Carvery of Blight

 

Carvery of Blight, released in May 2016, added a new level of production excess to the vast and mysterious musical landscape navigated by Gaskell’s various incarnations, and saw him firmly in control of the mixing desk building a production as epic in it’s scope as it is magnificent in its delivery, taking the ‘wall of thrift’ folk onslaught of his previous work and extending it to dizzy new heights, where elaborate flights of psychedelic fancy rub shoulders with the muddiest of dark furrows.

The lyrics concern themselves with classic themes; quantifying love, getting babies to sleep, tea clippers, British motoring , elections with no votes and gigs with no punters, network management of the soul. There are raw nihilistic takes on traditional English ballads, a cautionary Bolivian folk tale, and in ‘Cruel Coppinger’ an appearance of the wild, strange and lawless Cornwall of yore – the sound of a forgotten parchment ranting blindly under a sofa as an episode of ‘Poldark’ plays to nobody.

Musically, the album is as widely travelled as its haggard creators; the trademark gypsy surf guitar and guttural vocals lead the way from agricultural-psychedelia and naïve ditch folk to New Orleans brass swagger, from B-road cruising rock’n’roll to cheeky bossa, primeval rhumba and country lament. Gaskell’s multi-instrumental excesses are tempered on this release by the Cornish contingent of fellow folk disruptors Zapoppin’ (Matt Collington on drums and Thomas Sharpe on banjo/vocals), former Miss World contestant Nigel Parsons on bass and occasional brass band, plus special guest appearances from Biscuit (Speakers Corner Quartet, Nathan ‘flutebox’ Lee) and Kelly Green (Eyelids). Julian’s chequered past includes producing and performing with the great and good of Manchester in the early noughties (I am Kloot, Kirsty McGee, Indigo Jones, Jackie O – a single of the week in ‘Kerrang!’ ) endless stints of international street theatre piano accordion, and of course Glastonbury’s legendary ‘Anthropic Organ’ installation.

Like some dada composite of Beefheart, Spike Jones, The Fugs, Bruce Springsteen, David Lynch and a subtle but eloquently expressed social conscience – the album is reminiscent of the hardest & headiest days of Punk and early Rock n’ Roll – musically dynamic and emotionally demanding and extreme.

Lyrics:

 

Herbs and Spices from Afar

You can bid for as long as the candle burns
Stand still for as long as the universe turns
Unfurl your memory like the spring ferns
And scatter to the wind everything you’ve learned
Pick open your mind and leave the door ajar
With herbs and spices from afar

From the northeast passage and plains of Moscow
There is no end to what I could get for you now
From the Portobello road to Macau
All that your fractured conscience will allow
Pick open your mind and leave the door ajar
With herbs and spices from afar

From the clippers on the run to the molasses in the rum
Earl grey, salt petre, opium
So lay down your weary harmonium
And gaze into the cubic zirconium
Pick open your mind and leave the door ajar
With herbs and spices from afar

I don’t sell problems only solutions
So let me flip the lid of your constitution
Lubricate the cogs and gears of confusion
With a bone china cup and a new infusion
Pick open your mind and leave the door ajar
With herbs and spices from afar
Words and music by Julian Gaskell ©2015

Cruel Coppinger

Will you hear of cruel Coppinger?
He came from foreign kind
He was brought to us by salt water,
But sure he’ll be carried away by the wind.
Will you hear a moment of this man
Thrown at us by the storm
From the waves to my fair mothers arms
From wild ocean to tended lawn

Do the right thing, mama, do the right thing for you
Do the right thing for heaven’s sake
It’s the right thing to do

She carried him to her family’s home
And tended to him, but oh
he spat and cursed at his fortune
finding no word to say cept ‘no’
He dressed himself in heirlooms
Took a place before the fire
Sat at the head of the table
As the landlord and the squire

perched atop the seat of power
His mandate now complete
He took the good and worthy
And wiped them on his feet
He stocked and archived labour
He hoarded up the fruits
He watched the branches wither
While hacked through the roots

