It’s time for You’re Going to Die, an album featuring titles like People Are Idiots and Because I Did Not Die Today. Looks like this one is going to be fun!
Hello Yellow Crow has a steady rhythm and an up pace vocal delivery reminiscent of the riddles it describes. It’s all rhymes and wordplay with strings to add highlights.
People Are Idiots starts out in the first person but, true to the proclamation of unflinching honesty, soon gets to the point: “people are idiots/you know that they are.” Gang vocals pick up observations about group behaviour and group think, set to junk percussion and sci-fi synths.
Couldn’t Love You More is an unabashed love song “soaked to the skin/ridiculous grin/’cause I’m here with you.” Strings surround his declarations until the ultimate twist “as the spell is broken/there on the sand/shadow of one young man all alone/always alone” The jaunty Jason Mraz tone had no indication it was heading to a downbeat refrain of “it’s a lonely, lonely life.” Gazing at the colourful balloons on the album cover overlaid with the cheery bubble font proclaiming You’re Going To Die!, the song, too, is an emotional rollercoaster reminiscent of Up‘s opening scene.
Judge Mosely is Presiding has more Jason Mraz style wordplay and significantly more pessimism: “kindness has brought us to this bitterness/oh, kindness sometimes really is just weakness.” There’s pan pipes, a slight reggae interlude, and a ’60s TV theme feel. SXSW New Folk Award winner Jack Harris testifies.
Next up is a slow musing on perspectives, contrasting a loved one’s memory of the happiness of a ticker tape parade with the reality of a “week of rain” and “weeks of pain” at the end of a life.
Midnight/Moonlight seems conventional and verging on optimistic, so it’s best to tread carefully in light of previous experiences! Having emerged from a low, it turns out the earlier state was more recognisable and almost welcomed by the protagonist: “beer after beer after beer/there’s that man I know/flirting and fighting and fists are flying…follow him into the darkness.”
By now it should be clear that on a contrary album, the title track would be thoroughly positive in tone: “you’re going to die and so am I/so why are we sitting here listening to all these lies?/Love is rare and happiness is rarer than that.” Just as you think you spot a change of heart, a softening – “people are everything” – Mosely pulls the bait and switch again. “People are everything that’s wrong with this world” he clarifies! There is a manifesto of a world view: “might as well laugh about it.” The song was a conscious effort to live up to a description in a review: ‘The Muppets meet Tom Waits.’
The 1970s sounds like a late ’70s driving song and that’s even before it includes lyrics like ‘I want you/I want you’ and ‘we are family.’ Half way through the 6 minute 25 epic the songs takes a turn commensurate with the narrative of the track as Josienne Clarke sings “sometimes you just want to sing along to the saddest songs on midnight radio.” A long pause then a return to the previous tune, as if switching channels. These refrains switch place until a deliciously deep voice repeats the midnight refrain to end the epic.
Build Your Fire delivers on the hope for more serene vocals. Jess Morgan provides a beautiful harmony. The song itself is reminiscent of the introspective and ultimately accepting approaches of Idlewild and King Creosote: “you build your fire/but every fire burns out…all of our graves go untended/that’s alright.” It highlights the range of genres and tonal shifts on the record. It would be easy to produce an album of deep, pretty thought pieces like that, but we’ve also heard Holy Moly and The Cracker style ditties and intelligently comical observations like as if Simon Stanley Ward was having a really, really bad day.
Well Done Son is a character study over the course of a life in just a few strokes.. The tables turn as the boy who tries to please his mother who “really can’t be bothered” turns into a man who receives an unexpected letter of praise from her. The inference is that she doesn’t have long left; the hard stop at the end of the song all but confirms it.
The record ends with a Holy Moly-esque anthem Because I Did Not Die Today, tying up themes and motifs from the opening track. We get black crows, consequences and pondering on mortality: “they say live each day as if it were your last/what about the rest?” Keeping a promise to his mother, who is referenced directly and obliquely throughout the record, wailing blues harmonica adds to the big goodbye.
The 16 piece Red Meat Orchestra includes Tom Moth from Florence and The Machine on harp, Joe Peet of Costeau on double bass, and Colin Smith on bass, plus Catherine and Earnshaw and Darren Allford on gang vocals. Together, under Mosley’s direction and worldview in response to grief, they’ve create a surprisingly fun, hectic and ultimately life-affirming record.