Whether the hippie dream ended at Altamont or with the gruesome Manson murders is immaterial. It appears that nobody thought to tell Trembling Bells it was over.
Three songs in, I was half expecting a group of naked people – a la ‘Hair‘ – to suddenly emerge from a tent canvas and offer me a spliff. Quite honestly, it sounds like 1967 all over again. Or for the first time, in my case, seeing as I wasn’t born yet.
They’ve certainly also clearly been imbibing whatever hallucinogenic drugs Jefferson Airplane were sharing when they wrote ‘White Rabbit’, a song that is instantly recalled by the opening track here, ‘From The Womb To The Tomb’. Never has Lavinia Blackwall sounded so much like Grace Slick, which is a refreshing change from the Sandy Denny comparisons she is often festooned with, though it’s difficult to deny those comparisons either. It’s quite an exhilarating number but I have to admit, once it finishes, you do find yourself humming the Airplane track for the rest of the day.
Other than this, Trembling Bells contrive to sound as English as Ray Davies playing lawn bowls with the New Vaudeville Band and then sharing cream tea with the queen. I doubt if this will please them too much, given their proud Scottish heritage…
Part of this is entirely down to drummer/songwriter Alex Neilson‘s Olde Worlde middle class Bohemian delivery and a kind of medieval bent that often evokes comparison with their obvious heroes The Incredible String Band.
Most of the time this works very well, but I’d have to concede that – and I’m going to sound like your dad here, so sorry about that – ‘Bells Of Burford’ is a right bloody racket. But then, maybe that makes them even cooler, I’m not sure. If you like your time signatures a tad skewiff, you’ll love it.
Not so many years ago, Mojo magazine deemed Punishment Of Luxury‘s ‘Laughing Academy’ as arguably the worst record ever made. They were hideously and calamitously wrong, seemingly having been unable to comprehend the juxtaposition of punk and prog that typified that album’s tracklisting. I dread to think what they’d make of Trembling Bells, given that they like to throw not only punk and prog into the mix, but a healthy blast of classic rock, folk, roots and chamber music too.
Actually, scratch that. I just looked at Mojo’s review of the new album and they liked it. And so they should. It’s pretty damn good.