Reviews

I have been lucky enough to have some nice things written about me over the years (probably plenty of not-so-nice stuff too, but as I have editorial control, you won’t find that here).   Here is a collection from the last 10 years…

‘Carvery of Blight’ album reviews 2016

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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

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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.  Then 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

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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

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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

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Cornwall Music Seen

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.
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

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Live review (Charlie’s Bar Redruth, April 2015)

Trying to describe Julian Gaskell and his band the Ragged Trousered Philanthropists – is rather like to trying to describe a potion or spell, you can’t, you simply have to imbibe it, experience it or be cast upon. Julian Gaskell and his band are simply unique (a composite of Dada, Beefheart, Spike Jones, The Fugs, David Lynch and a subtle but eloquently expressed social conscience) The set began with the old cow is dead delivered like a physically challenged Chain gang chanting the tuneless servile cries of despair and hopelessness that had the audience initially disturbed, fearful and finally spellbound, swiftly followed by a shock and awe performance of Motorhead’s’ The ace of spades delivered astride the piano à la The Killer Jerry Lee Lewis, producing a fight or flight response from younger members of the audience, reminiscent of the hardest & headiest days of Punk and early Rock n’ Roll. The set, songs and performance were musically dynamic and emotionally demanding and extreme; from the euphoric and dizzy heights of Billy Slag to the contrasting raw and visceral, exampled by the politically astute and incisive Yuppie Flats segueing seamlessly into the Clash’s Skanking and dub ridden Armageddon Time during which I swear I heard Joe Strummer turning (rhythmically) in his grave, And for the forlorn and loveless, the beautiful, sad, instantly memorable and anthemic Your dreams are welcome here a.k.a Upcountry Waltz. A virtuoso band and an extraordinary performance that few present will ever forget. In years to come when asked what was Julian Gaskell and Ragged Trousered Philanthropists’ gig like? The old adage rings true you really had to have been there.

T.F.Much

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May 2012 – fRoots, Ian Anderson

Last time Falmouth’s finest was with his Ragged Trousered Philanthropists and it was a quintet.  This time it’s pared down to just Gaskell, bassist Thomas Sharpe and a cameo on one track from Kester Jones, but the sound – multi-tracked by the dextrous Gaskell on 13 instruments, particularly accordeon, guitar, drums, fiddle – is even bigger.  Other than that, fans of predecessor Here the Brute Harpies Make Their Nests will be pleased to know that it’s business as usual, his declamatory, vulpine vocals ranting and roaring his splendidly acrid, protestful lyrics – Victor Meldrew meets Cap’n Jack Sparrow – over a glorious, urgent ramshackle garage blend of Balkan-Klezmerisms and French gypsy cafebilly.  As before, the ghosts of Blyth Power and Beefheart lurk in the wings, but when you think you’ve got it all figured out he throws in a great romantic, slovenly delivered torch song like Left Luggage.  Can’t knock any of that – few things this exhilarating come along very often, the antidote to tweefolk.  The PR sheet describes the sound as “wall-of-thriftf” : I like that.  He really is an original: only Bristol’s rather wonderful Boxcar Aldous Huxley appear to inhabit even part of the same planet.  Can’t knock that either.

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March 2012- Bright young folk

Kind Words From Home is a boisterous set of tunes from the eclectic multi-instrumentalist Julian Gaskell. It is incredible to look at the album artwork and information and see so few musicians listed because there is enough noise in here for triple the amount of people, as well as containing one of the most seductive accordion melodies ever on Same Old World.

The album has strong strains of punk-folk, gypsy Balkan traditional, sea-shanties, Franco-dirty tangos, ragtime piano, and slow laments. Which all somehow get together to create an anarchic vaudevillian mix which is packed full of energy. Something Julian does seem to be very much aware of as he charismatically hollers “everything I saw comes out as a growl, or a crude dirty howl.” There is a seamless movement between the offbeat, jaunty, discordant tracks which rise and fall with dramatic precision, helping to create a theatrical atmosphere.

Even in its slower moments there is a sense that his energy is still lurking beneath the surface. The final track, At the Edge of the World works as a nice reflective conclusion to the album as it accurately invokes a feeling reminiscent of a Saturday morning after a heavy Friday night.

The tracks carry a universal appeal, as they go sailing through the experiences of; the pain of lost love, the importance of freedom of spirit, violent lust, the emptiness of Capitalism, retrospective reflection, awareness of your own futility, purposeful drinking, the feeling that you’re not quite enough for someone, the importance of dreams, remorse for the end of an era, and the fresh expectations of new love.

