Brigadier Ambrose have just released their album, Fuzzo – and Stephen Morris hasn’t stopped listening to it…
It’s difficult to know where to start when writing about Brigadier Ambrose. The new album, Fuzzo is filled with so many different strands and ideas that it takes many listens before all the details can sink in.
The music is a celebration of Englishness. There is a heavy 60s pcychadelic influence here, but there are also musical references here stretching between the innuendo of the music hall and the 90s Brit pop of Blur, Echobelly and Elastica. It’s a rich sound with fairground organs and Theramins sitting comfortably alongside the more traditional fair of guitars and drums.
There’s also a heavy influence of waltz time on the record – a time signature usually eschewed by most of Brigadier Ambrose’s contemporaries in favour of the straight-forward (and more boring) 4-4. The result is an album whose music shows as great a love for invention and innovation as The Beatles displayed in Sgt Pepper….
Meanwhile the lyrics found on the songs are as wide ranging as the music that accompanies them. During the course of a single song (“Yours, Danube Song”), the scatological thoughts of Brigadier Ambrose range from unwanted photos appearing on the internet through to needing to de-frost the fridge, via meditations on Playmobil figures and the perceived over-use of respectful silences at football matches.
Streams of Consciousness:
Brigadier Ambrose’s lyrics are less like complete songs in the traditional sense than a collection of non- sequiturs. This is stream of consciousness song writing: the kind of thing you might find coming from Half Man Half Biscuit or Art Brut.
There’s a clear love of words within the lyrics that would make Nigel Blackwell proud. It’s not that often that you’ll find a lyric like: “Stay out of my path/it’s got pot holes and adverse camber”. Similarly there’s something bewilderingly endearing about these lines from “The Cat Won’t Leave the Bag”: “I put my head down to avoid the throwing of rocks/I’m not sure why they do it/but I’m fairly certain they’re igneous”.
The same song features observations about how people address each other: “Stop spelling honey like it’s similar to runny/perhaps all curds and preserves should be used as terms of affection”. Perfect!
A Trip to the Med(way):
A major theme of the songs found on Fuzzo is that of the Medway Towns and Chatham in particular. The Medway Towns are quite often the victims of sneering from their Kentish neighbours. Thanks to the advent of the Chav, the Chatham Average and his or her home town has now become a nationwide figure of fun.
It’s a subject that has been picked up by local singers and songwriters. Elsewhere on these pages you will find my review of Antmonkey‘s songs. The title of his “Revenge on the Medway Towns” pretty much says it all.
Brigadier Ambrose’s view of Medway is slightly more ambiguous. True, album opener “Mind Reel” features the line “Medway is a farce”, and later songs consider the “whores on the New Road” and the fact that a taxi fare of “Three pound eighty is good value to avoid the abuse” in “The Battle of Ordnance Street”, but by the time we reach “Moon and River” the bile lessens slightly.
Chatham High Street may well be “all bloated and impassable/….you fight for the right to move through pushchairs and the tattoos and the glares”, but it is still, nevertheless, “home”- and a home that they seem to be perversely proud of – and that leaves the Brigadier Ambrose boys just a little bit confused.
For all its experimentalism with sounds and musical styles, Fuzzo is very much grounded in the mundanity of everyday life. “Gandhi in a Dressing Gown” is a case in point. It opens with the lines: “Do you know what will greet me when I am home?/Detol, mildrew and mould remover”.
While Kent bands like Motion Picture Soundtrack may prefer to dwell on the loftier philosophical pursuits of life, the universe and everything, you can always rely on Brigadier Ambrose to bring you back to earth with a huge bump.
There is something utterly engaging about a band who can sing about everyday things in an interesting way. You don’t need to have ever visited Chatham Station to know what David Goggins is singing about in “The Battle of Ordnance Street”.
These are everyday songs for the everyman and woman. Blur did it, The Stereophonics did it once upon a time and Pulp thrived on it. Now, with Brigadier Ambrose taken up the baton, songs about boredom and the “sink backing up again” are in safe hands. Excellent stuff.
Brigadier Ambrose’s Fuzzo is now available to download. A physical release is due in January 2010.
First published on the BBC Kent Introducing Myspace page: 09/01/10