The State of Things, by Reverend and the Makers
Suggested by Neil Hodgkinson
Reverend and the Makers are from Sheffield.
No, strike that.
Reverend and the Makers are Sheffield.
From the opening sentence of the titular The State of Things to the final refrain of Armchair Detective, the grim-yet-cheeky South Yorkshire vernacular shines through like a welding torch through stainless steel. The songs are working class poetry, talk of desperation and poverty and football, backed up by exuberant rock-dance beats and rhythms that elevate the everyday narrative.
The singer and main songwriter, Sheffield native Jon McClure, has more than a passing whiff of Sheffield’s other localised talent, the Arctic Monkeys. Both bands and singers display their accented hearts on their sleeves. It’s no surprise, then, to discover that McClure is a firm friend and ex-flatmate of the Arctic Monkey’s frontman Alex Turner, and that McClure was once offered a position in the Arctic Monkeys’ lineup.
You’ve probably guessed, but this stuff is right up my alley. I love a tale with the common touch, coming from working class Northern stock myself. I quest for more stories of binmen, as they can be as epic as the tales of princes and kings. There’s beauty and lyricism in the smallest of spaces.
Each song on The State of Things offers a singular aspect of quintessential Northern life, so much so that it’s almost clichéd. The title track brings us the Reverend’s rumination on, well, the state of things in modern Britain, packed with evocative couplets such as “What of the woman who stands by her fella / Despite the bruises brought on by the Stella”. These are not visions of positivity, but the music that underpins them is rather more uplifting than the stories being told.
The band’s only Top 10 hit, the exciting Heavyweight Champion of the World, kicks off with a wailing siren that morphs into the funkiest bassline on the album. The song builds with bongos into a glorious chorus that details the monotony of life and the abandonment of adolescent dreams. It should be melancholy, but the exultant energy driving the beat is impossible to ignore. It smacks of a rocking Scissor Sisters, and is clearly my standout song.
The following song, Bandits, is a humorous slice of life tale concerning a pubgoer’s turn on the fruit machines being cruelly interrupted by a phone call from his wife, only to see another man step up and claim the jackpot at the cost of a solitary quid. It’s fun, funky and well crafted… and it highlights my issue with the album in general.
While I enjoy the central conceit to The State of Things, it often strides over the fine line that divides affectionate homage to ribald pastiche. In Bandits, and in others, the persona is applied with a trowel. The band verge on self-parody, with titles such as Sex With The Ex, 18-30, He Said He Loved Me and What the Milkman Saw taking us to the seaside pier and the mucky book shop behind the post office. There’s more than a hint of Ian Dury or the Macc Ladds about this, far lighter on the coarseness but unpleasant nonetheless.
I originally pegged it as an eight or nine, before the nagging doubts crept in. It’s still enjoyable, but it’s questionable in parts. I give The State of Things a credible 7/10.