Do the right thing, mama, do the right thing for you
Do the right thing for heaven’s sake
It’s the right thing to do

And when the gentry and the clergymen
Come round a visiting
They’ll take a slice of his pie
But they won’t question a bloody thing
Leaving with rooks beak and feathers
And a bitter tasting mouth
A cat’s skin and head in their pocket
As they scuttle off back south

He’d put lock on every gate
And toll on every path
He’d double every rent
Cut every wage in half
Will he stop at nothing
Will nothing stop his laugh
Oh, Mama, put your man to rights
Or drown him in his bath

Do the right thing, mama, do the right thing for you
Do the right thing for heaven’s sake
It’s the right thing to do

I repeat this story every day,
But they say my voice is mute
I have lived this moment a thousand times
With the lie I can’t refute
I holler warning but they don’t hear
I try to sing but to no avail
And weep into the silence.
When I see his black ship sail

To drag a harvest to the manacles
Another crop of good men
To grasp at once for reflected stars
Before getting dragged down again
Just to sell off the family silver
When it’s washed up on the beach
Is nothing here worth saving?
Is nothing beyond his reach?

Do the right thing, mama, do the right thing for you
Do the right thing for heaven’s sake
It’s the right thing to do

So, fine people of the mainland
Listen to my plea
When some tory rocks up on your coast
Pray remember me
Consider whether hell
Has any virtue that they lack
As you kick the fuckers in the arse and
Send the fuckers back

Do the right thing, mama, do the right thing for you
Do the right thing for heaven’s sake
It’s the right thing to do

Words and music by Julian Gaskell ©2015

Except first verse, lyrics trad. arr. Julian Gaskell ©2015

Carvery of Blight

Now is not the time for irony or being clever
We need a turn of tide, a change in the weather
Scroll down the headlines but we never read the text
Don’t see what’s happening but we know what’s on next

Miscalculating zero times two million
Misdirecting taj mahal for Brighton Pavilion
Lord have mercy on this mis-shapen bowl
I been swallowed down an artisanal hole

Can nobody round here recognise my plight?
There’s something in the glass we raised that dont seem quite right
They’re pulling the shutters down around us
They’re turning out the lights
And they’re serving up a carvery, a carvery of blight

I try to be mature, I try to be civil
But someone send a pox upon this curious drivel
Infect the je ne sais quoir and the savoire faire
How much fever can you spare?

So, Empathia sympathia im memorium
Stacked up in suitcases in vintage emporiums
Poured out in speeches like a philanthropic hogwash
Served up with pulled pork in a hand foraged brioche

Can nobody round here recognise my plight?
There’s something in the glass we raised that dont seem quite right
They’re pulling the shutters down around us
They’re turning out the lights
And they’re serving up a carvery, a carvery of blight

Words and music by Julian Gaskell ©2015

The Extended Trilogy

On VHS
Or Betamax
Hiding in lofts and dusty shelves
Nothing wrong with it
But there’s no place for it
A different format for a different time

But you brought it home
The extended trilogy
Yes, you brought it home
the extended trilogy of love

Long deleted scenes
Extended acts
Surrounded by improved soundtracks
To see the things
I thought I’d left
Long ago on a cutting room floor

Until you brought it home
The extended trilogy
Yeah, you brought it home
The remastered box set
Yes, you brought it home
the extended trilogy of love

Warped and scratched
Hard to find
Overpriced on every auction site
Struggled through
The static cracks
On long and lonesome black and white nights

Until you brought it home
With extensive sleeve notes
You brought it home
The definitive version
You brought it home
The extended trilogy of love

Words and music by Julian Gaskell ©2012

Dolomite Sprint

I got a Triumph Dolomite sprint fifteen hundred
In black and silver with grey velour seats
Overheated oil slick around it
And fitted matching carpet
Burr walnut dahboard inside it’s as
Smooth as a chainsaw to ride and the
Spills on the concrete garage floor didn’t
Cease production in 84

