New Life Rising by Tony Green and His New Machine
Reviewed by Michael Anderson
(My comments in brackets)
New Life Rising .
A rich acoustic guitar is the basis for this catchy opener, with supporting keyboards lending the song an ethereal sound. I like the juxtaposition of acoustic guitar and synth, something you
don't tend to hear often. A catchy, folk-rock number with a "futuristic" bent and a strong start to the album.
(The synth is played my Michael himself, recorded during my last visit to him in Cleethorpes. The is a simple number
about the ‘world of leisure’ we were promised technology would bring to us in the future when I was a child, and the actual world of ever harder work that we find ourselves living in now that the future has arrived. Politics with a small ‘p’.)
2) It’s Through the Dirt That Flowers Grow
Acoustic guitar is to the fore again, with the song being very much in
Tony’s very unique personal storytelling style dating back to the early 1980s. This is a definite grower, becoming hummable after a few listens. Wry humour abounds, especially with such ruminations as the ‘Humber-sized River quantities of booze
being planned to wet the new baby's head.
(A straight telling of the story of the day of my birth, as pieced together from family legend and conversation)
Antwan Moonbeam Lives.
A short but sweet reminder of Tony’s first musical inclinations. I arrived on the scene after Antwan, but not much by today's standards, when time flies at an ever accelerating
tempo. A nice tune well played, with strong bass coming through delicate guitar, supporting vocals and keyboards.
(In the mid-‘70’s my friend Neil Jenkinson, his sister Elaine, and myself had an imaginary band called Moonshine.
We each adopted a fake ‘stage’ name. Neil and Elaine somewhat un-imaginatively chose ‘Johnny Starr’ and ‘Peggy Sue.’ I chose Antwan Moonbeam, ‘Antwan’ being the French name I was given in French lessons at school,
and ‘Moonbeam’ being obviously influenced by the then fashionable Glam Rock names like ‘Stardust’ and, err, ‘Glitter.’ The song is really about how that little would be rock star inside of me never quite went away.)
4) Home Movies.
A powerful opening and a sparse early arrangement leads into a fuller sound incorporating piano and keyboards.
Another catchy chorus with verses reflecting on life in the 1960s and '70s. I can imagine a video of this featuring those old family cine films.
(Yes, based on my dad’s old Super 8 silent Home Movies. These were digitally
preserved by my brother, and can be found with a simple ‘Charlton Street, Grimsby search on youtube. Setting this song to a snippet of those movies is definitely a project I’d like to complete)
Bob the Dog.
A legend in his own bath time, Bob the Dog's tale is told via an almost Syd Barrett style Pink Floyd arrangement. I'm either hearing things or there is the sound of a dog howling on the choruses,
though on reflection that's maybe keyboards filtering through. Any re-recording will have to have dog howls.
(With apologies to Ringo the Budgie, Bob is my favourite all time pet, and was with me from approximately the age of ten to twenty
three. Actually, there is only acoustic guitar, acoustic slide, percussion, drone acoustic bass and vocals on this one)
6) Herbert the Ghost.
I like the cartoony horror feel of this, almost like the soundtrack for a quirky ghost film. I can definitely imagine this playing over the closing credits of a horror feature. A tongue in cheek and jaunty number with strong piano
which adds nicely to the album.
(I’ve written about ‘Herbert’, my Aunty Joan’s ghost, in prose form in the blog section of this website. The ‘Grandfather’s Clock section of the song refers to my Granddad
Thompson’s old clock, which does indeed now belong to my sister, and really did have a reputation for stopping at the time that family members died. One day this clock will be mine; all mine. It hasn’t worked for years, but I will get it going.
No doubt it will stop forever as I breathe my last…)
7) Trevor’s Dad.
One of the highlights of the album
so far, with superb singing (I love the variety of the harmonies and backing vocals) and the guitar driving an inspired arrangement. A laid back, but at times almost jaunty feel. Definitely a worthy inclusion on any "Best of" TG albums that might surface.
(One of my ‘dark themes hidden behind a catchy tune’ songs, the template of which is Lennon’s ‘Crippled Inside.’ Trevor was my first best friend. His dad gassed himself when we were maybe six years old: ‘I
don’t think I’d ever heard the word suicide/when my mam told me that Trevor’s dad had died/With his heart full of sorrow/and his lungs full of gas/that’s the kind of thing that sticks in the mind/of a young lad.’ The event actually
had quite a traumatic effect on me, but I’ll save that for my therapist, when I can afford one. I wonder what happened to Trevor? It can’t have been easy for him.
