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The Singing Loins - The Complete and Utter

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Artist: The Singing Loins

Album: The Complete and Utter

Label: Damaged Goods

Review date: Jan. 12, 2005

What you think of the melodies on this record depends on your tolerance for sea shanties. The Singing Loins never shied away from a “Hum-dum-a-hey-ho” refrain. The duo existed in the early ’90s, with specific intent of messing around with English folk. And mess around they did, 49 times, all of which were collected for this compilation.

The somber, medieval lilt of traditional balladry is tossed against the kitchen-sink imagery and anger of postwar Britian. Think of the grimy films of Ken Loach or Phillip Larkin's hostile poetry. Singing of tourism in Kent, “The shopfronts are stacked with homeless these nights / they don't show them that when they show them the sites.” Or, on the topic of watching the television news, “I saw someone else's revolution / babies eating flies / yum, yum, yum yum, yum / thank you Lord!”

They had the good fortune to live in Medway, home of rock contrarian Billy Childish. Childish recorded them “half-track” – two microphones mixed straight to mono. To get an appealing reverb, the recording was mostly done in Childish's bathroom. The results have more clarity than the technique implies, since the Loins arrangements are so austere; all this rawness exposes a warm heart. The Singing Loins are like a hedgehog – small, smelly and covered with prickles, but very English and charming in spite of it all.

Last summer, they put together a reunion gig to promote this re-release. From their website: “We were going to bill it as two old cunts doing a Singing Loins tribute act, but once we’d put our faces on and tightened the corsets it wasn’t too bad.” They're now working on new material, which should provide a much-needed derailment to the recent folk revival.

By Ben Donnelly

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