This rambunctious album encapsulates a diverse range of genres, and whatever Gaskell’s voice lacks in tunefulness he makes up for in intense enthusiasm. Your imagination has to provide the gypsy dancing girls, the rum, and the candlelight but Gaskell does the rest. –

Rosamund Woodruffe

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March 2012 – Folkworld.EU

Step into a tumbledown world of gypsy-punk accordion, surf klezmer, speak-easy ragtime, intellectual drinking and protest songs, romantic piano torch ballads, sweet musette waltzes, weeping country laments, violent tangos and stomping balkan skiffle beats… Singer-songwriter and one-man-orchestra Julian Gaskell howls and hollers as if Tom Waits came from a Roma family and punk had its origins in cabaret and circus.

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March 2012 – Manchester Music

For those who may be too young to know, Manchester’s music scene at the turn of the noughties was a battle ground between post-Madchester / Oasis apathy and despondency and a pioneering new wave /punk rock scene that pre-dated any efforts from both London and New York. Long abandoned by the NME et al, Manchester decided to cut its own furrow and from maybe around 20 or so bands, the new frontier was forged – and amongst its legion was Loafer, headed by one Julian Gaskell.

Having left Manchester sometime after, his subsequent albums and role as a musical director and composer have been delivered to great acclaim. On his latest solo album “Kind Words From Home”, there is something of a return to his roots. The punk influenced mixture of The Clash and The Specials does battle with the more complex pretenders to the Gyspy punk throne, such as Gogol Bordello and The Penny Black Remedy. In truth Gaskell has been there first (by a long chalk) and has refined his art over a decade. So on tracks like “Galitsian Trash” the guitar is furiously carving out a complicated riff alongside violins and accordions, with both a dizzying and frenetic tempo. I’ve always preferred to compare Gaskell to The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn, at least in terms of energy and commitment – there’s always a political or social comment worth memorising and holding on for posterity. Throughout this rather wonderful album, folk ballads (the clambering “We Had A Ball”), Country (the wild west bar room “Up Country Waltz”) sea shanties and wild fusions of the new wave abound, from one of Britain’s more genuine and credible exponents of the genre.

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March 2012 – West Briton

GOD bless Julian Gaskell and all who sail in him, whether they be a Kernewek Tom Waits, a berserk klezmer band, Joe Strummer gone Weimar jazz or Kurt Weill punching The Pogues  He’s multifaceted is Falmouth-based Julian. Just listen to his superb new album Kind Words From Home.  Singer and songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and one-man garage orchestra Julian howls and hollers his way through a global cacophony; with his weak r’s and Estuary English he sounds not unlike John Otway if Otway wrote politicised drinking songs, piano torch ballads or manic Balkan stompfests.  Having honed his craft with punk-folk bands, Ragged Trousered Philanthropists and Icons of Poundland, Julian has spent the past two years touring the world with Cornwall-based theatre companies Rogue and Bash Street to great acclaim.  He is one of Cornwall’s great singular talents – check out the album and its launch at the Fish Factory, Falmouth, on Saturday from 8pm.

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February 2012 – Western Morning News (Feature)

Julian Gaskell looks and sounds like he’s been plucked in wild full flow from an eastern European gypsy encampment in another century.  His is a magical, tumbledown world where raggle-taggle punk accordion meets surf klezmer, speakeasy ragtime, where torch ballads snuggle with sweet waltzes, and protest and drinking songs nestle alongside weeping country laments, violent tangos and Balkan skiffle grooves.

All these elements combine in the repertoire and demeanour of a man whose creative juices flow both at home on a Falmouth housing estate and out on the road as current musician in residence with Cornwall-based Rogue Theatre Company’s Devil and the Dancer production.  Some may also know mustachioed, bespectacled, multi-instrumentalist and singer Julian from his days with his band, The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists.  Now he’s about to unleash a new, homegrown solo album which observes and comments on the stuff and nonsense of contemporary society.

Its title Kind Words From Home, reflects his nomadic existence over the past two years, touring the world with both Rogue, and Bash Street Theatre, for whom he wrote and performed critically acclaimed silent movie piano scores and cabaret-style show tunes.  The LP is a moreish, richly narrative and evocative concoction. As well as playing everything from accordion, piano, mandolin and drums through to cello, violin, mandolin, balalaika, washboard, tambourine, tea chest and glockenspiel, Julian howls and hollers his way through sharp, tender and often humorous lyrics. One minute he’ll be drawling cowboy-style, the next murmuring almost inaudibly, the next shouting punk-style. There’s suspense, drama, love and merry-making aplenty, embellished by contributions from former Ragged bandmates Thomas Sharpe and Kester Jones.

