Levellers - Letters from the Underground

When you have built up a reputation for well thought out political commentary in your heyday, but have shied away from in it in your last album, there is always going to be accusations of desperation laid down if you suddenly return to it. That is probably why the austere, Mark Chadwick led  folk-rockers , open their new studio album with a flighty, fiddle sliding, murky folk/pop jaunt of ‘Cholera Well’. Whilst being politically fired, it is objective, sharp and not in the slightest bit forced, setting the tone neatly for what follows.

This rekindled political edge is then emboldened and fully exposed through the slow-building then guitar bellowing, ‘Death Loves Youth’. Chadwick’s vocals bear out maturity, as his masterful tone drags out to emphasise the points being made about the discriminatory nature of mortality;

“So why is it the good ones die?  There’s plenty left that spit in your eye.

   Who seem to live forever on, well death loves youth and the good die young.”

Despite the fact that the gap between new albums is getting longer and longer, Da Levs have never ignored their yearly touring commitments. It’s through these outings that even the most dyed-in-the-wool Levs-head, struggled to fight the doubts that Chadwick’s voice might be lagging due to overuse. Therefore, the versatility, energy and expressionistic leanings that have been conjured up for this eleven track forage, will start to win him praise from even his most cruel critics. Making use of some well-timed atmospheric backing and the rumbling didgeridoo bursts of Stephen Boakes in ‘Before The End’, sees Chadwick slipping into a calming, warming and soul-searching slow ballad groove with impressive adroitness. It is a side to his style that has never really been fully explored and this offering will have many enquiring as to why it has not been discovered before?

 ‘Burn, America, Burn’, with its transatlantic commentary is the track that has been seized upon by many commentators, but in its attempt to produce a more Radio hugging vibe, it has a harmless pop limp that conflicts with the ferocity of the message. This is an impact that unfortunately trickles into the similarly veined, ‘Heart Of The Country’.

Not to worry, form is soon returned to in the booming, Billy Bragg vocal veined lash-out at the aftermath of the London Bombings that is ‘Pale Rider’. It is cutting, incisive, instrumentally explorative and blues skirting, showing that their edge is back. A bit of nostalgia never goes a miss and through ‘Duty’, we are treated to a conjoining of the sound and impact of previous classics ‘Another Man’s Cause’ and ‘Hope Street’. Despite a middle blip, Brighton’s favourite rockers show a return to their sharp edge and once again people will be talking about the Levellers.

Dave Adair

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