Sunday, 23 September 2018

Groovy Uncle "Meanwhile Back In Medieval Britain" - Amy K-B reviews Glenn Prangnell's Collective's latest Album

"Meanwhile Back in Medieval Britain" is the 7th studio album from singer and songwriter Glenn Prangnell's musical collective Groovy Uncle. Recorded at Ranscombe Studios and released on Glenn's own label Trouserphonic Records, MBIMB (bit of a mouthful but there you go) is unique in Groovy Uncle releases in that it includes tracks written by people other than Glenn, and as well as featuring GU favourites Suzi Chunk and Miss Modus it also showcases the vocal talents of Ani Graves and Rachel Lowrie. Arriving scarcely a year after "A Clip Round the Ear", the cartoon cover (artwork by Darryl Hartley) hints of the whimsical humour we've come to expect from Groovy Uncle, but that's only the tip of the iceberg. "A Clip Round The Ear" was very much a nostalgic album, but MBIMB is firmly in the present and full of current references; Brexit, #metoo and the rather Donald Trump-esque Howard Eno ('got the greatest, biggest button in his tiny hands') and whilst a lot of the songs have a very sixties flavour to them there is a striking originality and freshness to the album; clearly there is no danger of Groovy Uncle running out of material any time soon. There is little continuity of style between tracks, but who wants that? If you don't like one song (and I can't imagine that you wouldn't) there's another one along in a minute to grab you by the collar and ensure your full attention. I asked Glenn how the idea of a more collaborative album came about, and he told me that it was something he'd already been considering when he was approached separately by Jon Barker (The Senior Service), Darryl Hartley (The Senior Service) and Andy Morten (Bronco Bullfrog) with the idea of using songs they'd written. Although the five non-Glenn penned tracks do stand out as being different (as indeed they should), they fit beautifully into the overall feel of the album, particularly the title track (by Darryl Hartley) with its mixture of snippy political commentary and sunny optimism. "Astronauts" (also by Darryl) is a Divine Comedy-esque epic, laden with strings and unapologetically theatrical. I was unfamiliar with Bronco Bullfrog until I started doing the research for this review (yes, I do research) and it's a band I'm delighted to have found; "She'll Never Be Mine" by Andy Morten puts a Groovy Uncle spin on the Bronco Bullfrog brand of 'sunshine pop'. Witty, wistful and 'poptimistic' (apologies to Andy for stealing that), its a great track.

Glenn with Suzi Chunk
I'm more familiar with Jon Barker's instrumental writings with The Senior Service but his contributions "Days Like This" and "You Think Too Much of Me" prove that he's an incredibly versatile songwriter. "Days Like This" (featuring Graham Day on guitar) is an immediate stand out track, and the Hammond led "You Think Too Much of Me" is unbelievably catchy. Glenn told me that he prefers writing for other singers than for himself, and MBIMB showcases some great examples of his long term collaboration with Suzi Chunk; "20/20 Hindsight" and "Reading Between the Lines" are classic Suzi songs, showing off her amazingly powerful and passionate voice, and "Lie to You" is drowsily gorgeous and proves that the inimitable Ms Chunk can indeed do both. Many Groovy Uncle fans will have been eagerly awaiting the return of Miss Modus, and her blistering rendition of "Good Child" is a definite high point. GU newcomers Ani Graves and Rachel Lowrie are sweetly haunting on the folky "It Wasn't Me It Was Yesterday", and their voices are a beautiful compliment to each other despite them not having met until the day of recording. As always Glenn is accompanied by a supporting cast of amazing musicians, this time including Mole, Wolf Howard, Nick Rice and Anna and Paul Jordanous. Most Groovy Uncle articles and interviews tend to touch on the subject of whether these are songs we will ever heard played live, something that Glenn has always said is very unlikely, due to the numbers of people involved, and the geographical difficulties, but wonderful though I'm sure a live Groovy Uncle gig would be, there is something special about the little bubble of perfection that this recording project has become. MBIMB is a perfectly polished wall of sound; in short, flipping excellent.
- AKB, September 2018

Thanks to Amy for the great review. MBIMB will be released on October 1st and is available on 180g Vinyl with download code, numbered lyric sheet and sticker and it will also be released as a Digipack CD. You can order from the band's web-site here and also hear a track from the album in our latest episode of Retrosonic Podcast which can streamed/downloaded for free below:

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