“There quite a lot of homesickness in the album,” says Julian, a perennial troubadour. “The title comes from a line in the song The Drunken Tourist, which is quite autobiographical.  “I did a couple of gigs in Poland on my own while I was on tour with the theatre company; it’s about being alone in a strange place and having nothing in common with the people around you expect that you all want to be somewhere else. It’s not about a bar in Poland, specifically, it’s something universal.”

Julian enjoys touring with the theatre, as essential bread and butter work, and being part of a group. But, now 39, Julian felt it was time to go his own way and concentrate on recording and delivering a very personal repertoire. He grew up playing piano, then injected all his energy into the punk vibe, before settling on a magpie-like recipe that makes his music the sum of everything he’s ever listened to and loved.

“You wouldn’t recognise my music from ten years ago. I’ve taken my cue from London Calling by The Clash, which a mix of all the different styles they were exposed to. In this modern age you can play what you like,” explains Julian, who used to work as a sound engineer in Manchester. “I’ve spent two years listening to Django Reinhardt, trying to play like him.  “It’s easy to get lost in his 1930s world of gypsy jazz and then everything outside seems weird. Cornwall is great because you can be in your own little world here.”

Nevertheless, an initial London show airing some of the new tunes went very well. Now Julian is embarking on a national tour of one-man band shows, with a couple of low-key local warm-ups next month.  “I’m not aiming for global superstardom. If you do what you do with enough passion, that enthusiasm will carry it through, I think.”

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Some reviews of Rogue theatre’s “Dancer & the Devil” with music and lyrics written and performed by Julian Gaskell (2011-2012)

The star of the show, apart from Tehidy [Woods] itself, is musical director Julian Gaskell, who will be well known to music lovers in the county. A cross between Tom Waits, Joe Strummer and Rachmaninov, his repertoire of songs (helped by singer/musician Lauren Vandike) brought the show to life. The West Briton

Mesmerising, continental-style live music from the obscenely talented Julian Gaskell. (My only regret is they weren’t selling CDs of the show’s soundtrack). – North Devon Journal

One man whirlwind Julian Gaskell’s stunning musicianship and evocative soundtrack is unbelievably brilliant. Setting the mood and tone, playing accordion and piano as the audience arrives, his Kroke-esque percussive violin, haunting cello music and powerful expository songs, are worthy of a show in their own right – The Cornishman

Live music throughout, provided by Musical Director Julian Gaskell and Lauren Vandike, includes a fresh and seemingly improvised background score and a handful of Tiger Lily-esque songs about people and love affairs coming to a bad end in which Gaskell’s delivery is dour and full of bleak humour. The Public Reviews

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June 2010 Efestivals.co.uk (Big Session)

First up on the Friday, on the main Indoor Stage, are Julian Gaskell & The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists whose brand of gypsy-punk-folk is a riotous start to a festival. Coming across like the Levellers on speed crashing headlong into Gogol Bordello, the sheer energy on stage from Julian is enough to get even the mildest mannered attendee in the mood for a cracking fest.

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March 2010 http://www.folkworld.de

I love it when I’m about to fall asleep after listening to a few standard (not to say little bit boring) albums and a band wakes me up again with bloody good music. This is the second album by Julian Caskell and his Trousered Philanthropists and is called Here the brute harpies make their nest. The band comes from Cornwall and they make some energetic, raw, mixture of folk, rock, punk, progressive, underground style folk with influences from almost everywhere and everything, Ska rhythms, a far-east melody, French muzette and some (more or less) traditional English influences. I love the accordion led up tempo songs, the sound of the Hammond organ starting its own life in a song, the unexpected melodic interruptions and a singer who sings his brains out of his nose. If you think this is a messy review, don’t buy the album as the music is even ten times as messy and I love it.

Eelco Schilder

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December 2009, fRoots

What’s there not to like about this great little quintet? Scurrying out of Falmouth in Cornwall, their bustling, belting, lopsided accordeon-led sound branches somewhere off the same musical family tree that gave us top Belgian faves Jaune Toujours and the long-lost La Cucina, with the rural literary flair of Blyth Power, XTC and Dancing Did chucked in the mix. Bits of hyper-Balkanisation bloody their noses on some crunchy Roma-jazz, and waves of sppedy punkfolk ska crash in the mix on cheesy surf organ and the ghost of Cap’n Beefheart. And a whole exhausting (in a good way) lot more. Exhilarating playing, fab lyrics, energy to spare: if I was running The Modern Day Festival – deservedly excoriated in the song of the same name – I’d be straight on the phone to book these guys for next year. If they’re this exciting on record then the live experience is going to be truly extraordinary.

