A couple of years ago, just after Christmas, I met up with Dave Goggin in the snug of The Nag’s Head, Rochester. He was one of my interview victims during the preparation of my book.
Over a pint of Guinness (for him) and a bottle of Bulmers (for me) we talked about various things musical: Brigadier Ambrose’s fast rise to cult success, a brush with death en route to the Latitude Festival and his then new project, Vlks.
I was particularly keen to meet the Brigadier Ambrose front man. Their only album, Fuzzo, is one of my favourites: not a favourite out of the Medway section of my music collect; favourites, full stop. It’s a kaleidoscope of trippy sounds and non-sequiturs. It’s funny, it’s clever and it’s perfect indie pop.
During our meeting, Goggin explained how he was more influenced by Reeves and Mortimer than any songwriters. ‘I think comedy has actually influenced me much more than music,’ he said:
‘Like, if you were to listen to some of the songs of Reeves and Mortimer from like the mid-90s: The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer. They used to open each show with a big song. And it would be a really silly song about: ‘Oh, I wish I was working class.’ They’re really silly songs. I think they’re a bigger influence on anything I’ve done than any real esteemed musicians, I suspect. But that’s what keeps it fun. You can’t take it too seriously, can you?’
It makes perfect sense. While many other bands will refer to other bands as influences – and the more earnest might point to artwork or literature for their muses, it’s entirely logical that Goggin would refer to a pair the nation’s finest purveyors of nonsense.
Now, some five years after their last release, Brigadier Ambrose are back. And the Reeves and Mortimer silliness is back too.
Where previous songs have dwelt upon the urgent need to buy some more Lenor or analysing exactly what kind of rocks assailants are throwing at our here (“I’m fairly certain they’re igneous”), ‘Jambon Dandy’ concerns itself with pork products (“it needs piccalilli/where do you get yours?”) and, of course, the “temporary traffic lights at the Catford Gyratory” which “ruin my bus ride home”. There’s also the suggestion that “you and I should wrestle bison to the floor/like the men we are”.
It’s all gleeful silliness at its most spectacularly off the wall. And it’s all delivered against a typically Brigadier Ambrosian backdrop of urgent rhythms, swirling keyboards and ever so slightly snarly vocals. The result is a mixture of late 60s psychedelia meets early 90s indie making for a song which can happily sit alongside the likes of ‘Police’ and ‘Mrs Peel, We’re Needed’ from their back catalogue.
Welcome back, Brigadier Ambrose. Nice to see you again.
Find out more about Brigadier Ambrose (and plenty of other Medway bands and artists) in my book, Do It Yourself: a History of Music in Medway available to buy now.
Related articles from the archive:
Brigadier Ambrose – Myspace content review (21/09/08)
Brigadier Ambrose – Fuzzo review (09/01/10)