Born while I rode round this town on a twenty
With sturmey archer three-speed it’ss got plenty
But a shopper’s not so hip as a chopper
Still this one comes approved by ROSPA
With sensible lights and crankest
Cycling proficiency certificate
Careful for kerbs, careful for cars
Careful to stay behind handlebars

But we don’t get around so much these days, it seems all we do
Is cruise around on streetview, spinning through the same old haunts
From sussex esplanade to atlantic highway, seems all we did
Was turn our racers into metal
but I’d sell up for you my sweetheart my petal
Hang the keys on the wall and let the dust settle
The past can be scrapped like the cars but the futures all ours

You must have looked quite the part in your Chevette, but
What would I know we hadn’t met, we hadn’t
Crossed in a glance on the bypass
A double take when I drove past
Where it all used to seem so far away
Another page on the map just to Pevensey Bay
Years of life seen through windows of cars looking for
Someone to see past the handlebars

But we don’t get around so much these days, it seems all we do
Is cruise around on streetview, spinning through the same old haunts
From sussex esplanade to atlantic highway, seems all we did
Was turn our racers into metal
but I’d sell up for you my sweetheart my petal
Hang the keys on the wall and let the dust settle
The past can be scrapped like the cars but the futures all ours

…Hold on to the wheel, put your foor on the pedal
Will the love that we have be worth it’s weight in metal
When it’s melted down, planted where we are
remember when the road used to stretch so far
Sen my heart past the roundabout to the bypass
The past can be scrapped like the cars but the future’s all ours

Words and music by Julian Gaskell ©2013

The Dead Horse

A poor old man came riding by
And we say so, and we hope so
A poor old man came riding by
Oh, poor old horse.

Says I, “Old man, your horse will die.”
Says I, “Old man, your horse will die.”

And if he dies we’ll tan his skin
And if he don’t we’ll ride him again.

For one long month I rode him hard
For one long month we all rode him hard.

But now your month is up, old Turk
Get up, you swine, and look for work

Get up you swine and look for graft
While we lays on and drags ye aft

He’s as dead as a nail in the lamp-room door
And he won’t come worrying us no more

We’ll use the hair of his tail to sew our sails
And the iron of his shoe to make deck nails

We’ll hoist him up to the fore yard-arm
Where he won’t do sailors any harm

We’ll drop him down with a long, long roll
Where the sharks will have his body and the
Devil take his soul.

Trad./Arr. Julian Gaskell ©2015

Somebody on a Laptop

In the cold light of morning I packed a case
I knew the direction but not the place
Because the chance and the whim of a drag and a drop
Could scatter us all
Where there’s nothing waiting behind the trees
No bears in the woods, no killer bees
No dim lit face hiding under a hood
Just a swarm of tablets all up to no good
there’s always
Somebody on a laptop…

Who’s that in there just a clicking on a mouse?
Clocking up the bedrooms in every house
From factory to farm to operating alone
They would scatter us all
So don’t look to me for guidance the only advice I’ve got
Is writ sans serif on a van that won’t stop
If you want to change this cruel world into something you want
Better start off by choosing an appropriate font
There’s always
Somebody on a laptop

From middle of the  earth to the ends of the sky
From the terrors of the deep to the angels that fly
I sit and watch and act resigned
Seems that my dreams were all designed by
Somebody on a laptop

Words and music by Julian Gaskell ©2014

Boss Armadillo

To cut a long story short, they said this armadillo could never sing
Yeah, the crickets and the frogs and the canaries laughed when they heard about the thing
That I dreamed of, that someday while the summer was green
You would hear me crooning and still want to be seen
I just want to sing to you and tell you how I want to commit
and I say
OOOOH someday baby

