They Say I Don’t Write Love Songs – The Two Man Travelling Medicine Show (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Music can act as a sort of time travel device and whenever I hear this band’s raggle-taggle beauty I am immediately transported through various interconnected chapters of my life, and the scenes and soundtracks that accompanied them. They remind me of everything from The Levellers soaring folk-punk, New Model Army’s windswept majesty, The Pogues lyrical precision, The Crop Dusters hick town cow punkery and even The Clash’s raw energy. But they are not a band who wallow in the past, like any music makers who want to stay relevant they are inspired by the past to make music in the here-and-now that will take us into interesting new futures. And that is exactly the quest you find them continuing to follow on this latest e.p.

Right from the off, the title track gives you something to think about. It challenges the perception of what a love song can be. Many artists are accused of not writing love songs because many people assume that a love song has to be a mushy, schmaltzy, ballad, one built of plaintive piano, cascading strings and often rhyming moon with June without any sense of irony! But Hollywood aside, love is often a more pragmatic and practical beast and that type of love can be found in even the most energetic, intricate and seemingly everyday songs. And this is one of them. A blend of hill-billy rhythms and punked up folk dexterity…it’s what they do best so why change?

Raise My Glass takes those same elements and adds even more vim and vigour to the proceedings, a skittering and scattered series of rootsy textures all blended perfectly together into a celebratory ho-down, as infectious a song as you could wish for and as far away from pop music as you can get. And whilst we are destroying genres you could pretty much call this song dance music…what else are you going to do whilst it plays….but again a million miles away from anything that the name implies in today’s squared away and rigidly labelled music environment. Genres, they let you down every time.

The brooding introduction of Hanging The Bells warns us of a slight change of attitude and indeed here things get darker, deeper, more political, with a small p, a social commentary and history driven narrative put to an ever intensifying, dynamically fluid musical vehicle. “The irony wore off about half past three” has to be one of the best opening lines to a song I have heard in a while and Teenage Dreams is a wonderful way to wrap things up, a warning against the dangers of taking your nostalgia too seriously and a song that moves from a sweet and sweeping lullaby to a gnarly and gnashing beast and back again as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.

As always this latest gathering of tunes from the TTMTMS is terrific. It draws inspiration from across at least two continents, a dozen disparate genres and a hundred great bands. It reminds us of the past whilst building a bright new folky-future. It uses traditional sounds to forge very unconventional music. How clever is that? Very, that’s how clever.

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