Music is a beautiful thing; a medium which carries the very essence of the human condition. We’ve all got albums that speak to us, acting as a comfort blanket to help us move past bad experiences. Just gone through a bad breakup? Pop on ‘Jagged Little Pill’. In a long distance relationship? Give ‘Transatlanticism’ a spin! My point is, it’s very rare to find an album that literally no one can relate to.
Well, until now…
Unless you’re a time travelling hobo antihero who dies literally all the time and has worked literally every job, it might be difficult to connect with Shakes Fear & the Skeleton Gang’s debut ‘Find Me A Grave, Man’. But trust me, you’ve got to give this one a go.
If you can’t relate to all the lyrical content, fear not! The record is filled with a bunch of easter eggs pertaining to different genres and time periods of music. It’s like one of those time capsules you put in the ground in primary school but much cooler. And very danceable.
The album opens with a prologue by Shakes Fear himself, narrating his story.
“I can’t seem to die. Please don’t ask me why. I remember being shot. And stabbed. Poisoned, drowned, hanged, vaporised. Every time I see the void of what lies beyond.“
Guitar feedback, cymbal hits and a sound I can’t describe any better than unhinged piano and brass accompanies his speech, beginning the record a perfect balance of unnerve and excitement.
Lead single Worsmeat follows. An upbeat track detailing “the spread of disease and the state of the body after death”. Using a reference from old mate Billy Shakespeare’s (an ex-colleague of Shakes’) play ‘Romeo and Juliet’, the song is as catchy and infectious as the diseases it speaks about. It’s a fast-paced brass-heavy bop detailing how, at the end of the day, we all end up under the ground.
“A plague on both your houses Tomorrow, a grave man you shall find me A plague on both your houses For they have made worm’s meat of me.”
Skeleton Boogie follows, a fun take on The Skeleton Dance, the song describes exactly that—a skeleton who loves to dance. With a similar sound and feel to Elvis Presley’s Jailhouse Rock, the track is a timeless take on traditional rock music, designed to get you moving.
Disconcerting piano and drums open Baker’s Murder, which describes exactly what it says —the murder of a local baker. And the only witnesses? Thirteen crows. (See what they did with the title?) The song is equal parts as catchy is it is spooky; it sounds like the kind of song that could be featured in ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ with it’s quirky, cartoonish charm. And you can’t forget the catchy brass solo! Schrödinger’s Blues follows, with prominent brass, organ and simplistic, narrative lyrics, the song draws you in from start to finish. Based on the 12-bar blues chord progression, the song feels familiar, making it accessible to all listeners.
Atmospheric sounds open Vast Empty Sky, before the ’70s rock inspired high-frequency guitar tone enters over twinkling piano. Playing with the ideas of dying alone, the track is sombre, yet still somewhat hopeful. “Drifting away to peaceful rest, I’ll draw my harmonica with my last few breaths. I’ll close my eyes, there are worse ways to die, than alone in a vast empty sky”. The track is the equivalent of what ’39 was to ‘A Night At The Opera’; breaking away from the tone of the rest of the album.
Featuring a prominent bassline and breaking away from the traditional 4/4 time signature The Soup Job sounds like something you’d hear in a James Bond movie. Drills & Engines is another classic rock track, with a similar sound and feel to Paul Kelly’s 1987 track Dumb Things. The song sounds as if it was recorded live, giving the same experience as you would get seeing the talented group live.
Do you remember that scene in Shrek 2 where the king goes into that dingy bar to find Puss in Boots to assassinate Shrek? And while he’s there Captain Hook is playing a cover of Tom Waits’ A Little Drop of Poison? Well, that’s the exact same vibe that Saint James’ Infirmary gives off. An intricate piano solo opens before the drums and bass take over. A lone saxophone teases at the song’s melody before the vocals come in to tie everything together. The vocals are sung with a roughness and a twang, mirroring Waits’ original delivery. Dissonant harmonies are added, adding the illusion the song was recorded as a sing-a-long in bar. Cartoonish piano opens Dr Skinner’s Surgery, a creepy narrative about an evil, grave-digging doctor who uses the body parts of the dead for experimental surgeries. Featuring a call-and-response solo melody from an electric guitar and a saxophone, the song is a pretty fun listen (until you listen closely to the words!).
“Have you ever wondered what’s in the back of your mind? He’d love to pick your brain A simple lobotomy procedure To relieve the memories of pain.“
The album ends with another spoken word piece by Shakes.
“Is this some kind of gift? Or am I cursed? How did this even start? So many lifetimes, I can hardly remember them all. Am I being rewarded for my actions or punished for my crimes? Do I keep returning for a purpose? Is there some unfinished business? Or am I some kind of cosmic plaything?“
He poses. “But wherever I go, I always find my friends” he finishes, solidifying the importance of his skeleton gang in his story.
‘Find Me A Grave, Man’ is available now on all platforms.
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