Will Varley may have been born in Brixton six years later than the riots there had come to symbolise a back-lash to Thatcher's Britain but his spirit and ethos have many parallels with his contemporaries of the time. The social unrest, crippling unempoyment, growing racial tension and economic recession that lead to the riots were a unifying set of circumstances across the country for all those that opposed the increasingly tiered and privileged system that was prevalent at the time. Every era has a great orator or song writer to capture the current mood of the proletariat, the working man on the street, the less fortunate and the underprivileged. Each generation usually has a voice that can convey more than the facts, they somehow seem to be able to superbly argue their case, make you believe their alternate manifesto and above all make you feel the incredible intensity that afford some of the most emotive issues of the day. Will Varley could be today's equivalent. Guthrie, Dylan, Cash and Bragg have all done far more than just sung about an event or an era they have in some cases come to define it. Had Will Varley been born in a different age it's a fair assumption he'd have been opposed to The Vietnam War, campaigned for CND, stood side to side with the striking miners and been part of the short lived, ill conceived, Red Wedge. Although he may sing of being saved by David Cameron I think it unlikely that he voted Tory.
Will has a kindred spirit with the protest singers of the past but his work is not defined by it. He can be both blackly comic and tenderly soulful, pointedly provocative and agonisingly frank. Will Varley is the South East's singer-songwriters singer-song-writer. If there were a musical equivalent to footballs Players Player award Will would win.(Maybe only in Deal at the moment but just wait) Upon hearing Will's debut full length debut 'Advert Soundtracks' I was immediately drawn to the lyrics of Johnny Cash's song, so effectively covered later by Nick Cave, of The Singer....""As i walk these narrow streets where a million passing feet have trod before me, with my guitar in my hands suddenly I realise that no one knows me." Having just covered 150 miles on foot from the South Coast to the capital to promote his new songs he's obviously intent that shouldn't remain the case for too much longer; and given the quality of the 10 songs nor should it.
'Advert Soundtracks' starts with an awesome trio of songs headed up by 'The Sound Of The Markets Crashing'. Will can be cynical and confrontational and is never short on opinion and this track shows how effective that combination can be when put so eloquently into verse, The lyrics are marvellous throughout, his rhyming humorous and ingenious in equal measure. The generally sparse arrangements showcases each of his songs very effectively. His warm and hurt filled vocals sit beautifully next to his acoustic guitar as each character laden story unfolds. 'King For A King' is up next and is one of many album highlights. The circle of life tale is in essence like an amalgam of The Squeeze classic, 'Up The Junction', and the aforementioned Billy Bragg's, 'New England'. "You tell your first girlfriend you're gonna die young, at the end of 'er garden she gives you some tongue". The addition of violin and tambourine compliment Will's voice nicely with an all too brief, under utilized, dueted vocal with Nicola Vella. The albums title track follows with more vivid depictions of modern day life, our preoccupations, the hypocrisy and absurdity of much of it and Will's obvious despair.(Maybe one day he'll play at The Durex Apollo, but by then he'll be preaching to the converted).
'Newborn' sees Will's tender side as his gentle, rather sad and touching lament recalls childhood, his brother and of times of youthful naivety. 'I Lost My Mind In Soho' continues the more soulful side of the album. Will's voice smoulders like a bonfire with a raging fire still in its belly, controlled to a degree but reassuringly volatile. 'These Are The Days' sees Will return to his forte of social commentary. Skinny jeans, the Libertines, Jamie Oliver, Leona Lewis and TOTP's all get name checked as Will's wryly observed commentaries thunder by in an almost paired back New Model Army style. replete with yet more fantastic lyrics..."'And with bodies still fresh in the ditches Blair goes home to spend his riches, lets welcome in the Tory's, I wasn't alive but I've heard the stories." The traditional Folk from which Will's music is derived is loving rendered on his sombre and reflective 'I Still See You Sometimes'. It may recall lost love but I think the sentiment is driven from the heart of an optimist, although Will may beg to differ.
As 'Advert Soundtracks' draws to a close Will throws in a curve ball of a track with the very funny 'Monkey On A Rock'. It's a bit of an anomaly on the album, in style at any rate. Rather less contemporary in feel it is the folk comedy you could associate with say Mike Harding or Victoria Wood. Its surely a live treat and an obvious crowd pleaser but the tale of Wills 'first swim' through to his voyage of self discovery doesn't sit that comfortably with the other nine tracks. The atmospheric and provocative 'The Flood' and then 'Zetlands' close out the terrific debut album from Mr Varley. More apt, and sometimes awkward, observations don't disappoint as the ten track set is brought to a suitably poignant ending................and one of today's least revered and most repugnant 'peronalities' finally gets his mention 'Need to get away for a while, from the television, Jeremy Kyle."
'Advert Soundtracks' is a great album that has flashes of inspirational genius woven through it courtesy of the brilliant, witty and biting lyrical content. At times he can sound like a latter day Bragg and if you've ever been privileged enough to witness a relatively straight solo acoustic performance from Pete Doherty you could easily draw, flattering, comparisons here. Will's arrangements may not veer far from the acoustic guitar and vocal minimalism but that's largely because they don't need to, the songs are strong enough without enhancement. His songs are gritty and realistic telling difficult truths that are not afraid of confronting spiky and emotive issues. It's the antithesis of all that Simon Cowell creates and its fantastic, you need to hear it sooner rather than l8ter!
"We're not a generation, we're just a target market, this is an advert soundtrack just for the broken hearted." Will Varley.