The Dowling Poole - ‘Bleak Strategies’ (369 Music) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Rich Hobson   
Monday, 22 September 2014 03:00

dowlingpoolecoverWhatever happened to Great British Pop? The Kinks, Peter Gabriel, The Beautiful South, Fleetwood Mac… the list goes on. These days the Pop scene has taken a decidedly cynical turn; a barren wasteland of faux-soul and gleefully plastic American rip-offs; replacing great tunes with banality by numbers, sing-alongs with AutoTune’d monotony and creativity giving way to pure unending drudgery, soul so removed as to evoke the same feel as Piers Morgan: Live in Stereo. Thank Christ then for The Dowling Poole.


Hatched from the fervent genius of messrs Willie Dowling and Jon Poole (aka The Dowling Poole; geddit?), their debut record ‘Bleak Strategies’ is a monument to everything that was great about Pop in the first place, a perfect antidote to the tired faux-star image that seems to be so prevalent currently. Neither man really needs introduction, with Willie Dowling holding the torch high for intelligent lyricists and catchy tunes for the better part of 3 decades, carving genius in the bands Honeycrack and most recently the warmth-inspiring Jackdaw4, as well as producing music for TV and film (with credits including songs for The Armstrong and Miller Show, 2DTV and the pitch-black comedy Monkey Dust), Mr. Dowling has been a hallmark of fantastic song-writing with a guarantee of wit, melody and pure spontaneous creativity distilled. Throw in the utter insane genius of ‘Random’ Jon Poole; he of Cardiacs, Ginger Wildheart Band, The Goddamn Whores and many, many more fame, Mr. Poole brings a taste of off-kilter genre spanning brilliance to the table a la Frank Zappa, easily traversing the fields of Pop, the discothèque ambitions of New Wave, the grandiose musicianship of Prog and the pure addictive adrenaline of Punk in his own songwriting, sometimes all in one song.


It would be remiss however to focus soley on the two eponymous geniuses behind the band, especially when you can boast the immense vocal talents of third member Givvi Flynn to round out the brew-pot of genius that makes up the Bleak Strategies record. Givvi is a burst of pure class and vocal verisimilitude providing a solid, massive vocal backing to the tracks and shattering the spotlight when taking over lead vocal duties on album closer ‘Clean’, further showcasing just how great her voice is (as if we needed any further elaboration after the magnificent ‘Thieving From the Magpies Nest’ – available free on bandcamp).


The sounds of summer sun refined and captured on record, album opener (and lead single) ‘The Sun Is Mine’ kicks proceedings off in true classic Pop sensibility style; massive crowd-pleasing choruses via delicious simplicity (“Ba-da-da-Daa”, anyone?) as well as a tender toe tapper melody, we are eased in gently with great hints of nostalgia for anyone who still enjoys spinning their old British Invasion Pop records, with a suggestion of vintage ‘60s leanings.


Picking up on track two, ‘A Kiss On The Ocean’ is at first glance a wonderfully catchy love song on the surface, until you dig deeper into the lyrics and realise the song is an ode to narcissism; changing the tone completely and blowing open the doors for the Pop subversion that is prevalent throughout, hooking you in with the promise of love and revealing a wonky wit upon closer inspection, a Beautiful South for the post-millennium.


Waves of Psychedelia crash out for ‘Hey Stranger’, a swaying-with-lighters melody written in tribute to Jon’s Cardiacs bandmate Tim Smith, who was stricken ill in 2008. The track is a lesson in how to mix Psychedelia well; no amblings or piddlings just pure floaty goodness wrapped around great instrumentals (complete with trumpet) and a chorus spawned from the progenies of 'Hey Jude'.


Then it’s time to up the ante for ‘Saving it All For A Saturday’, a jangling tumble of pure entertainment alongside some clever social commentary to make a fantastic sing-along that could easily snare the very people it pokes at, a 4 and a half minute blast of fun that any fan of heyday Madness will be able to see the familial resemblance in. ‘Paper, Scissors And Stone’ takes a very different turn, a classy waltz of jazz-ish piano conjuring the images of establishments of sophistication, a gentle easing of tone from ‘Saturday’ taking the record to more otherworldly, subtle plains of pure melodious enjoyment.


Then it’s to that most sacred of Pop-song fare; the attempted forceful eviction of Scottish locals by a Richer-than-creosote-but-dirtier-than-a-turd-paddle-canoe-in-shit-creek Media Personality (remaining nameless), ‘Empires, Buildings And Acquisitions’ taking the wonderful true Folk Pop leanings previously explored on Jackdaw4’s ‘Jesus Wants My Soul Back’ and giving it injections of Beatles’ cheek, growing a mellow ‘Up Yours’ from the seediness of underhanded dealings.


‘Where The Memories Fester’ picks into Rock via Pop, boasting a good driving ditty with plenty going on in the background musically to please the ear and really boast the instrumental talents that pour into the album, alongside abundant vocal backing and a mind-filling chorus that sticks and doesn’t budge. ‘Twilight Subplot’ meanwhile shifts back into the Psychedelia ethereality previously hinted at by ‘Paper, Scissors And Stone’, drifting comfortably before erupting with a crash of classical instrumental genius, complete with strings, horns and a booming percussion.


‘Getting A License’ takes a more modern twist on the Psychedelia trip, musically kicking in with the best contemporary psychedelic groove this side of The Stone Roses, a dancing and bouncing tune that is impossible to resist and a real kick that lets you know; just because the record is dipped in Pop-sensibility, it can still kick your ass.


The big finale ‘Clean’ is also the big moment for Givvi Flynn to take centre stage on vocal duties, stepping up alongside Willie for a power-duet complete with guitar solos, each band-member blasting one final hurrah to the larger than the sum of its parts record, a song that drives right into the heart and pulls it out swelling and hammering away happily with one final, colossal “Hey Jude” moment.


‘Bleak Strategies’ is something of a monument that all records should aspire to; Pop, Rock or otherwise, bursting at the seams with intelligent lyrics, massive melodies and better musicianship than the next 50 bands combined without anyone falling into a self-indulgent wankfest. Each song on the album is perfectly crafted to create exactly that; a full album with a journey in mind; a promise of nostalgia, warmth and a respect for the listener that tells them they do, in fact deserve much better than the current pig’s hooves and sheep’s brains proffered as haute cuisine in the Pop (and indeed, Rock) Market today.

 approved image lrg 2013


To pick up your copy of 'Bleak Strategies' - CLICK HERE