‘Heatwave In The Cold North’, The Star's track by track review of the new Reverend and the Makers album
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Heatwave In The Cold North.
The band’s seventh LP opens with the opening song of the album shares it’s name with the album’s title, Heatwave In The Cold North. A decidedly seductive affair, best described as a hazy sun-drenched Barry White-inspired soulful bop of a tune. It’s quite fitting that upon release it was also their biggest hit in over a decade, one which saw it being added to BBCs Radio 2’s B List and also named Record of the Week.
Opening with the line, ‘Lean up on me until you’re a little too familiar’, a familiar refrain from a drunken night out on the town. How many of us have been in that moment where you’re subject to the inebriated ramblings of someone you know, however much or little that may be, and it’s all just a little too much.
Sometimes we have to listen as others unload their problems on us, when completely unbeknownst to them we have plenty of our own to sift through first. A thoughtful treatise on not really having the energy or inkling to deal with other people’s problems, ‘when I don’t wanna hear your problems’. A synth-addled vibe that says exactly how so many of us feel at times.
A Letter To My 21 Year Old Self
If Carling Did a song about speaking to your younger self for an ad campaign it would probably do something along these lines. The Reverend (Jon) sings to his 21 year old self, warning him about the pitfalls associated with notions of fame, shame, abuse, self-blame, imposter syndrome and generally urging his younger self to be kinder to… well, himself.
A kind of lyrical well-being thought number that opens up on the struggles and travails that has led to insightful, frank, honest and pragmatic introspective The Reverend seems to evoke in the now.
Speaking on the band's recently released single, A Letter to my 21 Year Old Self. Jon had this to say:
“When I played the new album to my mates or my nearest and dearest they all picked this out as their favourite. Considering there’s songs like Problems and Heatwave on there is sort of testament to how good the song is really.”
“It’s kind of me looking back at my life and my career and owning some of the mistakes that I’ve made. I have done a lot of silly things and the concept seems to really appeal to people — the idea of writing to your younger self.”
26 Thousand Days On The Earth
Taking in 73-years of the average life, 26 Thousand Days On The Earth encapsulates a clear dislike of a person in lyrical form, underscored by a somewhat jaunty delivery that seems to be further emboldened by a reverb on the vocals… if only to punctuate the pervasive disdain for the intended subject, “who is definitely as dense as a neutron”. But with limited time, we can’t let those we dislike ruin it for us.
Jon gave a little more insight here:
“I’m just talking about somebody I don’t like very much, it just so happens that person is a politician. Now, no one would know it’s a politician from the lyrics of the song. They just know that I don’t like the person.
“I think you can be low-key political as well as explicitly political, I’ve kind of learnt that as I’ve got on”
Listen to the interview with The Reverend on the Chris Talks Music podcast, which you can currently subscribe to for free at: https://anchor.fm/chris-talks-music
A gently infused psychedelic soulful delivery punctuates this rather dreamy number, an ode to perhaps a drug-infused escapism as a means of leaving all of the world's problems behind.
Jon’s tendency to overthink things can sometimes cloud his thoughts and emotions, necessitating a release an escape however temporary that may be. Or at least that’s what I thought, I was too busy floating along in a dreamlike stupor to this aural trip. In short: It’s great.
I Hate It When You Lie
The hip-hop influences and bass undertones underpin this soon to be festival and live show singalong — or should that be collective chant?
An ode to hating pathological lying, I Hate It When You Lie is a dextrous undertaking of the protagonist urging the antagonist to just stop talking crap. Say it like it is, or say nowt at all… because, “I, I, I hate it when you lie”, hard agree on this one.
You Don’t Love Me
Things take a different and more sombre tone this time around as Jon croons “I tried my best to understand, how you can go from acting as if the world’s collapsing, back again like it’s no big deal”.
An undoubtedly introspective and emotive deep dive into the internal fears that he faces, as he sings aloud that, “You Don’t Love Me.”
“It’s a very vulnerable song, sort of me feeling anxious about my relationship”, a brave undertaking considering his close proximity to his better-half, Laura McClure who is a key element of the Reverend and the Makers collective.
