Brigadier Ambrose are no strangers to the bright lights of festivals and appearances on national radio. Following their recent appearance on BBC Kent Introducing, online contributor Stephen Morris takes a peep beneath the pips of Brigadier Ambrose’s shoulder.
The military has always held a fascination for a certain kind of band. Most famously The Beatles became Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band for the duration of an album.
More recently, The Libertines borrowed the idea of the uniforms for some photo shoots. Elsewhere, we’ve also had Captain Beefheart and a soldier of equal ranking called Captain Sensible.
The Village Green Preservation Society Mk II:
Now we have another regimentally themed band to add to the list: Brigadier Ambrose. The band are as English as a cup of tea, fish and chips and cricket on the village green.
They follow in the footsteps of The Kinks, The Jam, Madness, Blur and the Kaiser Chiefs with songs about the mundanities of Sunday afternoons, speeding tickets and, oddly, London flatulence.
Add to this fantasies about Emma Peel and you have a set of songs that could only come from a musical genre that is forever Brit Pop.
Deep and Meaningful:
There is depth to the lyrics too. Below the seductive chaos of the music and snarling vocals (think Johnny Rotten channelled through Damon Albarn), lie observations about inappropriate sentencing and fear of the rise of racism, criticism of celebrity culture (“You’re not a celebrity because you haven’t a achieved a single bloody thing”) and sideswipes at lad mags.
Listening to these songs takes the listener back to the mid 90s. “Ordnance” could have been written by Echobelly or Blur circa “Modern Life is Rubbish”. Meanwhile “Police” and “How Popular are You?” indulge in the 90s habit of borrowing heavily from 60s band’s styles, particularly The Kinks and The Small Faces.
The band’s music is filled with meandering jazz organs and chugging guitars while the estuarine vocals muster up a sense of silliness and poignancy in equal measure. It’s a chaotic, gloriously psychedelic sound last heard from The Smoke and The Crazy World of Arthur Brown.
The ace in the Brigadier’s pack must be “Mrs Peel We’re Needed”. The song is one of the most perfectly formed pop songs that you could hope to hear.
It’s not just the music that looks back to the 60s – the lyrics match the music with a sense of nostalgia for past TV heroes: “I wish I was John Steed while you could be my Emma Peel” runs the chorus. It’s Catatonia’s “Mulder and Scully” dragged both forwards into the 21st Century and backwards three decades.
From its non sequitur opening of “I’ve always thought that Tuesdays were as pointless as February” you know that there’s going to be something special about this song – and it doesn’t disappoint. It can’t disappoint.
Music of the Gods:
Brigadier Ambrose are like no other band around at the moment. While all around them are stripping down their sounds to wiry post punkery, this band are determined to fill our ears – perhaps even fill them to overflowing – with musical goodies: Crazy organ solos, bizarre one liners (“I wish I could grow a beard so that I can scratch it to look bemused”) and serious messages over silly tunes are all there in spades.
They may claim that they don’t care how popular they are, but Brigadier Ambrose deserve to be just that: very popular indeed.
First published on BBC Kent Introducing’s Myspace page: 21/09/08