A reflection on modern life, the effects of the pandemic and financial strains from an innovative British band.
Forty Elephant Gang (intriguingly named after an all-female gang of Victorian thieves) are a very interesting British 5-piece band, who were around for some time as a 3-piece touring the soft rock rooftops and folk clubs making quite a name for themselves, particularly with their 2019 full-length debut ‘Next Time Around’, with its bluesy and sometimes very British 60’s pop influences – The Beatles and Verve come to mind. Instrumentally the group have an unusual line-up with nearly all the songs driven by the tasty mandolin of Sean Mannion and/or acoustic guitar of Andrew White ( also lead singer), with occasional strings, piano and harmonica. The line-up is completed by the second guitar of James Bachmann, drums (Martin Moore) and bass (Frazer Twyman).
The last album was a generally upbeat and ultimately optimistic album – their new EP ‘The Time We Lost‘ is definitely not. Heavily influenced by the effects of COVID and lockdown, and by a general subsequent malaise in the population, the 6-track EP explores uncertainty, resignation, relationships and financial stress. The opener ‘Fences’ addresses the state of the nation during the height of the pandemic – empty supermarket shelves, untrustworthy Government briefings: “I am tired of all the lies who are you deceiving’ and lockdown orders ‘Shout it over the fences Pull the kids from the street” – all set to a driving and very catchy tune with really fine playing and harmonies. ‘Miss You’ is another nice mandolin-led folk-rock song with a strong 60s pop feel highlighting the relationship plight during lockdown, the desire for some ‘me’ time without it affecting one’s relationship. ‘No More Tears’ is a classic pop ballad featuring piano and strings, which highlights the resignation of a world that has changed from our younger more idealistic days.
‘Simple Life’, after an acapella start, captures a nice 60s feel with a jogging mandolin lead with the sentiment that something may change but we can’t be sure it will. The 7-minute-long ‘Hard Times’ is possibly the hardest-hitting song, about the financial straits that people are finding themselves in – it builds to a long outro in the style of The Beatles’ doom-laden ‘Day in the Life’. The album ends with a slow ballad ‘Fun While it Lasted’, which could be about a relationship, but given the overall tone of the album is more likely about life itself and one’s mortality – “I don’t see the point in any complaining, You only see the sunshine after it’s raining, Is this not the same thing, As the snow falls. From above, Covers footprints of my love, It’s done, But it was fun while it lasted”.
This is a group with fine musicianship and interesting songwriting skills. Perhaps their next album (and let’s hope it is a full-length one) will return to the more upbeat and varied tone of their debut. Seemingly written in response to the effects of recent historical events, this is nevertheless a fine EP and Forty Elephant Gang are a group to watch going forward.