There's plenty to admire on this follow-up to 2007's The State Of Things, not least Jon McClure's swashbuckling political commentaries, which state much the same things as before, but with added panache.
For a while though, it seems as though he and The Makers may be barking up the wrong tree, as the opening "Silence Is Talking" takes War's "Low Rider" riff, swaddles it in electric sitar, and harnesses it to a baggy Madchester groove – a concoction less palatable than it sounds, and not helped by the clumsy chant of "Free will is paramount".
Things improve markedly with "Hidden Persuaders", which makes similar points about the advertising industry as the Vance Packard book whose title it borrows, angled to target the band's youth constituency with references to how admen "get you buying the jeans that you don't really need from the fashion dictators". Set to guitar arpeggios studded with twinkly celesta highlights, and featuring a haunted trumpet break, it recalls the retro pop of fellow Sheffielder Richard Hawley and John Barry's thriller themes.
"Manifesto/People Shapers" applies similar criticisms to specifically political matters, McClure's target this time being the faceless people who stuffed racist leaflets through his letterbox. "What democracy's this, when people-shapers bend and twist?" he wonders, finding solace in the anger the leaflets prompt in him, concluding "I'm in love with the notion of giving a fuck". Musically, the track's an oddity, its goth stylings bringing to mind the strange prospect of Bauhaus with a political agenda. Equally odd, however, is "Professor Pickles", a song about some "Dr Feelgood"-style drug supplier, in which the cheap electric organ and tambourine – not to mention the reference to The Electric Prunes' acid anthem "I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night" – construct a retro-psychedelic ambience, as if it were an outtake from Ogden's Nut Gone Flake or Sgt. Pepper.
The band revert to their more usual Madchester-revivalist mode for the Stone Rose-y "Mermaids" and "The End", in which McClure's disgust at what he calls "emotional economists" comes across like an Ian Brown protest number foretelling doom: "If you're looking for the end, it won't be long". McClure's adept at this kind of flamboyant rhetorical flourish, whatever the subject. "Please don't try and contact me, the river owns the battery from my phone," he tells the former friend brushed off in "Long Long Time", while "No Soap In A Dirty War" concludes with the anthemic chorus "I don't want to die in the same hole I was born", an aspirational attitude one would have imagined was a bit too New Labour for him.
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