So I walked into the clinic to talk to the local medic about my concern
He said I’d fix it for you but listen armadillo there’s one thing that you should learn
That someday you’ll regret the things you ask, but there’ll be no refund once this deed comes to pass
You want to sing then you gotta learn to commit
and I say
ooooh someday baby

So he plunged the knife in at my insistence, pulled my flesh out by the path of least resistance
Strung out my guts and tuned them across my shell
Plucked a melody so sweet that all the wildlife in the pond
Sounded hoarse and coarse when they tried to sing along
Because there comes I time in life when you just got to commit
And I say oooh, someday baby

Words and music by Julian Gaskell ©2015

Careful what you wish for son

Be careful what you wish for son
Take a note of all you’ve thrown down the well
Put a tag on your dreams, list out every one
And put them on a trestle table ready to sell
Be careful with the love you gain
Take note of every heart that you collect
Cos sure enough when your memories are out on the slab
You’ll be wanting something there to dissect

We all just wander round
Filling in the gaps
Who’s gone, who’s left behind
all I suggest is throw your hat to the wind and call your mother back home

Be careful who you pray to dear
Mentally note down every secret they forgive
Who’s on the other end of the line I fear
May just be sifting through your guilt with a sieve
Be careful with the wealth that trickles
Towards your second hand soul to invest
In  every golden nugget unicorn tooth
Cos someday all that you are will be weighed and assessed

We all just wander round
Filling in the gaps
Who’s gone, who’s left behind
all I suggest is throw your hat to the wind and call your mother back home

Take care, little one, when you step from the train
Mind the gap when you’re slipping in the rain
Take a check on the board for the platform once
your time for departure  won’t happen again
Just stroll along it leisurely don’t try to push in
Don’t take more cuttings than you’ve sown seeds
Au revoir, auf wiedersehen
Maybe the manner of your exit will outlive your deeds
We all just wander round
Filling in the gaps
Who’s gone, who’s left this town behind
Some day you’ll drop your hat to the ground and then you’ll call it a home 

Words and music by Julian Gaskell ©2013

Pretty Little Tears

Not for me the burning sunrise
To take my hand into the day
Just the darkened damp old corner
Of life’s carpet is where I’ll stay

Not for me the sound of swallows diving
cut throat at the grass
Nor the evening hum of summer
Just these mains and monitors

But the time will come when this madness will be gone
And one by one I’ll try to put right
all the things that I’ve done wrong
So instead of sifting through the archives
For something positive to say
Dig out a smile and put your
pretty little, pretty little tears away

Not for me the splash of surf
Or the sand between my toes
Red eyes and blue headaches
Is the life I must have chose
Not the planetary universal cosmic wash of time
it’s just watching clocks and calculating discount rates on wine

But the time will come when this madness will be gone
And one by one I’ll try to put right
all the things that I’ve done wrong
So instead of sifting through the archives
For something positive to say
Dig out a smile and put your
pretty little, pretty little tears away

Words and music by Julian Gaskell ©2014

We put on the gig

I finally twigged
That our fixtures were rigged
So I’ve scrapped my signature now folks, its over
I misunderstood
For every intention that’s good
There’s a string that’s somewhere pulled to trip it over

And it seems to me it always works out pretty much the same
We put on the gig to which nobody, nobody came
No no no

So the posters were posted
The boasts were boasted
And the bars were toasted all over
I filled in a few forms
Must have slept on a few lawns
Oh but stop these tedious yarns, man, get over it

And it seems to me it always works out pretty much the same
We put on the gig to which nobody, nobody came
No no no

From Tiverton to Tenby
I’ve lived a life of envy
But the pints I spilled conspired to keep me sober
So Let’s raise a bitter cup
To the one’s who don’t turn up
They’ll never get to hear the likes of this…

And it seems to me it always works out pretty much the same
We put on the gig to which nobody, nobody came
No no no

Words and music by Julian Gaskell ©2015

The Murdered Brother

 

Reviews:

Vive le Rock [9/10]

