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Singletary; Marcus: Subversive Blues

I've encountered Marcus Singletary before, his Smokin' album an interesting take on traditional blues rock, with a variety of elements thrown in curve ball style to keep you on your toes. His latest outing, Subversive Blues, is however another kettle of fish entirely. Rather than art-rock, I'd suggest that what Singletary has created here is aural art, with most of the tracks shrugging off the term song to be grabs of dialogue, stabs of ambient sound, or beats with accompanying, although not always related, melodies.

In truth, it's a challenge to work your way through all of the different elements of Subversive Blues, the mish mash of ideas struggling to convey a cohesive message, or reason for you to stay the course. Expletive driven shouts of violence and confrontation open the album, "Stand Your Ground" a sharp confusing introduction, before "Astronaut's Daughter" reveals metallic clanks of percussion as hums and oscillations of synth bring the album's first foray into music. "Bonnie Wright" appears to be a helium driven radio show pastiche, introducing the talents of Singletary via cackled laughs and giggles, leading into "That's The Way It Is", an amalgam of harmonica blasts pulsating bass line and unusually pitched vocal melodies. I can't say I find the latter track an engaging listen and yet, truth be told, it's the first not to have me glancing at the CD player's counter to see how long this all might last…

The theme continues throughout, snatches of music that feel almost like incidental asides and fledgling ideas merely stopping off points for other interests altogether. "White Rose Morningside" is a pleasant but forgettable keyboard ditty, before "Blessing Of The Guru" finally kicks things into gear. The thrum of bass, programmed beats and cymbal crashes leaving room for an excellent, enigmatic vocal to be backed by loving slashes of guitar. This is more like it! Which makes at all the more galling that "My Slave Life" simply repeats the slogan "My slave life is over, over it will be" before an acapella vocal steps in to rescue things. I'm not looking to be disrespectful to the laudable and inarguable sentiment behind the lyric – although there's possibly as much of a comment on organised religion going on as there is slavery – and yet an engaging experience it isn't.

I found it genuinely difficult not to simply switch the whole album off during "Sex Blues", the sounds of sweaty sex and flesh slapping on flesh only broken up by some more harmonica wheezing. As an aural experience, I'm really not sure what pleasure could be derived from this, but there's little doubt that whatever Marcus's point is on this album, I have completely and utterly missed it. Something the crazed screams, warnings, gunshots, chants and subsequently meandering melody (yes, we have music again) and almost ironically shambolic guitar wailing of "Dead Cops And Starfighters" refuses make any sense of. That the song then segues into some sort of 70s groove pastiche with voice over by the intergalactic forces who step in when the 'boys in blue' can't deal with the situation, simply confirms that whoever this album is aimed at, culturally or artistically, it sure ain't me.

I wouldn't actually be too surprised if Singletary was to nod approvingly at just how bamboozled I am by Subversive Blues. After all there's little doubt this album is intended to be controversial and split opinions. I'm sorry to say my thoughts on it all fall on the bored, confused and simply struggling not to pop this album in the bin and pretend I never heard it, side of the argument...

Track Listing
1. Stand Your Ground [Explicit]
2. Astronaut's Daughter
3. Bonnie Wright
4. That's the Way It Is
5. White Rose Morningside
6. Blessing of the Guru
7. My Slave Life
8. Sex Blues [Explicit]
9. Dead Cops and Starfighters [Explicit]
10. The Hero Returns Home

Added: June 19th 2016
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Marcus Singletary online
Hits: 2272
Language: english

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