By Jordan Mooney.
Reverend and the Makers are a name that conjures up a lot for alternative music, perhaps because, in many ways, they can be seen as an ambassador to the general public. They’re a group with a suspicious amount of standard press – mainstream newspapers, Glastonbury…you get the idea.
Despite this, the music of the good Reverend and his jolly makers (love makers? Music makers? Bread makers? Nobody knows.) remains a strong contrast to what you’ll find in the charts these days. They’re a group of working class people talking about, often, working class issues in their music – that’s, surprisingly, a really rare idea in music from what little I attention I pay to charting bands these days. There’s nothing pretentious, overpoetic, nothing crooning between sobs about relationships that lasted a week, it’s always a very genuine, very obvious, very blunt method of storytelling. And that makes for something particularly special. Reverend and the Makers have a unique selling point. They’re just lads and a lass from the landscape of Sheffield.
It’s hard to speak about such a band poetically, and it’s hard to really review them without referring back to the fact it’s simply Northern. Anybody like myself whom hails from Yorkshire will understand what that means, but the rest of you might struggle.
It’s like this – you know that bloke in the pub, who’s there every other night with his mates? He isn’t an old bloke or anything, late twenties, early thirties – but he seems to talk about issues as serious as that sixty year old lad propping up the bar who got laid off from the mines. He’s got big ideas, but who is he to say so? He’s just a random bloke.
Imagine that bloke and his mates started a band. And were really, really bloody good. And started making songs about these opinions, or about shit that’s happened to his mates, or even vague things he’s heard from his girlfriend. Existential stuff, stuff that reflects his experiences, his life. I think that’s roughly the explanation for Reverend and the Makers.
ThirtyTwo, the fourth album from the group, lives up, in the majority, to this idea. It shows the usual snapshots into life on what used to be the centre of the Coal fields and Steel industry of Britain. As ever, it plays on concepts like gossip, hearsay, rebelling against what often seems human nature, and perhaps most tellingly for a Reverend release, talking about how fucking stupid people can be.
It’s a little more dance than my ears are used to getting involved in. As you’ll all know, I’m more punk and goth, myself, but music that stands tall – without talking down to its audience – is always a pleasure. Couple this to a good beat, plenty of volume and some excellent storytelling, and I’ll listen to it very happily – and enjoy every moment.
It’s nothing majorly complex, but that little bit of additional musical maturity that has been gained over the years has made itself very present in this latest piece – everything, while not majorly obvious, is a touch more polished and fine tuned, while not leaving behind that charm that got Heavyweight Champion of the World stuck in our head all those years ago.
While it’s difficult to apply a firm favourite on ThirtyTwo, Nostalgia is definitely up there – a scathing look at repackaged tat from the eighties and nineties that now appears on every street. Portrayed in a beat ironically instantly bringing the early nineties to mind, it lists such things as Pop Tarts, Love Hearts and Bucky O’ Hare falling slave to this absolutely bizarre – and terrifying – movement.
It’s an album for playing as loud as you can in any situation. It demands heavy volume, yet, demands a little more attention than dancing. It’s just complex enough to command a proper listen. I reckon there’s something for everybody on this album, and frankly, I expect there’ll be plenty of radio play for you all to judge it for yourselves.
We managed to coax the Reverend, Mr. Jon McClure, to Cat on the Wall Towers to discuss the new release.
Cat on the Wall: Hello there, Mr. McClure – thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Please, introduce yourself to our readers!
Jon McClure: I am Jon McClure of Reverend and the Makers, of Sheffield, England.
COTW: Reverend and the Makers are a name that’s grown pretty large in alternative circles, but it seems all too common that people don’t quite know where to place you. If you had to explain your music to somebody, what is it you would define your work as? Do you agree with the idea of music being ‘labelled’?
JM: It’s simple, really. We’re from Sheffield, where we’ve got two musical traditions – The early British Electronica of Human League, and Cabaret Voltaire, and Heaven 17… and the lyrical thing of people like Jarvis. The problem lies in that the mainstream media in London hear a northern accent and electronics – and they immediately think of Manchester! Haha! Those who know, know, though!
COTW: Your music has ranged from criticisms of standard domestic culture, gossip, relationships and break ups, to political jokes, statements and satire. These often have varying reactions – We’d say this means more people listen! Do you think that music makes for a particularly good way to express these opinions and ideas?