Ian Anderson

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October 2009, Everett True Recommends

They’re a little bit Singing Loins. They’re a little bit Tiger Lillies (except I really didn’t like their act when I caught them at the Spiegeltent last year in Brisbane). They’re a little bit… what’s that band… Gogol Bordello. Very smart, very droll lyrics. Very theatrical. Very philanthropic. Lots of accordion and background shouting and roustabout rhythms. Bit of klezmer. Bit of that banjo-playing toad off Bagpuss. Bit of a lark.

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October 2009, 24-7 Magazine

They don’t do demos, JULIAN GASKELL & HIS RAGGED TROUSERED PHILANTHROPISTS. They do fully realised works of prole art that eschews the idea of clambering up the music industry ladder only to land on a snake and end up in a heap of disappointment. True to form, ‘Here The Brute Harpies Make Their Nests’ finds Gaskell and Co stepping up a gear and self-releasing an album that oozes confidence, irreverence, independence and brilliance; cementing their reputation as Tom Waits and Gogol Bordello’s defiantly Cornish bastard offspring. Taking us into a tumbledown world of squeezeboxes, fiddles, percussive waywardness and intellectual drinking, these 14 songs will make you swell with underclass pride even if you’re a bourgeois bum, with a lyric booklet that is worth the admission fee alone. Magnificent.

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October 2009 – Manchester Music

Julian Gaskell once more, assembles his Ragged Trousered Philanthropists (also featuring long time associate Kester Jones). Recorded down in Falmouth and St Keverne and then mastered in the New Forest, Julian is firmly at the helm on this album, which seems driven by the sound of drunken sailors, irate country folk and some occasional outright punk rock. Lyrically, this constitutes an imposing and enjoyable collection of words. ‘I never trust a man who says he don’t like Elvis..’ he firmly declares on “Gastro Pubs”.

Musically, there’s the continued measure of protest song and European gypsy bohemia stirred in with Hispanic and Latino influences, captured within the urgent soul of the political new wave movement as espoused by the Clash (check out the up tempo punk / folk / ska attack of “Pushing Up The Weeds” and “Kolomeyke”, both of which almost make a Specials re-union pointless). Moments appear like the extended drum and percussion solo on “Bottle of Luck”, which must be a definite riot live.

There are also journeys into realms of relative strangeness – “The Old Cow Died” is a traditional piece that was a fairly robust and basic chant to begin with, but with a heavy clatter it all ends up with a fizz of feedback and what could quite possibly be actual fighting, before “Dustbins Amongst Men” delivers an instrumental interlude, constructed from rumbles and in general, the sound of the earth turning. If one thing can help demonstrate what Julian Gaskell is up to (and has previously done in the past), it’s the track “No Housing Benefit Smokers Or Pets” – a brash, word heavy social text, accompanied by the energetic clatter of an electric guitar’s hurried rattles and twangs. A Bulgarian traditional tune “Gankino Horo”, is excitedly hacked and brushed up into a fragmented wig-out, in what can only can be described as some kind of gypsy punk prog rock melee, but it’s not before long that there’s a return to their best topic via “Weep In Your Beer”. The album concludes with “The People’s Piano”, the breakneck sound of the band barrelling down a hill, pausing for a drink on the way down, before providing one last energetic cartwheel down the final furlong. Great stuff indeed. MMMM ½

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April 2009 – 247 Magazine

I’ve reviewed Cornwall-based JULIAN GASKELL before, and what a treat it was: all Tom Waits growl and blues-folk madness. Now he’s back with THE RAGGED TROUSERED PHILANTHROPISTS, playing the kind of gnarly, radical folk-punk championed by Gogol Bordello and Devotchka (or ‘new wave skiffle’ as the band cutely tag themselves). Foot-stomping, accordion led show tunes with a great line in poetic socialism is the order of the day, never more so than on ‘Yuppie Flats’ and ‘The Great Money Trick’: songs that keep the class war alive and kicking. Although you feel that the Ukrainian-folk of ‘Cingilingibom’ is more righteous celebration than indignation. Awesome.

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April 2009 – Western Morning News (feature)

TAKE an accordion, a banjo, an acoustic guitar and a washboard and you have the essential tools for a rousing encounter with Cornwall’s unique gypsy punk troubadours, Julian Gaskill and his Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. The elaborately named ensemble are as eccentric in looks as they are in sound, not least the mustachioed, bespectacled Julian, who regularly leads his merry men on musical jaunts around the Westcountry and beyond. This month they are warming up for a couple of major dates in uncharted locales – the Acorn Theatre in Penzance and the Voodoo Lounge at Exeter’s Phoenix Arts Centre – as their bid for world domination dances along. Their music can be fast-paced but their journey is, in fact, a very gentle one, punctuated by frequent stops to kick up a punk-style shindig that is heavily influenced by the traditional folk music of Eastern Europe. “We are walking uphill slowly rather than catching the cable car,” quips Julian who, at 37, has been playing guitar since he was 13 and spent several years on the cusp of major breaks in the business while living in Manchester.

