The Freedom Spark
(Warner Brothers / Infectious)
All this congealing of gypsy imagery, folk mentality, ska beats and punk philosophy isn't necessarily the best way to put together a record, let alone a whole genre. If you were an ageing cynic you'd be inclined to insert the word "novelty" at the beginning of the sentence and have done with it.
But then the chances are you won't have heard of Larrikin Love either. You see, while it would be easy to criticise their - on the face of it - good time jollities and rhythmic sea shanties that occasionally resemble a garden party round The Coral's greenhouse, a little deeper investigating reveals that all isn't quite so flippant in the world of Larrikin Love. 'Happy As Annie' for example, undoubtedly the song that first brought them to the attention of the mainstream at the back end of last year, may have been re-recorded for the album but lyrically its message is still as chilling as a cold Wednesday night in February. "Children, please be aware!" pleas singer Edward Larrikin above what sounds like a St Patrick's night hoe down as this tale of child abduction and eventually murder, reaches its climax. Not a nice place to be then.
But at the same time, it's unexpected twists like this that make 'The Freedom Spark' and its creators an intriguing place to be, and one that you'll find yourself re-visiting time and time again.
Split into three parts, 'Hate', 'Fairytale' and 'Freedom', 'The Freedom Spark' gives a whole new meaning to the concept of concept albums in that first of all, it doesn't drag on and on. In fact, the whole album itself clocks in at little over thirty minutes, which is approximately one side of 'The Wall'. Secondly, despite an underlying rather than inter-linking theme to each part, it's jam-packed with singles with makes it quite novel as a collection.
The five songs that comprise 'Hate', most people will be familiar with, as all have seen the light of day in one form or another over the past year and a bit. 'Six Queens', 'Happy As Annie' and 'Edwould' are the crowd-pleasing staples of the band's live set, even if there are niggling undercurrents courtesy of Edward Larrikin within each of their subject matters. 'Downing Street Kindling' meanwhile is the most vitriolic rant any musician has written to date about our soon to be departed Prime Minister, while 'Meet Me At The Getaway Car' continues along a similar theme, in that Larrikin Love are generally none too happy with their country of origin.
The second part, 'Fairytale', is a massive departure from anything we've come to expect in the past. 'Fell At The Feet Of Rae' is a winsome, occasionally over-sentimental piece of fiddle-heavy balladry that doesn't quite fit in with the rest of the record or indeed most people's perceptions of Larrikin Love, but 10/10 for at least trying.
The final third concentrates on 'Freedom', and is by far the most interesting and audacious part of the record. 'On Sussex Downs' you'll know and love already, as The Specials meet The Libertines for a 2 Tone frolic round Hampstead Heath and such like. 'Well, Love Does Furnish A Life' you won't have heard before. If it weren't for Edward's vocals, complimented here by the adorable tones of Patrick Wolf, you'd mistake this for 'Green' period REM. "It's a day in the life of you." coo the dynamic duo over an irresistible melody that has hit single written all over it. The same goes for 'Forever Untitled', possibly the most upbeat song on the record both musically and lyrically, culminating in the words "I'll build a house with a horse and cart" if only to establish the gypsy myth that one bit further.
Final song 'A Burning Coast' is all stops and starts, changing from Verve-like introspection to Pogues-style rag-tag punk at the drop of a hat, or in this case the change of a key.
It's a fitting ending to one of the most eagerly anticipated albums of the year, and more's the point, one that doesn't disappoint or even diminish with each listen. If anything, 'The Freedom Spark' has the potential to soundtrack every season, be it a summer fete with a smattering of wine and cider or seeing the New Year in. Bliss.