The Grubby Mitts – What the World Needs Now is the Grubby Mitts

Posted by vibrations on 08-09-15

Eight years in the making, ‘What the World Needs Now……’ is the debut album and magnum opus from a Bedfordshire quintet who’ve been playing together in various different bands for the best part of two decades.

Andy Holden, Johnny Parry, Roger Illingworth James MacDowell and John Blamey are all gifted artists, not just musically but also in other media including literature, painting and film. Here they’ve skilfully blended spoken word, music hall, ambient instrumental interludes, spaced out wistful indie-pop and a host of other sonic components, forming a dextrous melting pot of sounds oozing quintessential English eccentricity. Indeed there are more instruments present here than on the average Katzenjammer tour bus, played by the band members plus a host of assorted friends and cohorts, drafted in to put their shoulders to the proverbial wheel. There’s even a children’s choir at one point! 

Released on Lost Toys Records, the eighteen tracks take the listener on a meandering journey around the highways and byways of Britain, a sort of contemporary take on a John Betjeman poem. ‘Music of Exhaustion’ starts with a hypnotic looped organ forming the foundations of a ramshackle opener, segueing into the preposterously titled ‘Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will……’ as a dreamy tune underpins a frenetic spoken word combined with an elegiac vocal simply repeating ‘What the World Needs Now is Grubby Mitts’…..and believe it or not, it works!

‘To a Friend’s House, the Way is Never Lost’ is similarly experimental and no less alluring, this time staccato percussion reminiscent of the Trumpton clock chimes mixes with elaborate strings wrapped around increasingly dogmatic repetition of the title. ‘Lenny (2014)’ combines clarinet and commuter train rhythms and then we’re back to more conventional musings on ‘Home at Last’.

‘Standard’ treats us to thrillingly fast drum and bass whereas ‘Bubbleblower’ bobs and weaves at a more leisurely pace before exploding into life. ‘The Mountain and I’ forms a simple chant slowly lit up by a sunrise. The lugubrious ‘The Worm of Eternal Return’ welds together animals and emotions and ‘Unquiet Grave’ is a morbid drunken Christmas smash in the making. Finally we get the school choir, drafted in for the achingly beautiful ode to a sorely missed musical collaborator ‘Goodbye if You Call That Gone’.

Breath-taking, in both ambition and execution.  

Mike Price

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