Mighty Handful, The: Still Sitting In Danny's Car (Parts 1 & 2)
The Mighty Handful is a South London based rock band with a brand new concept album titled Still Sitting In Danny's Car (Parts 1 & 2). Parts 3, 4 and 5 will be released in the future. Apparently they have been together for over ten years in one form or another but this is the first time my ears have made their acquaintance.
First the band members. We have Ralph Blackbourn (keyboards, backing vocals), Tom Hailey (bass, backing vocals), Christopher Harrison (guitars, backing vocals), Matt Howes (lead vocals, guitars) and Gary Mackenzie (drums, backing vocals).
So where to start with this one? The concept is certainly imaginative. Something about love, friendship, life, loss, time travel and um.…the Grim Reaper. It may sound a little corny but once you delve into the music you will soon discover this is really a box of treasures that reveal themselves a little more with each successive listen. Pigeonholing this music, much like the concept, is also proving to be somewhat of a challenge. I hear symphonic, neo, pop, art and alternative rock all wrapped under the same cloth. The music is a little on the quirky side, never a bad thing, with some great melodies tying it all together.
The album's first track "Once Upon a Lifetime" features a varying degree of synth tones and one soaring guitar solo that puts a capital M in melodic. "Not a Dry Glass in the House" starts with acoustic guitar and vocals. The song is incredibly poignant telling the story of a friend who has recently died. Before long the song veers direction into a raucous pub-like atmosphere complete with the sounds of patrons and other assorted samples. The chorus and vocal melody is absolutely addictive. "So You're Death" has a darker feel which makes sense since this song introduces the Grim Reaper to the plotline. What we have here are grand rhythms, intensely emotive lead vocals that at times become quite frenzied, shards of synthesizer and a rhythm section locked into a groove pushing the song at a furious pace. Big organ swells and a decided retro '70s vibe highlights "Cavalier Spirit", another worthwhile track. The vocalist ups his game here able to hit some extra high notes without faltering one bit. I also dig the lead guitar's fuzzier tone.
There are six other tracks that are just as worthy as the preceding four. Still Sitting In Danny's Car is an excellent album from a band that really should be getting more attention. Hopefully they're time will come.
Part 1: Once Upon A Lifetime
1. Once Upon a Lifetime
2. Not a Dry Glass in the House
3. So You're Death
4. Cavalier Spirit
5. Trip in the Light Fantastic
Part 2: The Beacon
6. The Beacon
7. King of the Beacon
8. Hypothetically Speaking
9. Trip Reprise
10. Time Crash
Added: October 3rd 2016
Reviewer: Jon Neudorf
Related Link: Band's Official Site
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|Mighty Handful, The: Still Sitting In Danny's Car (Parts 1 & 2)
Posted by Steven Reid, SoT Staff Writer on 2016-10-02 18:02:00
OK, I've gotten things a bit backwards. Having reviewed Part 3 of Still Sitting In Danny's Car by The Mighty Handful and been a little confused by what's going on, if thoroughly impressed by the varied music, the band's drummer, Gary Mackenzie, quite logically suggested that going back to the start with the twin EP release that debuted what will become a 5 part concept story, would put things in their rightful place. So with the sort of satisfying clunk-click that should preempt every trip, we're off…
As I did with Part 3, it feels right to quote the press release that accompanies this CD to help explain where we begin…
'When your best friend dies suddenly, it's natural that you reflect on their life, and end up with questions that have no ready answers. But what if you met Death, who makes you an offer you can only vaguely understand? What if you're given the power to travel through time (in a 1985 Vauxhall Cavalier, obviously) … where would you go? What might you learn? And what might you be tempted to change?'
The five tracks that make up EP 1 basically introduce this concept, the wonderfully catchy "Not A Dry Glass House" a glorious pub singalong that will stay with you for a long time to come. The Grim Reaper is most casually introduced and interacted with in "So You're Death", the encounter handled in the laid back but poignant and touching style the song title suggests, before "Cavalier Spirit" sets us on our way on a "Trip In The Light Fantastic".
Suddenly all the confusion I encountered on Part 3 makes complete sense, something helped further by the linking tracks, "The Beacon" and "Hypothetically Speaking", which toy with the idea and temptation of changing the past in a playful but clever manner. Throughout, Matt Howes relates the story wonderfully, the themes and situations encountered portrayed in an utterly believable way. His clever phrasing and use of dynamics suggesting he really should be performing in West End musicals. Something that, keeping in mind we are still dealing with hard, hair, seventies, prog, pop, eighties rock, could also be suggested of the hugely theatrical music itself. Varied doesn't begin to cover it, but classy and never with a note wasted does go someway to expressing the quality you can find as the story unfolds in both word and music.
So yes, there's a right and not quite so right way to approach Still Sitting In Danny's Car. Start at the beginning, with Parts 1 & 2 and everything makes perfect, quirky, sense and not only does it make Part 3 more readily accessible, but also heightens your enjoyment massively. Hence my advice is to simply buy all 3 parts in one go and immerse yourself in one of the cleverest and most fanciful (if thoroughly grounded) tales you could hope for. That the music rewards on an equal measure truly shows the class The Mighty Handful are traveling time with.
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