Review of Hedonism Album by Bellowhead

Hedonism is the third album from Bellowhead, an eleven piece multi-instrumental folk-funk collective with an almighty appetite for entertainment. Combining all kinds of brass, wind, strings, melodeons, bagpipes and an array of percussion all under Jon Boden's distinctive Jonny Depp-esque vocals; Bellowhead have a unique and eclectic sound. Perhaps, as many have suggested, Bellowhead are an acquired taste, but they sure are one worth acquiring; much like their phenomenal live performances, there's barely a dull moment or a pause for breath on this recording.

'New York Girls', a traditional song arranged by the bands' Boden & Spiers, kicks it all off with a fast moving snare and fiddle reel rapidly joined by the rest of the band; wind, percussion, helicon and all. The track progresses on contrasting thinner parts that imitate its introduction with a much deeper sound, which involves the whole musical range in terms of pitch and timbre. One thing is for sure, when Bellowhead really get going, it's impossible to stay still whilst listening to them; their folk/big band blend is ridden with irresistibly infectious foot-stomping grooves. 'A Begging I Will Go' begins with more of a morbid feel but it's not long before the stabbing strings emulate chugging distorted electric guitar and the track kicks into a rock tinted pound. Interceptions of dialogue between the guitar and funky brass/string backing which support something of a medieval sounding, flute and fiddle-led break before the entire ensemble launch into an alluring groove and on into a driving folk romp which gradually picks up pace and determination to a tight big band ending.

Bellowhead Hedonism Album

An album of both songs and instrumentals, variety manifests itself in many different ways throughout Hedonism; the music ranges from orchestral-like scene setting as found in the introduction to 'Broomfield Hill', to the fantastic instrumental 'Parson's Farewell', which fuses periods in musical history by launching from a medieval feeling into almost a disco pound with thumping bass line, to the raucous, punk-edged oddball penultimate track 'Little Sally Racket' with its drunken sounding barbershop intermission. In addition to this, there are ever-changing moods across the entirety of the release from the more haunting and timid, down-temp 'Captain Wedderburn' to the dark and sinister waltz 'Amsterdam' to the albums' conclusion, 'Yarmouth Town', a lively romp resembling live favourite 'London Town' from their first album Burlesque of 2006.

Bellowhead are most definitely not afraid to step outside the box and are in turn a happy and confident bunch of multi-instrumentalists working across a multiplicity of genres and moods in their own unique manner. Fantastic listening.

Hannah Spencer

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