The Widows have had a bit of a resurgence of late due to THAT Brexit single being of endless topicality. Now they have an album recorded and the question is simple: does it rock? A deeper question would be thus: Where does this album fit in my life? Do I put it on when having people round? Do I listen to it when I’m doing housework? Is it the last thing I hear at night after a long day (for the record The Big Dream By David Lynch is my usual audio bedfellow).
Context is everything and it’s time to find out how Popular Demand by The Widows can be part of my day to day.
‘When the light falls, and the night crawls, upon the white walls, then the light falls … ‘
‘Light Falls’ delivers a busy bassline that can stand tall among late sixties R&B classics. I don’t say that lightly. Whilst power chords fit for The Stooges blaze confidently over the top, Kim’s vocals signal a triumphant beginning to Popular Demand an album that from the onset seems desperate to prove one thing: Take no prisoners and scorch the land of unbelievers with the black of their ash.
‘Satellite town, what a shite town.’
The Dick Dale inspired ‘Satellite Town’ follows next with lines depicting nowhereville frustration. Which musician hasn’t been infused with grandiose plans for a band they’d form/lead in the big city, far away from a place where nothing seems to happen? It must be noted that limitations in Kim’s vocal range are offset by inventive and ever diligent phrasing. Iggy Pop would be proud. He’s only a few steps away from being a rapper, should he find the urge.
‘Your future is a car crash down the road, feel it getting closer as you lose control, ya got no money then ya best be told, you better not grow old.’
‘Brexit Chainstore Massacre’ came out a year ago and is frighteningly still relevant for remainers as the cultural trainwreck of the future looms on the horizon. Still. Waiting. The post punk fretwork of Francisco truly shines brightest on this tune. Production wise, this is the more accomplished track on the album and the surge in the middle 16 bars is expertly handled.
‘Yes and who’s the victim now and who’s the victim?’
Another offering from a band that veers easily from surf rock to punk in a blink of an eye is ‘The Victim’. The jaunty rhythm recalls The Sly Persuaders in first album mode and Kim’s vocal phrasing zips in and out of the guitar lines without taking up too much space. Top work, with due credit to Roger and Joan; rhythm section par excellence and captured well on record.
‘But daddy’s / mummy’s coming home, don’t you fear the girls / boys aren’t crazy yet, and falling down below, ya got nowhere to run … ‘
North Amerika showcases Kim’s penchant for social commentary amidst some mighty distortion. Perhaps too on the nose in signalling America’s imperialism, and maybe we don’t need a lesson on how North Korea fits into the theme of the song, but it’s hard to argue against the song’s existence. This is powerful music that doesn’t outstay its welcome, and I’d be surprised if this tune wasn’t tipped to be a future single.
‘So gimme Jung and Taoism, give me Jung and Taoism, Lurch! And give me peace and kill the din, gimme peace and kill the din, Lurch!’
Ah, this song. It’s a big stand out moment for many a reason. I defy anyone not to instinctively turn the volume up a few notches when Lurch plays. The rhythm section swerves and bends across the track’s runtime with lyrics such as ‘I don’t know what you’re selling me’ being an anti-consumerists call to arms. It’s at this point where you might start to think that this album could be over before you know. And that’s no bad thing, in a positive way. Very much like The Doors’ debut offering, Popular Demand is an L.P that’s all about the party vibes, despite the occasional weighty subject matter. Worth buying the album for this ditty alone.
‘When you’re down at less than zero, Iggy Stooge / Patti Smith / M.E.S. is you’re fuckin’ hero!’
‘Less Than Zero’ continues the trend of economic rock structure and for a studio recording, the song sounds thrillingly live and enjoys a great dynamic. How many good riffs does this band have? Is it in anyway fair to other bands? Not surprising that this is the tune they’ve chosen to let people stream for free on their bandcamp. Tough act to follow ‘Lurch‘, but that’s the power of a good song for you.
‘Caught by the light of holy roads, down to the valley below.’
This might not be filler, but ‘Streets at Night’ seems lacking in the company of the songs’ which precede its cool-kid-at-the-back-of-the-class swagger. Perhaps it’s a let-down due to the sterling musicianship from the band as the fiery guitar riffs and thunderous drums would be better served on a song less throwaway? By many a bands’ standards, this song is pretty good, and perhaps the tune is only guilty of its creator’s track listing to date.
‘You gotta go and get your head right and know that on the inside love will always guide you, like a shining light, my wayward son.’
On first listen Ballad of a Wayward Son could arguably be The Widows by numbers. Upbeat drums with bass and drums knitting riffs together whilst Kim talk sings over the top. But then … the chorus finally kicks in and hints at where the arrangement could leave us once it’s done. Single material? For sure. Simple staccato vox lead us down on battering-ram-chords full of revelry. This record is the one you put on at any after-party. You know, the kind of gathering that spontaneously occurs after a gig. You don’t feel like going home and want to have one of those long nights of japery which inevitably wind down into long talks and a feeling of belonging. ‘Ballad of a Wayward Son’ gets my thumbs up.
‘But you are taking it on and on, and back again, and you are taking it on and on, until the end.’
‘Sifting Sands’ has an innocent twang in the chorus which is expanded upon in the falsetto coda. I predict that future material might pass by this rather untapped reservoir of vulnerability. A true ballad on the next long play would be great to break things up (cos this thing is too damn gnarly to strictly be labelled a ballad). I hope so. Would be a rather worth experience. The album could end here, but much like the album it most resembles (at least in length and sensibility), The Doors, Popular Demand has wants to go out in true style.
‘Fuck that shit, you take me away / ya kick and ya scream-ah, fuck that shit, every night and every day / mummy’s wettest dream, fuck that shit, who’d you think you are? / climb into my car, Fuck that shit.’
PBR displays a nihilism in the chorus lyrics and a mean and nasty guitar sound that ought not to be as exciting in this day and age. I mean, who can claim to be as surprised when a rock band engages said pedal? Another testament to the attention to guitar tone/playing. PBR revels in its sense of raw power and love of old school punk n’ Rock and Roll. It’s a regular set closer, at least to my memory, and it has often been a song I’d hoped would end a long form release. Seems my hope has not been in vain.
And now it’s over and the room is silent. When the album does come out and you find yourself at a party, I have a good feeling that putting this on might prove a very good move indeed. Why? Well, quite simply, it rocks and such albums will always have a place in my life.