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Review: 'Robb Johnson & The Irregulars'

-  Label: 'Irregular records'
-  Genre: 'Folk' -  Release Date: '31.1.20.'-  Catalogue No: 'IRR113'

Our Rating:
I am reviewing the cd version of Robb Johnson & The Irregulars new album Eurotopia and in this case that's important as apparently the vinyl version of the album contains a very different set of songs, as only 4 songs are on both versions and the cd has 13 songs to the vinyl's 9 songs. Which of course makes this almost as confusing as the next few years will be as Brexit continues to unfold and the European Union does whatever it will do to survive and thrive. This album is all about Robb's experiences in Europe during the last few years.

The album opens with the oompah influenced Carnival Song that manages to steal a line or two from Queen while also sounding like it is klezmer influenced folk rock with some great tuba parts on it and some both very deep lyrics and a rather childish cartoon like chorus.

Once Upon A Time On The road To Eurotopia is pared back and very sparse evocation of the good old days when we were all trying to be one Europe rather than putting up barriers. It's a rather gently elegiac song.

Charing Cross Station & Hungerford Bridge is a nice ode to London that manages to bypass what for the Victorians was one of Londons top ten tourist attractions the York House water gate that sits beside one end of Hungerford bridge, but that aside it feels like a slightly sad updating and response to Waterloo Sunset. Thankfully it doesn't smell like the underneath of Hungerford bridge either it's far more fragrant than that.

But having walked beneath Hungerford bridge Robb has gone into Embankment station and got some Coincidents On The Circle Line, even if he starts singing about Kensington High Street and a coat he got at the marvelous Kensington market that is sadly long gone. The music on this song reminds me of the Jazz Butcher a good bit as Robb tells tales of things that happened on the Circle Line back in the day when they had pubs on the platforms of was it 3 or 4 circle line stations while Robb Sees it, says it and sorts it as the announcements would have it.

If The Night Runs Out Before The Money Runs Out appears to have subtly reworked the tune of Folsom Prison blues into an ode to a wild night out in Prague that he doesn't really want to end. Tram Number 22 keeps us in Prague and has a nice laid back jazzy feel to it as Robb weaves a tale of happenings in Prague close to the castle.

The Edelweiss Pirates seems indebted to Django but has slowed his music down somewhat to make a very tender and effective song about repression of ideas and trying to stop people listening to the things they want to and getting ideas that are outside the mainstream a great anti-censorship song.

The Kreuzberg Sisters has all sorts of historical nods to events that have happened in that particular Berlin neighbourhood over an skanking folk rock song that's gently intoxicating.

My Last Night In Montmartre sounds just as wreathed in cigarette smoke and red wine as it should be as this gentle folk jazz takes me back to a pavement cafe watching the world go by once more in Montmartre.

Stalingrad is a scary ode to all the hatred in the modern world and how it feels when you board a train going to Stalingrad the gentle music drawing you into the dystopian nightmare with a nod to Babi Yar which of course is in Kiev rather than Stalingrad.

Welcome To The Museum is about much more than going to a museum with all sorts of references to past atrocities and human failings at times it almost feels like he's channelling Atilla the Stockbroker apart from the fact that Robb is a far better singer than Atilla musically this song seems to reference After The Goldrush era Neil Young.

The Work Is Never Done is a gently uplifting song of the toil that we are all forever involved in to try to make the world a better place where the backing vocals are very gospel inflected that almost make this feel like a modern day hymn.

The album closes with the rather elegiac Old Magicians that conjures up images of time spent in the low countries its sparse instrumentation works nicely with the rather sad sounding violin part being especially evocative.

Find out more at www.robbjohnson.co.uk www.facebook.com/robbjohnsonofficial
  author: simonovitch

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