“After all those years of being a struggling musician I am trying to make a sustainable living out of what we are doing. With the music we do we can play almost anywhere, as opposed to being a full-on punk band,” he says. It was a trip to Sziget, the annual summer musical festival in Budapest, five years ago that fuelled Julian’s fascination with traditional Jewish klezmer music, which has been enjoying a revival in recent times. At its core is the accordion, which dominates around 50 per cent of the Philanthropists’ sound. Having grown up playing piano, Julian had the essential knowledge to master the squeezebox, although the first six months were a hard slog. “It’s like playing piano one-handed with your eyes shut while your left hand is pumping up a bicycle tyre,” he explains. “Once you get over those difficulties, you can make music.” Julian was playing solo for some time and the band has built up around him. He writes the bulk of the lyrics, often commenting on modern British society and habits, sometimes just nonsense, and his very English shouty punk voice defines them.

So, you’ll get songs about yuppies, pubs, romantic novels, or sung in an unfathomable Eastern European language – a balance between funny and heavy. Julian can be heard on vocals, accordion, violin, balalaika, cello, banjo, washboard, piano, drums, harmonicas, concertina, guitars, Tom on upright bass, vocals, tuba, banjo, cello, Dan on guitars, vocals, ukulele, kazoo and Rory on drums and percussion. The band have released one album and are in the process of recording another in the Westcountry.

And the name? English literature or social history scholars will recognise The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists as the title of a political working class novel by Robert Tressell, published in 1914.

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September 2008 – Clash Music

Lively folkster Julian Gaskell and his band hit the stage with an epic set of jig-led gypsy music to which the entire crowd dances. With banjo, fiddle, ukulele, accordion, double bass, the band is fuelled with acoustic energy. Set in a marquee covered in hay to soak up the rain, there’s no better setting for a ferocious folk session.

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2007 – West Briton

Next up were the utmost finest band to appear in Cornwall for a long time – Julian Gaskell and his Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, whose frontman’s ‘tache made Luke Toms’ look like a bit of bumfluff! Their insane genius, mixing accordion, fiddle, guitar, ukulele, bass and mouth organ was reminiscent of the soul of a rabid Captain Beefheart, if he’d had Eastern European roots and grown up in the deep south of America. They took a Borat-style parodic march through pseudo-slovakia, recreating a sound loved by many from the Beirut album. Whilst it’s hardly a hotly contested title, they definitely led the way for a Baltic(sic) revival in Cornwall.

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2007 – manchestermusic.co.uk

Superbly packaged, Julian Gaskell’s latest album absorbs elements of his last demo and also calls up an old classic, each and all played in his now familiar style – A long time resident of Manchester , now relocated back home on the south Coast, Gaskell has his own particular brand of gypsy punk – a craft he was honing in 1999/2000 in places like Night & Day, Jabez Clegg, Big Hands and The Roadhouse. As a singer who’s always had a touch of Joe Strummer about him, the vocals have a slight growl, and sneer along with his trademark political and social commentaries. As he hits “I.D On My Gravestone” Gaskell is in full flight, but at this point the music has slowed to a wonderfully energetic crawl. At times the style is pushed well out of even his own boundaries, as the swing time and even more carefree style of “It’ll Never Turn Out Nice Again” sounds like John Lydon and Robert Wyatt tearing out a couple of numbers from “Bednobs and Broomsticks”, as though it was a still beating, bloody heart. Over eighteen tracks it’s a delightful, well constructed journey which also resurrects “Billy Slag” from an earlier era in the Gaskell career – it all seems to fit together so perfectly. A pioneer of new wave skiffle and the use of acoustic instruments as weapons of new punk, Julian Gaskell is one of Britain’s few, truly original folk masters.

