Catalogue Number: HM Records HMR001
Review Format: CD
Release Year: 2007
Hercules Mandarin has been playing the circuit in Glasgow for a while now. Indeed, Bluesbunny has seen him perform several times. Whilst he was usually solo, the last time that we saw him, he had acquired a band. On this, his first CD "Blonde Drunk Brilliant", he uses this band to great effect.
Let's take a listen to some of the songs. The first track on the album "This is a Riot" just plain kicks the door open. Our Hercules makes like Sting (at least the Sting that we knew and loved before he started regressing to his youth in order to top up his pension fund). The song even has a hook and sounds ridiculously good on the car stereo especially when cranked right up. "Rollover" follows on in similar if rather more subdued style. "Kats" shapes up quickly as one of the album's winners with some particularly effective pedal steel work from Zac Ware. The band fades away for "Small Minded Genius", a plaintive, sentimental solo song that seems to join up with the album's closer "Last Destruction Call". The volume gets cranked up again for another rocky crowd pleaser called "Missed Opportunities". Then we get the recorded versions of two highlights of his live performance "The Shivers" and "A Convenient Distraction". On the latter track - which is altogether more folksy than the rest of the songs on the album, by the way - there is also some exquisite fiddle playing by Cat Calton. As the Bluesbunny is notoriously averse to fiddles, that is indeed a compliment. Hiding way away at the end of the album after track 10 is another unlisted track. Bluesbunny is not sure why it is there (review copies are not necessarily the same as the shop copies). It could be the bleak subject matter or that the song is stylistically, and indeed sonically different, than the other songs but it is a good 'un. Quite affecting, actually.
It suppose that it should have come as no surprise to us that we would eventually get to review a truly commercial album from a Scottish independent artist. Well here it is. The songs work and the performances hit the mark. To our ears, "Small Minded Genius" was the best song and "A Convenient Distraction" was the best performance by the band. The Sting and Del Amitri influences are certainly there but you can hear his own voice shining through it all. It gladdens our heart that we have this album from Hercules Mandarin in our paws finally and we hope that it sells well. So, all things considered, that will be two thumbs up and our recommendation must therefore follow. Available from the Hercules Mandarin website.
October 15, 2007
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