Very occasionally, a set of songs emerge that features such originality, intelligence and appeal that the ability to hear suddenly seems like a privilege and it’s difficult not to gush.  ‘Carvery of Blight’ is such an album – beginning with the anxious maelstrom of world-weary urgency  ‘Herbs and Spices from Afar’, it plunges the listener into a travelogue wherein the lyrical mastery of all-purpose polymath, poet, performer and storyteller Julian Gaskell acts as the most entertaining of guides.  Backed by his uniquely adaptable band, Gaskell summons up echoes of the Folk Devils, Joe Strummer and, on the title track, Gogol Bordello by way of Berthold Brecht.  The slice of life in the middle lane ‘Dolomite Sprint’ and the achingly beautiful ‘Pretty Little Tears’ are foremost among this collection of highlights.

Dick Porter

fRoots (albums of the month playlist & download)

Falmouth’s finest, Mr Gaskell and chums’ 2010 album ‘Here the Brute Harpies Make Their Nests’ was a solid gold delight, and here’s another splendid mess from them.  The opening banger did make me momentarily wonder if they’d discarded the more left-field elements that recommended them to fRoots-land, but from there on the slightly unhinged mix of post-punk noise, rootsy accordeon, shouty bar-room folk, gloriously staggering grump-rock (check the vitriolic ‘Somebody on a Laptop’), twisted marching band brass, scrapey fiddle, battered percussion and firmly twanked banjo is still there in force.  When I reviewed that previous gem I gratuitously dropped names like Jaune Toujours, Blyth Power and the Dancing Did into the clutching-at-straws description and now I’m wondering why I didn’t obliquely reference Half Man Half Biscuit among the other submerged beaties turned up by this rustic ploughshare of a band as well.  Though in truth they probably just sound like themselves.

‘Dolomite Sprint’ might get you briefly questioning whther they’ve had an unhealthy spell digesting Bruce Springsteen anthems, but they promptly follow it with the dirtiest, grungiest, Balkanised and most wonderful version of that knackered standard ‘Poor Old Horse’ (simply ‘Dead Horse’ here) that you’re likely to hear.  Later they offer a full-frontal, hyperventilating asault – equal parts Captain Beefheart and Jon Boden – on the traditional ballad ‘Edward’. re-titled ‘The Murdered Brother’. which is as exemplary evidence that real grown-up folk songs should be forcibly be kept out of the hands of safe, studious, floral-print musos as anything you’ll hear. Now, excuse me while I go off and strangle a stoat…

Ian Anderson

R2 (Rock’n’Reel) *****

Falmouth character and ‘Cornish Tom Waits’ Julian Gaskell’s Carvery of Blight is a wonderful discovery.  Blending folk, punk, klezmer, cabaret and Gypsy rhythms – and pretty much any other genre that falls in its way, the album’s melting pot is firmly rooted and anchored by Gaskell’s powerful rasp of a voice, as melodious as it is guttural, and from foot-stomping folk and rock to ‘The Extended Trilogy’, a ballad fit for Jacques Brel.

Many songs have their tongues firmly in their cheeks.  ‘Dolomite Sprint’ is Springsteen’s ‘Born to Run’ transplanted to the UK and finally reimagined for the internet generation where ‘it seems all we do is cruise around on Streetview’; but despite the parody the songs maintains as much raw emotion as Springsteen.

Elsewhere we find folk songs – arrangements of traditional songs like ‘The Murdered Brother’ and ‘The Dead Horse’ and pastiches like ‘Cruel Coppinger’, which tells a Cornwall-based folk tale.

The alienation caused by the Internet is a recurring theme; for instance, the pervasiveness of ‘Somebody on a Laptop’.  This is all sewn together with a touch of Robyn Hitchcockesque psychedelia as on ‘Herbs and Spices from Afar’.  And finally, ‘Pretty Little Tears’ is as beautiful a song of regret as any I have heard.