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May 2006 – manchestermusic.co.uk – Technology will make us better – album review

Creak. Rattle. waaaaaiiinnnngongongogogogong. Welcome to the whispery, hoarsely-hollered world of Julian Gaskell, who pronounces all his rounded vowels as though he’s got a throat chock full of bitter molasses mixed with Marmite and is attempting not to gip. Pulsing, thrusting, scratchy guitars and scrapes of slithering mandolin ebb and surge dramatically – hungrily – throughout seventeen tracks, whilst squelches of saliva and leering consonants scuttle about above. From the creepy wink of ‘Learn From Your Mistakes’, in which ghostly black spiders scramble at cracks in the walls and floorboards moan, where the innards and guts of ancient clocks spill out onto the floor, to ‘The Sweet, Sweet Smell of Decay’, where yellowing crumbs of plaster peel, of their own accord, from the bricks of a deserted old room locked away at the back of a derelict country mansion, you slowly begin to build a picture of Gaskell as a murky nomad, hunched over a withering book, gruffly reading to an ominous melody. Somewhere, by the dripping moonlight seeping in through fogged-up, muck-coated grey windows, blasted by the moors, his face furry with isolated weeks of stubble and his voice aching yet warm like a willowing candle, he crouches, spirit-like, on a moth-eaten, garish, ruined old sofa – some thrown-out throwback from a bygone era – plagued with rubbed patches of faded, threadbare material and pitted with holes chewed through by generations of rats. A bit spooky, yes? Yes. But in the best of archaic, somehow-comforting ways. All shaky corridors and drunken harmonicas, ‘Technology Will Make Us Better’ was recorded in Falmouth, solely with the natural aids of charity shop bits and pieces from across the world. Surrounded by squalor and the sea, the album groans with spray from the shores, soaring gulls and murky, thoughtful pools of deepest, darkest blue-black algae. At once burrowed in the silted-up, folky myths of a land time forgot, then buried alongside barndances at midnight, his sound varies from the brooding (nearly all tracks) to the twinkly and carefree, the likes of which ‘It’s Been Said’ is an example, with its lighter, prettier, flowing tones and dusky, dusty underlays of quiet organ. Speckled with drone-based instrumentals and gasping breaths of piano, Gaskell’s solo project is a humbly beautiful collection of gnarled wobblings and picturesque, pastoral warblings. Lovely.

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April 2006 – 247 Magazine

He’s shot away, he drawls like a cockney cowboy junky, he picks and slides on his acoustic guitar like he’s straddling Satan’s stretch rack, his name is JULIAN GASKELL and his 17-song album ‘Technology Will Make Us Better’ is what happens when Tom Waits falls into a Cornish tin mine, collides with Nick Drake on the way down and bangs his head in the wrong – or perhaps, right – place. It’s brilliant, original, full of character, full of sin and nothing whatsoever like the usual insipid acoustic-based guff you often hear in South West bars. I’m just sorry that we’ve only recently received the CD as it’s been out since October, released through Top Of The Hill Recordings in Hayle.Great stuff.

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Nov 2005 – City Life (Manchester) Julian Gaskell – Technology Will Make Us Better

First impression: a nutter in the tradition of John Otway or our own Edward Barton, and nothing wrong with that. On second hearing, you get a deeper impression of Gaskell’s troubled personality, one that is in a constant state of agitation and anxiety. The songs have echoes of bluegrass, blues, world music and good old punk attitude. He plays most of the instruments himself and hence sounds like a one-man garage orchestra. ‘The Sweet, Sweet Smell of Decay’ is the ranting of a mind at the end of its tether and is utterly compelling. Not only does Technology… purposely exclude itself from the Mercury Award Shortlist, it seems designed for the oblivion so lovingly invoked on ‘We Never Said’. (MB) Rating: 8/10 Standout track: ‘If You Can’t Be Pleasant To Me’ Influenced by: Lambchop, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy Related artists: Skip Spence, Richey Edwards

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“This is not TV” – Icons of Poundland Album review 2003

What I do is something of a disgrace. For me to presume to judge a persons best efforts, and frequently damn them, suggests a certain vile nature and insecurity. It is certainly to mark oneself out as an arrogant, self-important dampener of dreams. The fact that I do this for absolutely no financial gain (most of our PR freebies are given away as competition prizes) makes an ugly practice even more disfigured and pungent. However it is also part and parcel of my self appointed position as pompous raspberry blower to fawn, yawp excitedly and sprinkle sweet smelling waters upon those who’s work I consider exemplary. Whenever this happens I will holler my approval from every orifice in order to redress the balance of my caustic condemnations. Rarely do I ever have such an excuse to purge the sins of my critical cruelty than when a Julian Gaskell creation comes my way.

For the uninitiated, and sadly they are many, Julian was the driving force behind one of Manchester’s most cruelly overlooked bands, Loafer. Loafer always seemed to me the missing link between Ian Dury and the Blockheads and a ferociously prolapsing larynx and perhaps as a result didn’t slide in too neatly beside the proliferation of pointless punks, limp wristed balladeers and interminable baggy bands that make up the majority of the city’s otherwise thriving unsigned scene. The strain of apathy took its toll and the band crumbled briefly, losing an incredible drummer in Ben Emissah, to re-emerge with ubiquitous Manchester stickstress Kate Themen in tow as Icons of Poundland. The sound of Loafer having an electric fire dropped into its bath was born. Now here, following Icon’s debut home studio-tastic double B-side single “Nothing But Love And Good Vibes/House Doubles”, comes their eponymous debut album with more fire in its angry little belly than I could have possibly hoped.

