The Bandana Collective came together somewhat by accident in the summer of 2010, initially as a confluence of cheeky fans/"performance art" combo The Bandana Brothers and some regulars from Hove Folk Club. Then, or so legend has it, the latter took the initiative and Jon Mason, Bethan Prosser and Lawrie Stevens of their number, recruiting Robb Johnson for bass and some vocal duties and son Arv for drumming, started to explore their own political songwriting predilections and in 2012 released (on Robb's UnLabelled imprint) a rather decent album Viva Bandana, which showcased a clutch of Jon's songs and one apiece by Lawrie and Robb. Fast forward through a couple of years of awkward life commitments, and it was decided that time was ripe for a new album, albeit with a slightly amended lineup (the hard-core of Jon, Lawrie and Robb now being joined by singer Claire Rowland). The band's chummy collective sound has evolved through the limited downsizing and refocusing into a leaner, tighter and more driven outfit, though without compromising on the impassioned stance or inherent power of the material or the togetherness and rapport so effortlessly achieved with their listeners.
Defending is that second album, then, and takes its title from the 1986-vintage Graham Barnes song from Robb's Ministry Of Humour days (salvaged from the "Hilda Burrell" cassette), here revisited with timely relevance. Following this opener, the writing credits are shared more equally than on Viva Bandana, with three songs by Lawrie, two apiece by Jon and Robb and three co-writes. Taking the mission statement from the Bandana website: "overall it pulls together how we felt about UK politics in summer/autumn 2015: anger, disappointment, but also celebration at the rays of hope and ground-level victories". So what we get is a set of bittersweet and honest-spoken social and political commentaries conveyed with passion and exuberance. Favourites from the Bandana live set such as It's All Right For You and the "oi-f-f-full" Face The Facts are joined by a host of brand new songs that perceptively and at times sanguinely sum up "the sharp end of Austerity Britain", reflecting on some of the best and worst of recent history. For instance, DIO and The End Of The Line concern housing estate protests; Hangman is a catchy little Clash-thrash-punk-style number "celebrating" Albert Pierrepoint, Britain's long-serving executioner; Harry Roberts (yes, the notorious triple murderer) is a jaunty knees-up; Sabena celebrates the life and culture of a new Bosnia and an inspiring young lady; and What I Like About You is just a simple celebration of friendship. Which extends to the sheer bonhomie of the music-making. Nice one, guys!
|Brooks Williams: My Turn Now||Vicki Swan & Jonny Dyer: Paper Of Pins|
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