This is a band making a very welcome return to the fray with The Wild River, a 10-track album (recorded in Andalusia) that’s a sweet blend of pop, soul, funk and rock. The Blow Monkeys, a band that made its name in the Eighties, are back with their fifth album since reforming in 2008, with the evergreen Dr Robert out front on guitar, Mick Anker on bass, Crispin Taylor (ex Galliano) behind the drums and Neville Henry on saxophone.
Robert describes it as “a return to our soul roots”. The Blow Monkeys were formed in 1981, but it wasn’t until 1986 and their first hit ‘Digging Your Scene’, that, says Robert, “everything changed for us, because it was a hit here and in America”. They had what it takes back then and still do, the opening track – ‘Crying For The Moon’ – finding the band doing what it wants while pleasing its fans. It’s a happy union of desires with Robert’s voice as youthful as ever. It’s a deliciously textured production that seeps into ‘What In The World’ which, with swirling strings and a Hammond organ (Mick Talbot), becomes a clean canvas perfumed with early ’70s Curtis.
But with all elements working together for a modern sound that doesn’t knowingly hark back to any particular decade, the stand out track, ‘On The Wings Of The Morning’, begins with a sax and flute, then grows loud and clear with brushes and a snare and the clever use of a melancholic string section. ‘Landslide Comin” finds Robert in political mode, the song serving as a rallying call for all of us who dread a Jacob Rees-Mogg premiership as we would a cactus enema. Robert’s lyricism throughout is effortlessly imagined, a song like ‘Gods Gift’ one of spiritual uplift. It’s funky and restorative, as is ‘An Act of Faith’ with its roaring hi-hat, tempo change and brass section. It is Robert’s ability to make a song sound wholly contemporaneous and never overtly derivative that sets his writing apart from the crowd. And the band plays with a loose abandon on ‘Nothing To Write Home About’, a playing that is borne of many years together.
And therein lies the secret of a band’s successful career in music: that is, somehow ensure you always love music while never stealing from it, abusing it or ignoring it. The Blow Monkeys respect their craft and understand only too well that when your hair is greyer than it once was but your heart remains full, then your muse will always be there next to you as you fall asleep.
The Wild River is released on 6 October on Monks Road Records.