Anyone familiar with the work of Matt Bailey‘s Salient Braves will know what to expect from this their debut crowdfunded LP.
Bailey’s sardonic, often laugh out loud lyrics, mercilessly turn the microscope on Brexit Britain and the notion of national pride.
The tramp on the cover is an abiding metaphor for many of the lowlife characters who lurk within, from the drunk, wasted and hope-deprived, to the pompously self-righteous, whose Delusions of Grandeur give the album its title.
Though he cheekily touts himself as an alternative to disillusioned Morrissey fans on social media, Bailey’s writing is perhaps more akin to fellow Yorkshireman Pulp‘s Jarvis Cocker.
Cocker’s Common People “dance and drink and screw, because there’s nothing else to do,” while Bailey’s cheat, steal and gamble – provided, that is, they can even summon the energy to get out of bed.
Sometimes, as on album opener Somewhere Sordid – they’re rebels with “big intentions….young and not so worldly wise,” on other occasions they are “fighting a lost cause” – ground down by The Absurdity Of It All.
While most of his protagonists are the architects of their own undoing – Fruit Machines Lost Me My Friends, They Must’ve Seen Me Coming – some are victims of the system, or the cruelty of others.
One of the most powerful songs on the album, Goodbye Goodbye, tackles the issue of domestic violence, with the central character, “a Lena Zavaroni lookalike” struggling to take “the final step” to free herself from an abusive lover.
From the album title to the scabrous closing Evening All (Satchmo’s Song), which subverts Louis Armstrong‘s It’s A Wonderful World, Salient Braves appear to be out to expose the myth of ‘Great’ Britain.
What’s the point of Brexiteers “taking our country back,” if it wasn’t so brilliant in the first place, seems to be the message.
All of which could be pretty depressing, were it not for Bailey’s love of language and wordplay; his humour providing a counterweight to the deep-rooted cynicism at the heart of this album.
While clearly influenced by C-86-ers like Mighty Mighty and the so-called shambling bands of the late ’80s, the Braves’ music is given added heart by the warmth of Jonny Nocash‘s guitars.
The odd brass flourish and Dani‘s occasional backing vocals also put flesh on the bones of Bailey’s songs.
There is the odd misfire. Bangkok, a look at exploitative tourism – think The Sex Pistols‘ Holidays In The Sun meets Blur‘s Girls and Boys – is a nice idea not quite fully realised.
But generally this is highly entertaining album, with a generous three bonus tracks on offer in the download version.
These include the intriguing Out To Lunch – a frank examination of the stigma surrounding mental health issues – which highlights Bailey’s continuing development as a songwriter.