JM: It’s just life, innit? That’s the thing with political music – if you continue to make music that reiterates the same political views, you become typecast as a political artist, and there’s a lot else to write about… Sheffield is great, though. Little turns of phrases and stuff. The people are unique and a bit special in Sheff’, I think. It’s always fired my imagination and I think it always will.
COTW: Do you see music as being a similar case to an artist’s sketchbook? A sort of emotional outlet – just a very public one?
JM: I guess so, yeah! I suppose it’s flattering that people wanna listen to all the bullshit in my head eh?! Lol. But… yeah, I suppose it can be therapeutic… Then again, often, it’s nice to just make a racket, innit?!
COTW: Your new album, ThirtyTwo, sounds like a particularly strong hark back to the sounds of the Northern club sounds of the 1980s. Is it a sort of ‘thank you’?
JM: I guess a bit, maybe. I’m too young to remember it, but it’s there in the waters! The old warp stuff, and some of the characters still knocking about round Sheffield. There’s a lot of people who proper know their music.
COTW: Your latest music video for The Only One follows this idea of the 80s wholeheartedly. Your other videos seem to vary – sometimes with bizarre or exaggerated imagery, as in Heavyweight Champion of the world and He Said He Loved Me. What is it that brings the often bizarre but thoroughly eyecatching ideas to mind?
JM: Sometimes it’s my ideas, but, often, these things are the idea of the directors. I’m very keen to let the director achieve the purity of his vision, the same way we do with the songs. If we start to fuck with that, it becomes compromised. This was Roger Sargent‘s idea. I loved what he did with the Libertines movie, so we kinda gave him free range. I get a Talking Heads or Dee Lite vibe from it.
COTW: One track that peaked my interest was Nostalgia, which seems to trade on slightly different terms – seemingly laughing at how shallow this…phenomenon tends to be. You go into any shop and childhood tends to throw up all over T-shirts! You gave a few glimpses of your feelings in the track; how do you personally feel about this fad that’s taking over every-bloody-thing?
JM: It’s bollocks! It shows that the money men have ran out of ideas. Just flogging the same shit to people in a new way. We need some new stuff to come through and blow it all out the water.
COTW: Tell us truthfully…do you have a Bucky O’Hare T-shirt!?
JM: Do I bollocks! Haha!
COTW: How do you find the process of working in a studio, four albums down the line? Has it grown easier, or after the success of your previous releases, do you feel more pressure from the back catalogue?
JM: It’s easier because I’m not trying prove anything to anyone anymore. Our tours sell well, our albums go in the chart, yet we don’t need to have anything to do with the mainstream music press and radio which is a big fucking cheesefest! Also, we loved the last album we made, so we couldn’t wait to get cracking on this. We had a laugh making this new one which I think sort of comes through in the music.
COTW: The music industry these days is…a bit of a mess, in our opinion – it lacks diversity, dignity and perhaps most tellingly, it often lacks creativity. You’ve pointed out the issues of it before – do you think there’s any inkling of change on the horizon?
JM: Something has to give. There are a handful of heroes out there, but they aren’t given the love they deserve – so they whither on the vibe whilst talentless fucking hairdressers like Grimshaw run the world!
COTW: As an extension, what music in 2013 did you particularly enjoy? Do you listen to much chart music?
JM: I’m into Kwaito music from South Africa. It’s incredibly exciting. Listen to Fingerprints by Professor and I think you’ll get the vibe.
COTW: Since you began, you’ve worked alongside Oasis, The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, released your own booze, a Soundsystem, repeatedly dipped your toes into the charts and had a spell at Glastonbury. Looking back on all this, do you intend to beat that track record?
JM: Yeah! I wanna finish this novel I’ve been writing. It’s gonna blow your mind!
COTW: I have to confess this has been an interview I’ve wanted for rather a while. All of us at Cat on the Wall would like to say thank you for taking the time to sit with us and we wish you and the band all the best. Here’s hoping we’ll see you here again soon!
JM: Ah, how very kind. Much love to you all. Keep the faith! xx
ThirtyTwo is being released via Cooking Vinyl Records on the 24rd of February 2014, on Amazon, iTunes, and all good record stores.
If you do still have a good record store, kneel in front of it and kiss it. Kiss that store forever. They’re a valuable commodity.
In the meantime, why not watch the music video to The Only One, directed by the inimitable and goddamn legendary music photographer, Roger Sargent – in a massive eighties timewarp.