In the above photo we see impeccable form from Robin Grey as he distracts a pesky dog intent on peeing on his guitar. Note the seemingly casual display of the wooden mirror frame as he interposes his body between the dog and its target of delicious, unsullied sculpted wood and strings. Will the dog take the bait and settle for micturating on the mirror frame, thus creating a work worthy of Duchamp, or will he shimmy past the folkster's crumpled trousers and play his own tune on the acoustic? Let's find out.
Only The Missile is a 10-track album that will appeal to lovers of Leonard Cohen, folk music, introspection, pointed lyrics and open hearts. If you're stuck in a factory, office or general urban sprawl, listening to it will feel like you're warming your feet in front of a peat fire while sipping
huge vats of Guinness the beverage of your choice. If you're stuck in open country, call the emergency services.
Hackney (East London, guv) resident Grey has filled his marvellous outing, released on modifythevan netlabel, with all sorts of familiar instruments that will enable him to play on when the electricity runs out: acoustic guitar (minus dog), banjo, ukelele, mandolin, double bass, organ and some tasteful percussion. That list will give you some idea of his sonic universe, although it doesn't hint at how the album's transparent mix warms the listener's ears while giving centre stage to the understated vocals. Nor will that list hint at how Robin Grey can be feisty as well as fluffy. For instance, The Last Time I Saw David, an unflinching tale about overcoming religious hypocrisy to reach an atheistic/agnostic state of mind, ensures that Robin will not be booking a gig in America's Bible Belt any time soon. It's refreshing to hear a heartfelt song that isn't all: "I wuv 'oo; 'oo wuv me."
Then there's the soothing lullaby of The Finchley Waltz (play it to any baby and watch them drop off), a quintessentially English response to the terrorist bombings in London on 7/7:
I daydreamed for hours in the traffic jam
As the good guys and the bad guys stopped play
There's more lyrical puckishness in Women, where the words "women" and "money" are used in place of what one imagines to be an extremely rude word. Women themselves might want to note that the entire song is a perfect encapsulation of the male mind. To digress: imagine Women remixed as a hip-hop track. Catchy, non?
Our besuited protagonist admits that he's still finding his voice (which is mostly right on the money), and I think that's evident in Every Waking Hour, where the vocals sound a little strained.
As I've found it impossible, despite much pleading and wringing of hands, to extract a single mp3 from the album's listing on Jamendo (this blog hangs by a thread most of the time - I think the internet is witchcraft), you lot out there get the chance to use Jamendo's dinky media player. I could recommend any track, but I'll be unoriginal and suggest the opener These Days, an uptempo mandolin and banjo-laden number with a paradoxically slow but optimistic chorus that will get you singing in the bath and, if you've suffered because of the credit crunch, because you've taken a bath.*
The title track is a toe-tapper with some wailing harmonica - do harmonicas ever do anything else but wail? - and Your Man is another in a seemingly endless supply of huggable love songs. Swan Song and Five (featuring some very welcome ethnic percussion - bongos, tablas, that sort of thing) bring things to a dreamy close - they're the aural equivalent of a favourite jumper.
Goodness, what a lovely album. It never ceases to amaze me at what talent is lurking in the darker corners of the net - though in this case I must whistle innocently and hide my blushes by thanking the scrumptious Free Albums Galore for recommending Only The Missile months and months ago. (CTW's motto: "Last with the first.") I urge the lumpen but sexually attractive mass of CTW readers to visit FAG, a wonderful asset to the internet, let alone the netaudio community.
Only The Missile is available for free from Jamendo, but you can also buy the mp3s at iTunes and the CD from Robin Grey's website. Please think about sending him a little cash, or, failing that, bake him a cake. He likes cake. A lot. Finally, if I may venture a little advice to Mr Grey: tuck your shirt in, young man. This is the internet - we have standards.
Maybe it's all that cake.
Robingrey.com (for bags of downloads, lyrics, interviews, photos, etc.. Exemplary.)
*High-falutin' financial terminology. Thank goodness that banks paid stratospherically high salaries so as to "attract the talent". Just think what might have happened if greedy idiots had been in charge of the markets instead...