The Levellers

Static on the Airwaves

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Their first release since David Cameron became Prime Minister, the crust-rock scene's most enduring band, the Levellers, now approach their 25th anniversary in the same political climate as when they started. It's a situation which ensures that their tenth studio album, Static on the Airwaves, is just as biting and rabble-rousing as their Thatcher-baiting beginnings. "Our Forgotten Towns" is a lament to the decline of the British high street, appropriately backed by Jon Sevink's furious fiddle-playing; "The Recruiting Sergeant" is a raucous rendition of The Black Watch anthem, given an anti-war twist with its references to Afghanistan; while the toe-tapping beats and jaunty banjo riffs of "Second Life" accompany an impassioned tirade against the world of gaming. "Raft of the Medusa," a folk-punk sea shanty about the 19th century shipwrecked frigate, and "Mutiny," which sees frontman Mark Chadwick place himself in the shoes of Jesse Robert Short, a fusilier sentenced to death for his part in the 1917 Etaples Mutiny, show the Brighton outfit are just as anarchic about the past as they are the present. But if all this sounds a little too heavy-going, Sean Lakeman (who was at the helm for 2008 predecessor Letters from the Underground), has once more provided them with the kind of polished sheen that helped 1995's Zeitgeist top the U.K. charts. "After the Hurricane" is a tender acoustic ballad which recalls the Radio 2-friendly fare of their producer's pin-up brother Seth, while there are even a few unexpected nods to early synth pop, first on the squelchy, spacy effects which open the swaggering baggy pop of "We Are the Gunmen," and secondly, Michael Johnson with the "Are Friends Electric"--esque hook which underpins the grungey "No Barriers." The Levellers may have ceased to be irrelevant in the charts since the turn of the century, but Static on the Airwaves' revolutionary spirit proves that they're still a force to be reckoned with.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 0:49
2 4:39
3 3:16
4 4:13
5 2:10
6 4:29
7 3:43
8 3:50
9 3:30
10 3:54
11 3:49
12 3:54

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 3:40
2 2:46
3 3:21
4 3:15
5 5:54
6 3:53
7 3:34
8 3:37
9 3:37
10 3:50
11 4:02
12 4:08
13 3:16
blue highlight denotes track pick