form; next year marks their twenty-fifth year in the business and by the sounds of this there's plenty left in the tank.

The Levellers play the O2 Academy, Leeds, on Thursday November 22.



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