Tuesday 5 August 2014


This is the year of the ep. Not only have we had Brooke Sharkey's splendid new ep, and Gaudy Orde's mildly offensive offering, we now have the latest from Lizzie Nunnery and Vidar Norhiem, Songs of Drink & Revolution.

As you would expect from two talented musicians, this is quality stuff. The touchstones for this cd are Leonard Cohen (Closing Time), the life and writing of Dylan Thomas, and the historical and humanity of British Left Wing Socialism, as exemplified by Tony Benn. I have to confess I got the last name check from Vidar and Lizzie's website. 

For me this ep is concerns the lives of ordinary people faced with realities of living in a Britain obsessed with Neo-Liberalist philosophy that places the illusion of individual freedom above a caring society. What our political ruling classes tell us we need is freedom, the reduction of government interference in our lives. What this means in reality is the stripping away of all social welfare structure from our society, which in itself causes a feeding frenzy in the hyper-rich. Just look at how the Royal Mail was sold off at a bargain price and ask yourself just who benefited.

The world that these Neo-Liberals envisage is a world of cheap labour, where the poor pay for everything, either through the sweat of their brows or the squalor and misery that they are forced to live in.

It is in the everyday reality of working people that this ep is set. It captures the conversations people have when they are in the pub, passing an hour or two over a drink. The lyrics have the quiet dignity and honesty of normal people attempting to make a life against a backdrop of hard times. 

In the opening song One Day I Want to Get Straight Lizzie sings: 

One day I want to get straight
I am not asking for riches or an over flowing plate 
But one day I want to get straight

She is not asking for anything other than the chance to get even, to loose the worries that keep her awake in the night. Lizzie has always had the ability to present people and their stories, economically and effectively, what she does in this first song is to tell the story of a woman simply trying to achieve an equal share in an unequal world.

In Smile and a Knife we are presented with a narrator who knows her true value, she is feather-light. There are echoes of the Merchant of Venice in the lines:

The price of me in black and red,
I'm feather light, I'm deficit.

and later:

But you'll comfort me,
With a smile and knife.

The last verse is a list of personal memories that, we are told, will mean nothing to us. In fact the effect is to make the narrator become even more real and her plight all the more tragic. I have to praise Vidar at this point, his arrangements and production is excellent. It is small wonder that in 2011 he was named as Norway's most promising song writing talent, this guy is the real deal. He has the ability to add depth and colour to the songs that enhance their beauty. 

The lyrics to Drunk in a Midnight Choir are chilling (the title is drawn from Bird on a Wire- no points for guessing that.) The narrator and her group of friends are sat drinking and putting the world to rights. They are powerless:

They are singing in this choir,
we are drinking as the water gets higher,

The song ends with the line:

And we sing in our chains like the sea.

Here we have an example of what Fanon called the wretched of the earth, the dispossessed, who are self medicating in the face of their own powerlessness. The people who turn their frustration and anger inwards. They are wind stripped trees, naked in the hurricane of Neo-Liberal exploitation.

The lyrics to These Chains of Mine were co-written with Martin Heslop. Lizzie sings:

I see nitroglyceric hunger, semiotic bleed
Acrobatic dialogue and metaphoric feed
But greed is still the first thing, moral’s the last
And freedom is the gruel they feed the mass

Rightly identifying that the real motivation to scrap the welfare system and worker's rights is greed. This is a call to arms.

Lizzie and Martin's lyric is excellent. There is the deft touch of the poet here, I especially like nitroglyceric and in the nautical twilight the boats undress - beautiful.

The last song Two Revolutionaries is a love song, that ends poignantly:

People like you are a bolt from the blue
I saw you leaving before you entered the room
And I will raise you up
And I will drink you in
And I will give my whole heart
And take it back in the morning time

Stunning stuff.

I have to also mention the other musician's who play on the album, their contributions enhance the record and fill out the sound. I thought that trumpeter Martin Smith was excellent. 

Look, don't take my word for how good this is. You can download it here and find out for yourself. Me, I'm looking forward to their appearance at this year's Purbeck Festival.

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