A stylistically diverse LP full of softly painted vignettes.
Many a fine band has fallen through the cracks of critical acclaim and failed to generate press coverage due to the eclectic nature of their music. It would be a shame if that happened to Grifter Kid and the Midnight Raiders. Music journalists, (myself included), are very often guilty of using pigeon-holes, genres and comparisons when trying to get across a sense of what a band or artist sounds like. And while there are comparisons to be made and genres to mention in describing Grifter Kid's latest long-player, its restless stylistic shape-shifting is what makes it such an enjoyable record.
I admit to not having heard Grifter Kid's previous three albums but The Receipts of Time brims over with intelligent, literate songwriting that draws on both personal memories and creative imaginings. Wedded to these vignettes is a pick-and-mix attitude to styles and a wealth of inspired instrumental flourishes. The album's attempt at different styles and moods could almost be seen as an experiment and exploration of one's identity. It's bit like Mr Ben, the '70s cartoon character who could try being a cowboy for an afternoon, or a Roman centurion or spaceman, while still being able to change back into his day suit in time to make it home for his tea.
While The Receipts of Time may borrow stylistically from America's rich musical heritage – there are moments of Coltrane-esque jazz swing, gut-bucket blues, and spoken word noir – it's an British record through and through. 'Wrestling, Darts, Snooker' is a nostalgic homage to a '70s/'80s childhood, the days of only three TV channels, and the tail-end of British monoculture. Elsewhere there are Brit-centric references to fish and chips, pellet guns and shopping malls. And only a band from these isles could title a song 'Gardening In My Suit'. If all that makes you think they're resurrecting the jingo-istic ghost of Brit-pop fear not. It's something far more subtle and nuanced.
So who, what, where and why are Grifter Kid and The Midnight Raiders? Karl Theobald may be more familiar to you as an actor, with TV roles in Plebs, Skins, Green Wing and most recently Danny Boyle's new film Yesterday. With such a successful acting and comedy career it's surprising he can find time to devote to music-making but thankfully he does. As leader and main songwriter/vocalist in the band I suppose that makes him Grifter Kid (a reference to the iconic kids bike perhaps?). The Midnight Raiders comprise of Theobald's longtime friend saxophonist Nigel Woolston, double bassist/vocalist Rowan Lambourne-Gibbs, pianist Russell Marsh, and drummer Dan Hale. The album also features guest appearances from Sam Beer (guitar), Gerardo Marrone (bass) and Keiron Phelan (flute). As consummate a group of players as you're likely to find, equally at ease whether improvising over a series of ninth and thirteenth jazz chords, having a decent stab at reggae, or impersonating a piano lounge bar-band. An under-the-radar release it may be but one that sets the bar high.
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