Thursday, 18 March 2010
Levellers - Levelling the Land [ALBUM REVIEW]
1. "One Way" – 4:08
2. "The Game" – 3:28
3. "Fifteen Years" – 3:11
4. "The Boatman" – 5:56
5. "Liberty Song" – 4:29 (co-written by original member Alan Miles)
6. "Far From Home" - 3:22
7. "Sell Out" – 4:17
8. "Another Man's Cause" – 4:35
9. "The Road" – 4:00
10. "The Riverflow" – 3:02
11. "Battle of the Beanfield" – 3:41
The Levellers are a bunch of grubby Socialists from Brighton. In a nutshell, they don't like 'the man' and they don't like Sobriety. 'Levelling the Land' is the second album, following on from the debut 'A Weapon Called the Word'. A lot more rounded and complete than the debut, you can tell this was the sound the band were aiming for, opting for a more level balance between the punk, folk and more general rock sounds.
The album beings with a trio of songs which I feel are among the band's best material they have ever written, and if these don't grab you then maybe this album isn't your cup of tea, 'One Way' opens the album, arguably the band's 'Dearg Doom', and quite rightly so, an anthem promoting independence and free thinking and fairly straight forward in it's delivery and to the point. No abstract pretense or cryptic referencing here, Mark claims “There's only one way to life, and that's your own”. The bombastic, singalong chorus upheld by the throbbing, funk bassline make this a bona fide classic, and a perfect introduction to anyone wanting to get into this band. 'The Game' is an infectious fiddle laden jig, again with a memorable chorus, like so many other songs on this album. '15 Days' is slightly darker that the first two songs, a more sombre number about a drunk beyond redemption. Again, the fiddle playing is extremely prominent, the bass bandies about in the background while Mark delivers his simple, but animated vocals. The next few songs don't live up to the quality of the opening trio, but they're by no means bad. 'The Boatman' never really grabbed me too much, it lacks the fire with which I associate the band with. Maybe it's just because it's much more subdued than the stunning openers, but to these ears it's just a mediocre sea shanty. 'The Liberty Song' on the otherhand the Clash influence sticks out like a sore thumb, its upbeat, 'in your face' tempo and brash political lyrics pointing fingers at the powers that be would not be out of place on any seventies punk album, while 'Far From Home' is the kind of song that wouldn't be out of place playing in the background on a summer's day with a cider in hand. 'Sell Out' is heavily akin to the pounding, boot-heel pomp of 'New Model Army', again with very outspoken lyrics about modern day bureaucracy. 'Another Man's Cause' is an Anti War protest song, relevant at the time with the ongoing fighting in the Persian Gulf while the next two songs 'The Road' and 'The Riverflow' are both sweet, jovial folk-pop ditties, while simple yet discerning at the same time. The last track is the absolute stand out on the album though. A snarling, boot stomping punk anthem of anti-authoritarianism concerning the infamous incident at stone henge in 1985 where a large group of travellers were assaulted by Wiltshire Police, accused of extremely heavy handed tactics. 'The Battle of the Beanfield' is a true modern protest song, ferocious and un-relenting in a brief four minutes, it documents a piece of modern history fantastically in a handful of verses. It reeks of 'The Clash', the influence is obvious, in the lyrics as well as the music. But that's nothing to complain about is it?
This is the type of album which would have appalled many a middle class parent back in the seventies, but it wasn't a case of the band being outspoken for the sake of it, 'The Levellers' were a band with a genuine issue and opinion and stand by it to this very day, and for that they deserver utmost respect. The topics toyed with here are all still extremely relevant today, the economy, war, restriction of religion and bent politicians. 'The Levellers' were born in the wrong era, I know this will have been said many times before, but had they have been around in the sixties/seventies, they would have garnered a lot more appreciation, but they only achieved minimal success with this album, more than likely due to the grunge and nu-metal emergence of the early ninties. Teenagers didn't care for genuine world issues then, nor do they now, more concerned with 'being different' and full of angst for no apparent reason.
This isn't an album for those extremely sensitive about lyrics, nor is it album for 'Sieg Heil Sammy' who lives down the road, but I would recommend this album for anyone who appreciates music with a message, music with the fire and punch of the seventies. If you appreciate Horslips, The Pogues and The Clash, this album is a must. Grab it, get drunk and invade your neighbouring farmer's land.