Great pop music can be many things, it can be escapist, euphoric, it can be about love and loss.It can also be about the everyday, the magic in the mundane, the soundtrack to real life – a modern urban folk music. It takes a special talent to make magic out of the kitchen sink, to tell the story of the real world with an intimate touch that doesn’t sound patronising.
Jon McClure of Reverend and the Makers made his name with this kind of writing and the new album sees the band return with their most concise and perfect work yet. If Shane Meadows made great contemporary pop records, mashing the rush of indie with the hedonistic pulse of electronics and dance, then this what they would sound like.
The album title is ‘@reverend_makers’ because, as McClure explains, ‘the songs the little situations I see living in Sheffield in 2012. Nothing seems to sum up the present and the times we live in more than the @ symbol.’
By deliberately swerving the politics that have dominated his thinking in the past Jon McClure has, conversely, made his most political record yet. Like the soundtrack to a film of his home town, the album is aural reportage on the everyday, the big and the little stories of a northern city in the grand tradition of fellow Yorkshire men such as Pulp and Arctic Monkeys.
McClure is one of the most engaging modern musicians. Sheffield bred, he is six foot plus of pure high IQ attitude and passion and a key player in the city’s recent musical revival. Breaking through in 2007 with the top ten hit ‘Heavyweight Champion of the World’ from their first album ‘The State of Things’ and consolidating it with the second 2009 studio album, ‘A French Kiss in the Chaos’ his band’s mix of indie guitars and electronics updated the form adding heartfelt vocals and a social consciousness rare in modern music.
After a three year hiatus, ‘@reverend_makers’ takes this a stage further with every song sounding like a 21st century pop classic, marrying indie melodies with the sparse electronics that dominate his home city – it’s the sound of bedsits cranking their music, soundclashing across the city night.
McClure built a reputation as one of the few modern musicians capable of social and political comment and is in big demand around the world for his forthright opinions. Musically in the past few years, feeling that a modern musician has to be engaged with the current musical debate he has been on the run from indie – working with the Reverend Sound System whose beats based sound was quite different from his original muse and a highly effective reflection on urban culture.
Last year though, worn out from always leading the pack, he took some time out and decided to return to his roots by putting Reverend And The Makers back together.
The resulting album is the sound of someone who has lived the dream, had the success, the hit albums, traveled the world, played the stadiums but is still fascinated by his own roots. The magnetic draw of the north and its powerfully unique musical cities like Sheffield with their experimental pop heritage tempered by a blunt social realism is at the heart of some of the best British pop.
‘After touring round the world, coming home was amazing, I wanted to write kitchen sink tunes that describe our own fucking life – to write about normal people without being too grandiose about it. I wanted to write songs for my brother and my cousins back in Sheffield and not about snorting coke with celebrities in back of the limo. The songs seem to have a theme to them- a lot of them are about escapism- the girl hiding herself on Facebook, or someone dreaming of winning the lottery, or being out of their heads or wanting to shag another bird – they are the themes I’m attracted to.
The album also sees a return to the hook strewn guitar flavoured electro indie pop of his initial musical forays with great choruses and melancholic rain swept tunes. Classic northern pop.
‘Musically it’s probably more similar to the first album. In parts it’s more electronic and the subject matter is more akin to the first album as well. It’s not that I don’t feel the same way politically but making political music becomes boring – for me and my audience. I like footie and having a laugh as well.’
‘I was fed up with what I was doing. I got right into political stuff and I was mardy all the time. It was making me miserable and I needed time out. I went a bit bonkers basically but I’m back in a good place now. This album is much more upbeat. I’ve done that doom and gloom stuff and I think there is a lot of reasons to be positive, even though there is a lot of mad shit going on. Basically, I cheered the fuck up mate.’
The new album sees a return to the social conscious that marked out his initial forays into music. This is small ‘p’ politics, the politics of the everyday, 21st century kitchen sink with the internet and social networking as well as beer and fags and fights.
‘My favourite track on the album is ‘Warts n All’ which is about girls posing in their pictures on Facebook and peer rivalry. So many of my mates are hooked on Facebook and Twitter, that’s the reality. The internet has revolutionised how we live and interact with each other.’
Brassy northern life, hi tech in your pocket, post industrial, closed mills, boarded up shops, drizzle n’ chips and wild weekends. That’s the great thing about the north, the post industrial town trying to pull themselves up from the decay, battered by the government and the recession but still full of people having a good time.
It’s this knack of taking snapshots of the everyday life and turning them into song that is McClure’s special talent.
‘Out Of The Shadows’ is about a boss I didn’t like – it’s about being dead miserable when I didn’t need to be.’ It has huge crossover potential with McClure’s soulful voice perfectly complimenting a song of redemption in the gloom.
‘ ‘One Plus Zero’ is another kitchen sinker. ‘Noisy Neighbour’ is about turning my music up in competition, everyone knows that one.’There is even a love song on the album. ‘’Yes You Do’ is for my missus, I never normally write songs like that.’
Reverend And The Makers are back to reclaim their crown. Never has real life sounded so good. The tumbledown of cheap drugs, gritty realism, thrilling escapism, sex, and fish and chip suppers, hedonistic living, all night dance music in dank semi legal cellars, and the comedown – all soundtracked by great guitar music.
‘There has to be a band writing songs about real life again, there’s loads of songs about nowt. I’m writing songs about what people can relate to.’ explains McClure, a man who has found himself and doesn’t need to escape any more.
Watch Their Official Music Video for “Out Of The Shadows”