Once upon a time a band emerged from Wigan. They were raucous post-punk folk-rockers who named themselves after a make of pram – Tansads. They made some excellent albums, notably Shandyland and Up The Shirkers, but never achieved the success that was their due. Last year someone thought it would be a good idea for the band to reunite for a trio of concerts to celebrate their twentieth anniversary. If you missed them it’s too late to be sorry. Get the DVD although it doesn’t do the event justice.
After the reunions some of them thought it would be a great idea to continue and so Merry Hell was unleashed. At the heart of the band are former Tansads Andrew, Bob and John Kettle, Phill Knight, Tim Howard and Lee Goulding. John’s wife Virginia steps into Janet Anderton’s shoes and new bassist Andrew Dawson completes the line-up.
To demonstrate the continuity of spirit that drove Tansads the album opens with ‘Drunken Serenade’ which closed the final Tansads’ album and to emphasise this further the final track is one of their oldest songs, ‘Pendle Hill’. Six of the dozen new songs are by Virginia, including the title track, and the style of the set ranges from the gentle quirkiness of ‘The Butcher & The Vegan’ via the beautiful ‘Rosanna’s Song’ to ‘Over The Border’, the superb ‘The War Between Ourselves’ and the anger of ‘The Crooked Man’.
An eight-piece band can make a big noise but the production by John Kettle is perfectly judged: every thing is clear but the rough edges haven’t been entirely smoothed away. You can just imagine how they will sound live. Andrew’s buzz-saw vocals are sweetened by Virginia and Tim but Virginia is equally capable of belting out a lyric and sweetly singing an acoustic song. It’s a shame that the lyrics aren’t included but Blink…And You Miss It is one of my five star albums of the year. Dai Jeffries
Artist Web Link: www.merryhell.co.uk