“Nothing But Love And Good Vibes”, fattened by a full band sound since its solo noisenik incarnation on their debut, jerks and spits like The Clash sodomising “Lust For Life”. “Stole My Smile” is the sound of bones being broken with a Soda Stream whilst “An Infestation You Can’t Clear” is Tom Waits tossing “Fiddler on the Roof” albums into a cement mixer, and that is just your first three tracks.

In the majority “Icons…” is an album designed to scream and unburden its spite for your listening pleasure but it is not without its more tender, palette cleansing moments. The emotionally wrenching likes of “Pissing All Over My Dreams” and “Safe and Warm” hit home with an emotional impact born of discordance and vulnerable cacophony, both barely uttered murmurs of eloquent discontent, whilst the sinister crumbling lounge howl of “Icon Of The Cool” slinks, gradually, under your skin and settles in.

This record is in no way an easy ride, on top of the challenging onslaught of the music itself the whole album is drenched in a production technique that fizzes and burbles with all the
lo-fi glory of a teenager compiling a C90 mix tape, though for £1 you were hardly going to get perfection. A nation still gripped by the wonder of seemingly production free New Yoik punk, however, shouldn’t have a great deal of trouble pulling the gems from this white noise, should the band get their well deserved chance at mainstream acceptance.

These songs don’t come across as having been written, they seem instead to have been ripped from some ferocious source and battered into ragged form, Julian especially coming on like a conduit for this source. At times the band seem to be controlling this sound rather than crafting it, the vocals torn, glancing against the melody, the guitars bullish and fiery, kicking and fighting. There is an energy and urgency on display here that you are rarely likely to stumble upon in a lifetime’s worth of music loving and if you are lucky enough to come across this band, this music, these songs then you will be a richer person for it. I certainly am, not least because it has brought me some small relief from my usual snide role of pious, opinionated twat!
credits

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Live review
10 December 2001 / Big Hands / Manchester
By Kate Wheeler

… it’s time for our heroes LOAFER to enter the errr, ‘performance area’. There is no stage tonight. We are face to face with the band, they’re on our level. This seems wonderfully appropriate since in some ways Loafer appear to draw quite strongly on the viscious, delicious days of old school, anyone-can-do-it English punk. The first few songs charge along like diesel powered juggernauts going way over the speed limit. Julian fits and twitches like a righteous maniac, spitting out lines like “we’re the last of the defiant nonconformists”. However, in actual fact it takes about five seconds to realise that Loafer are way more Jam than Pistols. Clearly, anyone couldn’t do what Loafer do. Not unless anyone happened to be a dazzlingly skilled musician who could make the trickiest bassline or the most complex hammond groove sound like a walk in the park. There’s even a couple of songs featuring guest trombone for God’s sake, the first of which is a particularly fine, almost tender slow groove with a “bye baby baby” chorus refrain. Ironically, perhaps it is Loafer’s sheer musicianship which leads to their only real fault of the night. Loafer love the music too much! Consequently it appears they simply can’t stop. They have to be surgically removed from their instruments after playing the longest set in Manchester’s musical history. Still, who can really blame them. Anyone would find it hard to stop if it sounded that good.

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Manchestermusic.co.uk, “Care in the Community” album review, July 2001

