Stephen EvEns - Employee Of The Month (Onomatopoeia)

Stephen EvEns – Employee Of The Month (Onomatopoeia)

Stephen Evens aka Stephen Gilchrist’s last release, 2017’s Bonjour Poulet, was an entertaining oddity, and one that demanded several listens before you could make much sense out of it. You could have even been forgiven for using the expression ‘avant-garde’ in describing it. His latest long player, Employee Of The Month, however, is a colossal leap of Sergeant Pepper proportions. It’s far more commercial sounding for a start, and, more interestingly, possesses a pathos that I was hitherto unaware existed within Stephen’s heart and soul.

That might not be evident from the gnarly, punky opener, ‘Dustbin Man‘, an engrossing number that recalls Graham Coxon‘s solo album Happiness In Magazines, nor is it particularly noticeable from the ominous buzzsaw guitars of ‘Push Yr Thumb In Yr Eye‘ while Evens sings/spits the words “dirty little filth pig / dirty little filth pig / sailing down the sleaze in your head.” ‘Claude‘ then comes over like one of Blur‘s best album tracks. One of those “How was THAT not a single?” type things. But then it all changes. Why? Because ‘Freak Show‘ happens, that’s why.

We moved to the city, one by one,” sings Evens over a gorgeous, snowy sounding piano accompaniment, before continuing “until it pushed us out, all our pennies to the pound.” It’s a spectacularly beautiful, winsome tale of apparent love, loss and regret, told through the wistful eyes of memory. The piano is used to great effect, once again, on ‘John Snow‘, alongside more electronic sounding keys. At first it’s a little like Gary Numan meets Kraftwerk, but it builds to this towering crescendo and Stephen owns it entirely.

The folksy ballad ‘George And Kathleen‘ recalls both James Yorkston and Nick Cave around the period of Murder Ballads, although there’s no sign of any macabre goings on here, just a love duet between Evens and Elizabeth Calfe – a pretty and affecting tune to warm all of our hearts.

On ‘I Hate Shop (I Am Shop)‘ we’re back to the pent up frustrations of daily living (“pledge allegiance to the shop / get a gun….get a pricing gun“) and then the brief ‘Career Criminal‘ (“they gave me nine years, I’ll be out in three“) has shades of the genius of Neil Hannon about it.

The slightly wonky ‘The Crystal Palace‘ has an oddly soothing feel, almost choral in places. It emulates that feeling of pulling on a shirt that’s been warming on the radiator on a cold morning. It energises you and prepares you for the day ahead, and this track ends with that same kind of jubilant exuberance. Then finally ‘The Day I Burned My House Down‘ pleasingly brought back great memories for me because it reminded me of the old Leicester band The Marmite Sisters and their song ‘Trevor‘, although, granted, Stephen’s lovely album closer has far deeper lyrics than the latter tune’s “I always thought that telephone boxes would be red / now no-one seems to care, and they’re transparent instead.

I think I may have underestimated Stephen. Previously he was an interesting curiosity just on the right side of quirky, as far as I was concerned. He’s proved here, however, that he’s also a formidable songwriter and musician. Employee Of The Month is an unmitigated success.

Employee Of The Month is released on 28th August through Onomatopoeia.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.