Peter Tomkins

Whisperin & Hollerin 7/10

Julian Gaskell is from Cornwall yet, while many of his songs reference the coastal setting, it’s safe to say Poldark fans are not his target audience. Family entertainment be damned!

His smart PR release speaks of the raw energy of his songs in terms of specially invented genres like “agricultural-psychedelia” and “naive ditch folk; anything rather being tagged as conventional folk.

Tracks like The Extended Trilogy and Somebody On A Laptop offer wry views about our digital lifestyles while Dolomite Spirit is the kind of driving song Springsteen might have written if he were reincarnated as an impoverished British street hustler.

My main criticism of this record is that Gaskill is too ready to adopt the role of the Pogue-ish punk poet and the grating harshness of his voice undermines the cleverness of his songs.

It as if he is deliberately setting out to de-intellectualise the content but there is no cause to be bashful about inspired lines like “Lay down your weary harmonium and gaze into the cubic zirconium” on the opening track Herbs And Spices From Afar.  The puns of the title track used to describe a meal from hell further illustrate his skills as a wordsmith.

On top of this, his arrangements of three traditional folk songs show an awareness of the roots to his rebellious spirit. Cruel Coppinger is based on a legendary figure in Cornish folklore first celebrated in Song Of The Western Men, while The Dead Horse and The Murdered Brother are revamped into nihilistic studies in mortality.

Throw in a bit of lo-fi Bossa Nova (Boss Armadillo) and you have a roughly rounded portrait of an artist as a young man who is more likely to set sail in a homemade vessel or hitch a ride with a local smuggler than charter a fancy sailing ship. You travel with him at your own risk.

Martin Raybould

Cornwall Music Seen – Home crowds are notoriously difficult to please, and are often the harshest of critics…

When I first listened to Carvery of Blight I thought that I hadn’t plugged my headphones in properly, so I spent a good ten minutes meddling around with the lead wondering why I couldn’t get it to sound right. Then the reality hit me: It’s meant to sound like that; and once that slab of stone cold sobriety hit me, I managed to see the album for what it is and somewhat enjoy its quirky offerings.

Julian Gaskell has an extraordinarily distinct voice. For me, the brusque, gruff resonance of it makes me feel instinctively uneasy. Yet it’s still refreshing to hear an artist with such a stand-out voice, and if you can overcome your innate oppositions about this factor, then you’re in for an intriguing listen I assure you.

Another aspect I found refreshing is the concoction of genres that are so manically tossed into its sound. There’s a jazz element to it, some psychedelia thrown in for good measure, a country vibe, and even a punk aspect. A vast majority of instruments are hurled into the mix likewise: a desperately tuned fiddle, a manic banjo, a fanatic piano, and a brass band feature. This fusion may cause listeners to suffer from a chaotic bout of whiplash, and the album may feel like a broken bowl not glued back together properly, but its experimental sensations deserve praise nonetheless. I have all the time in the world for artists pushing boundaries and creating an artistic experience in their music.

One highlight of the album is Boss Armadillo which will have you swaying feverishly from its titillating disposition before you know what’s even happening. The same can be said for the title-track Carvery of Blight which will lodge itself in your head for days to come like a warped vine contracted of fanatical instruments and gypsy vibrations.

Similarly however, there is one track that I can’t muster any gratitude for because of the vocal dimensions as previously stated. Herbs And Spices From Afar may sound like a charming klezmer creation instrumentally, but the desperate vocal straining had me squirming around in my seat uncomfortably, whilst wincing my face in discomfort. Not being able to sing is a convention that works for the rest of the album, but this track could be used as a method of torture.

Carvery of Blight is an album that mainly grows on you, (potentially like a fungus, I’m still not quite sure). However, in some areas you’ll be so rapidly clutched into its colourful world and forced into the nomadic party. Julian Gaskell & his Ragged Trousered Philanthropists may be a mouthful for band name, and Carvery of Blight is certainly a head-full. But if you’re a fan of all things esoteric and uncomfortable then this one is for you!

Keira Trethowan