THE SLAMBOVIAN CIRCUS OF DREAMS – A Very Unusual Head (Talking Elephant TECD474)

A Very Unusual HeadThis is an album we’ve waited a long time for. I first heard of A Very Unusual Head a couple of tours ago – in fact, the Slambovians played the title track and, I think, ‘Solve It All Dãlí’ on that trip. It was suggested that the record would appear “next year” but it didn’t – in fact, I’m surprised that it still has the same title and some of the intended tracks after all this time. There have been changes, of course. The core of the Slambovian cultural mission remains three founder members: Joziah Longo, Tink Lloyd and Sharkey McEwan supported by Felipe Torres on drums, bassist Bob Torsello and some special guests.

The Grand Slambovians included some of their best rock’n’roll songs but this is more akin to the stunning Flapjacks album – a bit more acoustic and with attention-grabbing lyrics. They had me hooked with the opening track, ‘Beez (I Know Where The Beez Have Gone)’, an ecological song with just a hint of cynicism and a Dylanesque vibe. It isn’t a copy nor a pastiche but one of the Slambovians’ unofficial albums was a set of Dylan covers and that sort of thing rubs off. In fact, a lot of the record has a mid-sixties feeling – the second song, ‘Look Around’, follows the theme of the first.

‘Fi’ is one of those songs that definitely came from the ghosts. For ‘Fi’ read “if I” and it makes sense. The song features Kolson Pickard on cornet and Anthony Thistlethwaite on bass and saxophone. ‘Step Outta Time’ is back in Dylan territory – listen to the third verse if you’re in any doubt. It’s a protest song for the 21st century but deliberately echoes the concerns of fifty-some years ago and quotes some of the words that were used at the time.

‘Brilliantly, Brilliantly Dumb’ features Dar Williams and more Thistlethwaite sax and ought to be self-explanatory but I have a niggling feeling that there is another meaning that I’m not quite getting. The album’s title could refer to several of the characters Joziah has introduced into his songs like ‘Force Of Nature’, subtitled ‘Stephen Hawking’s Lament’ – a very unusual head indeed. ‘Halo’ and ‘Stand Under/Understand’ delve into Joziah’s philosophy – come back next year and I’ll tell you what I think they might be about. ‘Solve It All Dãlí’ concerns another very unusual head – its subject is obvious – but lyrically it links back to ‘Force Of Nature’.

‘Absolutely Beautiful Freakin’ Day’ is another weird one – sung from the point of view of someone who doesn’t want it to be beautiful – “why don’t you stop being cheerful, go away and leave me alone” is the essential message. I think I understand where he’s coming from. ‘The Neverwas’ is probably a comment on fake news and ‘Pluto’s Plight’ is a jokey song about the downgrading of our former outermost planet.

Almost at the end comes the title track – probably the best place for it as it is a warning to those with a most unusual head of the fate that likely awaits them and set to an oom-pah accompaniment. Is it a coincidence that it comes in at number 13? Probably not. Finally comes a moment of lightness as The Slambovian Circus Of Dreams say farewell with ‘Alligators’ as in “see ya later”. You have to smile.

A Very Unusual Head is only the Slambovians’ sixth studio album in twenty years, although there are more unofficial projects and you can still buy Slambovian coffee on-line. I won’t make grandiose claims about it being their best work but I can understand why it took them five years to make.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website:

‘Step Outta Time’ – live: