London punks Chelsea are back for the third album since sometime mainstays Nic Austin (guitars) and bassist Mat Sargent returned to the fold a decade ago; Evergreen vocalist Gene October is here for the duration, of course, and this triumvirate form the core that recorded new album Meanwhile Gardens.
First album survivor James Stevenson is also back on deck, although not as heavily involved this time around, as are other former members Martin Stacey and Bob Jesse, but if we’re being honest it’s October’s ever more mannered vocals we’re all here for – and I’m pleased to report that the great man is on top form throughout.
He’s bolstered by some truly memorable gang vocals on tracks like The Great Divide, the title track and It’s Friday, and, though the band are now forty five years old and October – never the most skilled throatsmith – is showing marked wear and tear vocally, Tenpole Tudor/King Kurt man Dick Crippen‘s taut, punchy production means that everyone involved is shown off in the best possible light.
Shine The Light is a rollicking piece rock n’roll – Austin and Sargent have really brought their punk rock ‘A’ game to the songwriting of this album, especially on Cold Cut which rivals The Damned in the superbly-put-together-and-executed-pop-single-masquerading-as-punk stakes – but the truth is there really are no flat points on Meanwhile Gardens at all; where last album Mission Impossible drifted a little in places, no such dip in quality is to be found here at all.
It’s impossible to listen to Chelsea without a huge, gormless grin spreading across your fizzog as soon as they crank up the classic Britpunk feels; there’s an almost Dickensian pathos to the likes of Why Aren’t We There that could only be generated by an English punk band in it’s pomp, and on Meanwhile Gardens the band have put together an album that long term fans will instantly recognise and adore. And, such is the quality of material on offer, there’s just a chance that, this late in the game, they might attract a new generation of fans to the Chelsea banner. It’s the proverbial win-win situation!
Meanwhile Gardens is out now.