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(2020 - Tin Angel Records - UK)
Each recording by Alex Rex is anyone's guess as to what rabbit will be pulled out of the hat. The mixtures of folk, blues, gospel, stage, and dramatics among other styles keeps the listener braced for the unexpected, or tricks their senses as the next tune approaches. A revolving sound of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Roxy Music, Kevin Ayers, Dr John, Leonard Cohen, Jerry Lee Lewis, with touches of Tom Waits, The Sensational Alex Harvey, occasional small mountain town church choir, and of course some residue of his former band Trembling Bells (minus the lead female vocals). One minute of twist and shout, groove to church organ, jumps from classic rock in the mode ranging from Steppenwolf, The Waterboys (Mike Scott), and Arthur Brown, to folky depths reminding of Roy Harper, then to the grit of country legends like John Prine. And don't forget the Salvation Army band spirit that may pop up. Perhaps the album is less schizophrenic than the previous releases, or than all the references I have suggested here. But it does contain the same dizzy journey that makes Alex Rex so addictive, inviting and ultimately exciting.
This is only the third album by the band, however Alex Neilson has been either a workaholic or a very prolific musician, or both. His involvement seems endless in one music act after another. 'Andromeda' has members Rory Haye (who played on Trembling Bells - 'Dungeness' album and on the 10 inch 'The Auld Triangle' release) on bass, electric guitar, piano, acoustic guitar, & vocals / Audrey Bizouerne (who did the cover artwork and photography) on bass, & vocals / Richie Merchant on cornet & trumpet / Lavinia Blackwall (did split CD with Directing Hand 'What Put The Blood' where she was acquainted with Alex and also guested on Trembling Bells. She also did artwork and performed vocals, organ, glockenspiel, and autoharp, for vinyl only release by A cappella traditional music group Crying Lion, who features Alex Neilson too.) on piano & vocals / Alasdair C. Mitchell and Paddy Coyle on electric guitar / Jill O'Sullivan on electric guitar, violin, and vocals / Chris Geddes on Hammond organ / Dave McGowan and Tim Davidson (3) on pedal steel guitar / Georgia Seddon on piano, organ, and vocals / Marco Rea on slide guitar, and vocals / Ross McCrae (played on Crying Lion with Alex and Lavinia) on trombone / Ailbhe Nic Oireachtaigh on viola / Amanda Nizic, Debbie Armour, & Shirley Collins on vocals / and Mr Alex Neilson (under the moniker here sa Alex Rex) on lead vocals, drums, and piano. The choir is Glad Café Kid’s Choir. Tom Chick did inner sleeve and back cover photos. The album was recorded by Luigi Pasquini. I am certain I left out other details about each artist but too much ground to cover and more explorations for the reader who is curious and interested enough.
The raw beauty of this band is how many sources they tap into and present in their own special way. There is an ominous title called 'Funeral Music For Alex Rex' which instantly brings fear to fans. It begs the answer to the obvious question; is this the last album from the band? For all that is holy and good I hope not. In fact there are many lyrics throughout that could suggest either an end or at least a change. But in retrospect, the previous releases have a gamut of topics that roam the land of depression, sadness, doubt, and other often cryptic poetic verse. This is just part of the fantastic universe of Alex Rex.
From the intro of narration by Shirley Collins to the industrial commentary on 'I'm Not Hurting No More' (which may require the official censorship sticker for language), which features some great distorted guitar the likes of what Mike Oldfield did on Kevin Ayer's 'Song From The Bottom Of A Well' (from ' Whatevershebringswesing' - 1972), the seriousness of atmosphere leaves no doubt as to the depth that intends to be explored. The scope of music one can absorb on 'Andromeda' is amazing. Alex is quite a bit more unorthodox, anti-commercial, and sociably induced than most of the comparisons given, except Arthur Brown. Much less "marketable" but that is good for us. All I can suggest to newbies is to take a comfortable seat, buckle in, and be prepared to be dazzled with a formula like you've never heard before. The last lyrics are 'Nothing can heal or destroy you better than time'. Such prophetic words. A GIANT RECOMMENDATION!
©Reviewed by Lee Henderson 4 - 18 - 2020
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