JOE TILSTON Tightrope (Our Records OUR001)

TightropeThe bass player from punk/ska band Random Hand makes a solo album and it’s reviewed on Oh yes, definitely.

Joe Tilston (that bass player) released Tightrope early in November and it’s folk-ish…punk-ish… wave-ish…. ballad-ish…..All kinds of ‘ish’ really, except in one respect. It’s a glorious album. No ‘ish’. No hesitation is saying how much I’ve played it and keep playing it.

‘Minutes To Midnight’ is bang up to date with an eco-clock for a world that is burning, a song which opens with gentle folk picking and a delicate vocal and then builds to a heavy rhythm section rock feel and a stark ending.

By contrast ‘Evergreen’ somehow manages to remind me of Nick Drake – despite a much deeper vocal and the complete lack of any floaty arrangement; the song is carried almost completely by Tilston’s vocal and an acoustic guitar.

While the final track, ‘Walking On Walls’ could also be played in any folk club in the back bar of a pub, elsewhere the album takes the folk heritage and raises it a notch or two – building into an insistent band arrangement, occasional scuzzy guitar or pounded drums adding to the don’t-mess-with-me feel of the music.

And everywhere is Tilston’s vocal, never less than insisting that you listen to him, but never shouting – the punk rage brought under control. Generally, you feel it might break out at any time, except, perhaps, on ‘To Continue Press Start’, where he engages in a delicate double act (part female backing vocal, part call and response duet) that displays an additional emotional vocal range.

Interestingly, Tilston’s web presence references a gig in Leeds on December 5th. If seeing Tilston live is beginning to become a possibility again, that feels like an event to look out for.

Overall, then, this is a splendid album. Several of the songs develop into tracks with the energy of the West Yorkshire post-punk scene that kicked off in the time of Gang Of Four and The Mekons; across the album the influence of a childhood brought up in the folk tradition of parents Maggie Boyle and Steve Tilston can be heard. It’s a rather nice fusion.

It would be remiss not to mention the dedication on the sleeve, simply stating: “For Maggie”.

Mike Wistow

Artist’s website:

‘Minutes To Midnight’ – official video:

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