Only Loafer can have the credentials to release a album of this name. Its just been waiting for them to use it. Successfully fusing Dury’s Blockheads with Costello and The Clash, there’s also some Ska stuck in there. But surprisingly, it was when playing the album through that a look at the sleeve and the printed words, that another dimension opened. I’m a lazy listener and words are something that sometime pass me by – but the scribing on this is feckin’ excellent. Opener “Local Guru” is the best example : ” infiltrating the masses / educating the classless / shopping the right shops / sucking the right cocks..” – inspired. The sribblings on the sleeve even look angry. “Where Did All the Good Times Go”, comes straight from the Chairsmissing Album.
The singles, “Billy Slag” and “Lost In Euston” are on here, but sadly not “Billy Ska”, but apparently this will be on the next single. “Charlie Never Said” shows a looping, a softly acoustic side to the band. Its totally ambient and angrily sweet and you can hear the wonderful engineering and self production shining through. “(Charlie Never Dub)” is just like the stuff off “Sandinista” – Heavy Dub and a take on the preceding track. Bang On.
“East Croydon Sunrise” is a bit more Rock N Roll, with the whole band swooning in and the Hammond full on – I really like JG’s really slit throat jangly crunch guitar sounds, which are there subtly but angrily chopping away in the background.
“Stuck At The Lights”, with the exception of the trademark Hammond is as mellow as any Elbow track. Julian’s vocals always shout (even when whispered) and you can fell the sweat pouring off his troubled brow, track by track. Final slot is reserved for “Body Snatchers”, which provides an energy sapping finale to the the CD at nearly 7 minutes. This runs into the “hidden track” which is almost like a Whalesong comprised of effected guitars and noises – excellent weird ambient shit, especially if you’re off your trolly.
Loafer have been plugging the scene for a while and were the originals of the “New Wave” of Nu-Manchester. Its fitting that they’ve got it “All Down” so to speak, as this album, if released in 1977, would have been on Stiff Records and would have been at No1 in the Alt-Charts for 26 weeks….We don’t give stars here, but tonight Mathew, we’ll make an exception :
* * * * *

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The Fly, Single review, May 2000

Loafer frontman Julian Gaskell’s frenetic tale of inopportune orientation loss is one that many of us will be familiar with. Hurrah that he didn’t opt for the boring escape route of asking for assistance at the information booth, thus throttling the inspiration for this rollicking runaway shoplifter of a tune. An adrenaline-injected Hammond organ matches Gaskell’s bulge-eyed and breathless vocal battery step for critical step, leaving him empty handed and surreally stranded in a grim no-man’s land populated by tins of lager and malevolent pot noodles. Could it have been the wrong sort of leaves in his morning cuppa? JB

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Made in Manchester webzine, February 2000
LOAFER – LOST IN EUSTON – CD-EP – [OWN LABEL]

On goes this 4 track CD , with the alarm bells immediately ringing, as the cover picture of a bloke looking like a hunky W. Allen with Acoustic Guitar, momentarily flashes before my eyes. “Lost In Euston” clips in – instead of Bob Dylan you get a ramshackle blast of electro acoustic angyness that (excuse the comparisons) could have been a Mick Jones classic written circa “London Calling” or “Sandinista”. I’ll leave the references at that, as it’s not that they’re copyist, but rather that they capture the spirit and atmospheres of those times. These aren’t ballads, they are actually serious rock songs – they just happen to be played a little more quietly and with more acousticity. “Ideal Home” offers some nice laid back work, with the keyboard accompaniment adding the required atmosphere. For Lyric lovers everywhere, there’s some meaningful poetry to add to the interest. Julian Gaskell’s vocal work is refreshingly original and bare but totally expressive. “In a Tent” should be in any Record Execs top drawer. Alternative pop songs anyone?. Finally “Take It Home”, starts off menacingly quietly and (again) acoustically, with a progressive riff that grows and builds before chilling away to a laid back finale.
Suffice to say – this is a very enjoyable record – Its been played about 5 times now, prior to review and will probably get played again. If you hear about a loafer gig – get along. If you want some music to lounge around to on a Sunday – what better referenced band to listen to than the excellent  Loafer. CD  available locally.

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This Is Not TV, February 2000
LOAFER
Reviewer: Wendy Cook

Loafer are a bunch of students from Salford University’s Popular Music course, making a bid to be real musicians. Right now they are, as the Roadhouse listings have it, “the increasingly wonderful Loafer”. Basically structured as a guitar and keyboards band, the powerhouse is Julian Gaskell, gritty observational lyricist and inflamed guitar player, who’s surrounded by a fiery, accomplished and committed band. Loafer are, luckily for us, not just another guitar band, not just another bunch of Oasis wannabees, they’re awkward, disaffected nonconformers, taking things by the scruff of the neck – none of this hiding in bedrooms and agonising stuff. Belligerent and ruthless, Loafer are out take it as far as it’ll go. On this CD you get 4 tracks: the rollicking hectic tumble of “Lost In Euston” chucking a nod towards Elvis Costello and Madness, “Ideal Home” a love affair straight out of B&Q, “This life style is a sham, the rot set in here, it needs cutting out”, an unlikely love song in the shape of “In A Tent” with the bright certainty of a Noddy annual and the dirge-like melancholy of “Take It Home” as spooky as a November gravestone. Loafer are a bit dirty, a bit nasty, a bit what-your-mother-would-call earthy. Clever, frighteningly real,their speciality, m’dears, is nasty boy songwriting. Loafer are the dirty raincoats of rock – ugly and uncompromised and with their own direct and singular, if unsettling, “voice”.

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