The Levellers

Levelling the Land

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That the band's all-time theme song "One Way" should become a stick to beat the Levellers with by its critics made a certain sense -- experiencing a crowd of fans singing along to "There's only one way of life and that's your own" must have been equivalent to the one scene in Monty Python's Life of Brian, when Brian tries to convince his followers to think for themselves. Give the band this much, though -- another lyric states "the problems of the world/Won't be solved by this guitar." Such situations aside, what comes clear upon listening to Levelling the Land is that the group was neither the salvation of music's conscience nor a sad joke -- they're at heart a less ambitious but still vaguely pleasant Waterboys. Chadwick's singing is of a more strained, higher-pitched Mike Scott -- if not as dramatic, then on the flipside less immediately prone to tripping over his own acrobatics -- while the music aims for the Big and Anthemic crossed with the Authentically Folky. Sevink's fiddle provides most of the latter, adding reasonable enough color on tracks like "Another Man's Cause" and the jaunty "Far from Home." The Mission UK might as well be another good comparison point, with the vague invocations to a mystic past crossed with a focus on the here and now. A nod or two to then-rampant Madchester semi-funky beats bubble up here and there, while songs like "The Boatman" suggest Sinéad O'Connor's hip-hop revamp of "I Am Stretched on Your Grave" was favored listening in the studio. The Levellers certainly have their heart in the right place -- concluding track "The Battle of the Beanfield" commemorates a notorious Thatcher-era crackdown on a group of travelers -- but on Levelling the Land, they're neither fish nor fowl, not great nor pathetic. They're enjoyable enough and have a way with instant anthems, and that's about it.

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