Brinsley Schwarz “Tangled”

Fretsore Records, 2021

Massively enjoyable outing by 70’s underground legend Brinsley Schwarz.

Cover art for Brisley Schwarz album 'Tangled'Brinsley Schwarz’s backstory is that they were a band that almost made the jump from the pub rock scene into the big time in the early and mid 70’s, with a British take on a distinctly west coast American sound. Despite the hopes of success, things somehow didn’t fall into place, and the band broke up in 1975. 

So what to make of a record made by Brinsley Schwarz (the man, not the band, as his press blurb states)? Well, ‘Tangled’ is really an understated delight, from start to finish. Ten songs that definitely fit the Americana template, and an album that, while unlikely to shake the music world to its roots, will give a really pleasurable listen on pretty much every level. In trying to find a parallel, perhaps the Travelling Wilburys first record is a good template: music made by people who know what they’re doing, and sound like they’re enjoying it. Oh, and throw a bit of the spirit of Ronnie Lane into the mix, too, the sense that even music with a message should sound like it was made for fun, and not picked over until the essence is gone.

A lot of the songs have an infectious groove to them, an easy roll that makes for a good car-driving listen. ‘Storm in the Hills’ may owe a musical nod to Dylan’s ‘Thunder on the Mountain’, but its 12 bar simplicity is distilled good time boogie, complete with barrelhouse piano, and a witty and involving lyric.

You Can’t Take It Back’, meanwhile, has a retro 50’s sound, so beloved by former Brinsley Schwarz band mate Nick Lowe that this could easily be one of his songs. Brinsley and Nick were at school together, so it makes sense they would share musical backgrounds. The words are similarly wise and wry, too, another Lowe-like marker. Lovely stuff. Hopefully Schwarz will get to play live again soon, because these songs will sound great in a live setting. 

Stranded’ is a musical high point, its delicate yet elegiac chords emphasising the mid-life anxieties within. ‘Crazy World’ also treads an emotional line, a message to a struggling friend that resonates with the times of the pandemic, but will carry meaning to anyone who has seen their own struggles, Covid or not. 

Final track ‘All Day’ is a perfect way to finish the album, a hopeful song, commencing with just a simple ukulele backing, until the band piles in. A vibrant ending to a deeply enjoyable record. 



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