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Who says people don't make "albums" any more? The debut album from The Lancashire Hustlers was build to be a cohesive piece of work and is even described as a "progressive pop/folk-rock opera". Welcome back, 1971! That description does fit the debut album by this Southport duo, but it also makes it sound as though it could be a disastrous musical venture that died out for a reason. There really is no need to worry. Maximum track length: 4:11; self-indulgent musicianship: none; stupid concepts based around mythical stories: you won't find them here; actual pop songs that you could even sing along to: yes! Lots of them, and they're varied too. There's only really one qualm with 'She Was Just An Opportunist', and that's that upon first inspection if feels a little flat and doesn't quite fit.
That, however, is merely an optical illusion (or perhaps audio illusion), as soon enough it all begins to work. The melodies get stuck in your head upon initial listens, but they sound oddly quaint and maybe a little bit music hall even, but that's not really the case. It's an old fashioned album in every way, but it's not tied to a time or a style. There are odd, jaunty piano numbers; 'Edith Was An Opportunist' is one such track but mixes in late '60s psych-folk; 'Filling A Hole' is another but the handclaps and melody win you over and it's not as cheesy as "jaunty piano number" makes it sound, 'Cold And Stony Grey' is a Beatlesy number and an early highlight. It's perhaps songs such as 'Share the Wine' and 'Some Mother's Favourite' that most closely fit their description, and it's not taxing to imagine that this and others are reworkings of something from 'Liege & Lief'. It's only the odd occasion where they reach something akin to normality, and that would be songs such as 'You Were Here' and 'You Take The Hardline', and that's normality in style by the way, both are very fine tracks.
What's surprising about 'She Was Just An Opportunist' is when the unexpected pops up. It may begin like a folk track from the first half of the last century, but 'The Basement' somehow turns a tale about a circus into a soul tune, particularly the chorus; the psych-pop of 'Transmission For A Vanishing Man' is another standout and spooky track 'The Listeners' that follows it is too. The peculiar 'Cracks' is part fairground band and part oddball psych group Fort Lauderdale, perhaps one of the only recent comparisons, although there are points where certain Gorky's Zygotic Mynci records spring to mind. Despite the odd flurry of soul, 'She Was Just An Opportunist' is an unmistakably British record, drawing on many traditional sounds as well as the imagery they use. Its eccentric, quirky nature means this won't be an album that appeals to one and all, but those who are open to something a little different will find plenty to be enjoyed here.
The Lancashire Hustlers' website
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