More superb guitar picking on an album that grows with each listen. Excellent lyrics and singing, and another tune that would be a "must" on any future compilation of Ton’s best work.
Great tune superbly played and sung. Possibly my favourite so far.
(In the summer of ’76 my friend Neil seemed to stay over at mine every night. We’d watch the Montreal Olympics whilst playing speed chess between events.
These are my happiest memories of Neil who died a couple of years ago, well over thirty years after my last contact with him. We both really fancied Romanian Gymnast Nadia Comaneci, who at fourteen was the same age as us: ‘Grace and beauty/a perfect
9) Ethel’s House.
A slightly sinister and haunting though, paradoxically, almost sing-along song
about the kind of "mad old person" that every kid seemed to know back in the day. Eccentric old people with dubious motivations seem to be in short supply these days. I like the strident, pounding bass and the strong singing.
was an old woman on the Yarborough Estate where I grew up. She lived alone, but her house was apparently always full of teenagers and children. I only actually went a couple of times, and got up to no more than smoking the odd Embassy Number Six and snogging
Elaine given half a chance. It was all probably pretty harmless, but no doubt there’d be Social Services involvement nowadays)
Simpler times. Families didn't have mega cheap booze breaks to the Continent in those days, and went together for a jolly old time of sun, sea, ice creams and "flat lemonade." A nicely evocative
sing-along song which nods backwards in the direction of simple family values and activities.
(Week long Caravan holidays in Humberston were the only family holidays we could afford in the ‘70’s, but they provide many happy
memories, including ‘Listening to the pitta-patta rain on the roof’ as I played ‘Cards by candlelight with my mam.’)
Another major album highlight. This one has a great Lennon white album sound to me, evoking Bungalow Bill and other such off-kilter gems. Great tune, fine, layered vocals, simple keyboards, catchy
hooks, well played guitar... another definite album highlight, and maybe the best of the lot. One of Tony’s best recordings ever.
(Kind words, especially as I nearly omitted this from the album at the last minute. Onion Man
was a little metal man that had apparently one graced a clock, striking the chimes, maybe even THE clock. I kept him with me from being a small child, until throwing him into the River Humber when walking across the Humber Bridge with my wife and sons a few
years ago. It was kind of a magical ‘cleansing of the past’ ritual.)
I'm reminded of the Beatles again. Another top notch recording, with stellar guitar amongst Tony’s best ever. Really good singing too. A melancholy tune with positive memories. Again,
it's another one of Tony’s best songs of recent years.
(Ex Schoolboys was just a phrase that Michael coined not long after we left school for good. The song is about that first summer of being free of teachers and lessons, and not
yet thrust into the world of work. Happy day ‘In the park/Drinking QC.)
New Life Rising (Reprise)
A jolly, simple reprise with nicely accentuated synth and a jovial march feel. I love the sound effects and piano at the end.
(It is what Michael says it
is. A nice reprise is always good for attempting to manufacture that ‘classic album’ feel. The phrase ‘New Life is Rising from the Marsh refers to the West Marsh estate in Grimsby where my family seem to have lived from the 1870’s onwards.
One of my sisters is still there, though we left as a family when our house was demolished in 1969, outside toilet and all.)
Welcome to the Childhood that Never Ends.
Another jaunty number as the album reaches its close. I can imagine young kids marching to this with broom handles over their shoulders representing rifles. Strong
singing and a memorable tune lead us to the album's finale.
(It’s about never quite reaching the state of adulthood that you imagine the adults around you have somehow attained when you are a child. ‘Perhaps that’s the
way it should be/It certainly seems like that to me.’
An unpretentious and fun blast of noise to end with.
(My youngest son banging away on the organ, representing the passing of the baton of childhood from one generation to another. ‘Finished daddy/OK.’)
To conclude, an entertaining and often inspired, story driven album, which stands at least the equal of Wheels on a Suitcase. Which is better? It’s hard to say, it's such a subjective question. Personally,
I feel this is the more complete experience, but then I feel Suitcase is excellent as well. It's like trying to decide whether Highway 61 is better than Blonde on Blonde.
(Blonde on Blonde is better than Highway 61)
done, TG! Another fine addition to the Tony Green canon!