Thankfully, she does (love him that is) and there’s no need to overthink in this case, but sometimes we do deconstruct things to great extent… for better or worse.
“There’s a lot of autobiographical stuff on this album, specifically related to my own relationship with my wife and my very close friends.”
If there’s one thing you could say about the album up to this point, and further on but we’ll get to that, is that it’s certainly an eclectic and multi-directional artistic endeavour. A point that Jon was keen to get across:
“I guess the eclectic elements of the album were a conscious thing. We said ‘should we make nine Heatwaves?’, well no because that kind of stuff would get boring. There are influences like in the track Overthinking, where I was listening to the likes of Fela Kuti.
“I consciously try to keep a sort of eclecticism to what I’m doing, so that each track then inhabits its own personality and has its own character.”
“Exception is sort of a bossanova, Brazilian music kind of style” says Jon, and perhaps he’s onto something as he opines, ‘what’s the matter with you? You never wanna discuss anything difficult”. A pointed question that owes just as much to the confusion at my kitchen-situated salsa-esque dancing, as it does to the conversation being had. In short it’s an absolute vibe, a song destined to be played in the heat of the summer sun as much as it could help warm you up on a cold winter’s day.
“Just last year, I went overland to Kitwe in Zambia from Sheffield. Travelling through Africa and Europe, obviously I’ve travelled in Africa a lot with Damon Albarn and Africa Express.”
Jon also played in the first Africa Express gig at Glastonbury, an experience that led to him inviting the n'goni player Bassekou Kouyate to play on one of his albums.
Living Without You
Album closer, Living Without You, muses aloud “I don’t know if you’d have noticed, I was never gonna throw it all.”
A love song of sorts about enduring, continuing… pondering packing it all in and what it would be like doing something else entirely. Is it an ode to his relationship with his family or his other family, his fans? “If that’s what you want then I guess that I’ve gotta go”.
But what comes next for the Reverend and the Makers? It’s best that Jon takes the baton here:
“I do think, ‘What’s the ceiling for somebody like me?’ Years ago, you’d have had one album and that would be it. And now I’m thinking, ‘I can do owt, can’t I? I’m still here’ and at that point you’re sort of just making it up as you go along.”
“It’s almost like you’re in deep space because there’s no precedent for it, look around there’s the Arctic Monkeys who are literally the biggest band in the bloody world. So they don’t count, they're not a frame of reference. I guess Richard Hawley a little bit, I look at what he’s achieved and I think ‘yeah, I can do that’. But equally, musically the palette is wide open and I can just do what I want and I’ve found like a freedom within that I never thought that I had.”
“Musically there’s a very big risk for bands who’ve been around a long time to get incredibly predictable.”
“What I did realise on this album, and I never really sort of realised that this was possible. You can write pop music in any genre, right?”
“Pop music is more of a state of mind where you are trying to make something that’s hooky, catchy and has a chorus. But you can be weird within that and sort of leftfield, you can be direct and straight with a piano, you can do whatever you want really. I wish I’d have known that when I was 21.”
Perhaps it’s in the liberation from the assumptions that define them that means we’re seeing quite possibly the best album yet from The Reverend? Undoubtedly, it will also be a question for the band's most arduous fans, as well as those they have managed to pick up along the way following the release of recent singles, High, Problems and A Letter To My 21 Year Old Self.
However, I’d say that it goes without saying that the Reverend and the Makers seventh LP shakes off any possible misconceptions of what pop music is or isn’t... with a growing ambition, uncompromising truth, introspective swagger and creative liberation
Maybe it’s just the album they needed to make, whatever your take is… I do believe it’s definitely one that you need to hear, whether you’re a fan or yet to be converted.
Heatwave In The Cold North is out on Friday 28th April, via Distiller Records.
The Reverend and the Makers will be be doing an album launch show at The Leadmill, Sheffield on Saturday 29th April, 2023. You can get tickets by preordering the album here: https://reverendandthemakers.os.fan/