Album Review: The Urban Voodoo Machine – “In Black ‘n’ Red”
In a weird way I’m getting a sense of deja vu here. Back in April, I reviewed the Eureka Machines’ second album (still pretty much the high water mark for new releases in 2011 in this reviewer’s humble opinion) and my initial thought was “Okay, how are they gonna follow up something that sounded as utterly different as their debut did?” Answer – easy, take everything that was great about that debut, add in some cool new elements which don’t lose sight of what made them so great in the first place and Robert’s a relative – fantastic album.
The same could be said of the Urban Voodoo Machine. When Paul-Ronney Angel and his crew first blasted out of the wilderness of Dalston with their debut “Bourbon Soaked Gypsy Blues Bop ‘n’ Stroll” a little under three years ago, it sounded like absolutely nothing else – a folk-punk-rock rave-up which sounded like a missing link between the Pogues, the Dogs D’Amour and Gogol Bordello. Fantastic stuff…but again the question reared its head when “In Black ‘n’ Red” turned up at PRHQ – how on earth do you follow something like that?
Well, with ease if this is anything to go by – the Voodoos have notched up a brace of great albums with all the ease of a Hartlepool United striker blasting two goals past a clueless Darlington defence. As with the Eureka Machines earlier this year, the key is that they’ve kept all the best parts of their debut intact while adding some new elements on top which sit easily with the old stuff.
It kicks in in style with the fast-paced “Go East” which must surely be a candidate for the next single from here – the band fair barrel along with this polka-themed rave-up as Angel growls “Go east young man/There ain’t no room for you out west…” Sure, it’s unmistakably the Voodoos but it’s the sound of a band flying high on confidence and ready to take on the world. “Cheers For The Tears” meanwhile is a fine slice of Clash-style self-mythologising written about erroneous rumours of Angel’s death from drowning in the Camden canal last year while “SOS (Sink Or Swim)” details the story of a night out being initiated into the way of the Voodoos – a process that’s evidently not for the faint of heart – and is similarly fine swaggering stuff.
The first curveball comes though with “I’d Rather You Shot Me Down”, a highlight of the group’s live set last time I saw ’em and it sounds just as good on record with its mournful spaghetti western-meets-ghost town atmospherics. Definitely one of the album’s high points.
It’s this balance between the fired up punk Voodoos as evidenced on “Off To Rehab” and “Run For Your Money” and the more reflective side to them as shown on the post-break up lament “Lightning From A Blue Sky” and the late night musings of “Alone In The City” which makes “In Black ‘n’ Red” genuinely feel a bit special – it’s a varied mix but all the elements sit comfortably next to each other. And nowhere is that more in evidence than in the closing one two of the slow-building anger of “Heroin (Put My Brothers In The Ground)”, a furious anti-drug tirade and former single “Goodbye To Another Year” which takes the context of a full twelve months’ worth of disappointment and still manages to come out sounding like the ultimate NYE East European party tune.
So yeah, a mighty fine album and definitely one you should consider owning. Rest assured that this one will definitely be up there in the top albums of 2011.