Album, Single and EP Reviews



  Lions by Rev. Simpkins & The Phantom Notes

Lions cover art

Artist: Rev. Simpkins & The Phantom Notes
Title: Lions
Catalogue Number: Righteous Holler RHRCD1109
Review Format: CD
Release Year: 2009

Dear old England is in trouble once again. This time it isn't a foreign power determined to undermine our imperial integrity. No, this time, society is crumbling all around us. We keep smiling but that won't stop the rot.

Somewhere hidden in the crowds of the trendy haircuts, shiny suits and boob jobs that characterise music in this country these days, there survives the great English eccentric tradition. Think of Vivian Stanshall, The Kinks even Blur. Intelligent and perceptive songs neatly disguised as mere entertainment. To this fine tradition, Rev Simpkins and The Phantom Notes must be added with the follow up album to the exquisite "Rabbler & Crow". Whilst that album was a deranged parable, "Lions" takes a more direct approach. You can't mistake the message in "Elizabeth" about the way the once great English people fall back on the Dunkirk spirit as their country spirals into the abyss.

Further evidence of this can be found in the amoral tale of "The Parable of Scag Addict & Quack" and in the allegories to isolation in society contained in "Jonah". Likewise, the plaintive "Turtle Dove Waltz" charms whilst a danse macabre unfolds.

There's a lot to enjoy in this album. For one thing, it's a lot more complex than the vast majority of independent releases and not just in terms of the musical arrangements. It covers themes that are rarely addressed but it does not chase controversy. The result of that approach is that "Lions" comes across as a work of conscience that mixes grandeur with humility. That's what makes this such a good album. Something with this scope could easily have become burdened with pretension but instead it is the strength of the human spirit that comes through. An album to treasure and that's a fact!
Review Date: November 27 2009