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POSTINDUSTRIAL HOMETOWN BLUES is an album of steel and soul from Big Special


Release date: 10 May 2024
09 May 2024, 14:30 Written by Alex Lee Thomson

From the heart of Birmingham's concrete humdrum, and the cobbled routine of daily struggle, Big Special are a duo kicking hell out of the odds right now.

Through the smokestacks that backdrop their sound that's as warmly chewed as the city itself, they’re harbingers of an outcry destined to carve its mark on the British landscape for years to come.

A force to be reckoned with in 2024, their words on POSTINDUSTRIAL HOMETOWN BLUES are a breath of resilience. The ambitious debut album is set in a gothic, monochrome Midlands, where even modern day can sometimes feel like a Pathe reel. But rather than be buried in that weight, this soulful, joyous blues album has the fairytale escapism of a young Bruce Springsteen, Born to Brum, stretching for something bigger that’s perhaps just in reach.

It's a symphony of resurrection, steel and soul, where the echoes of industry meet the rumbles of the outraged characters the band conjures. This is where Big Special, born from the backbreaking diligence of working class survival, have found their voice. A voice that rings truer, with such irreverence and hope with a hand-on-heart, than any other from the region this decade.

In the landscape of contemporary music, where bands often wield sonic putdowns of societal unrest like weapons, Big Special emerged as an electrifying neon light, rising above and beyond some of the recent cosplay punk. While other acts have grazed the surface of state-of-the-nation commentary, it's Big Special's level-head poke at a politically divisive time that sets them ablaze with potential. While they may nod a little to contemporary bands, they are less on the nose in POSTINDUSTRIAL HOMETOWN BLUES than others feel the need to be. Instead, this record does well to simply say its peace without preaching or dealing in falsities, while making just as much impact.

The boys from The Black Country are offering up a record of truth and resilience at a time when the nation is in a great transition period, and change is smelt in the smoke rings. It’s not so much nagging about how shit everything is, but celebrates that we’re probably gonna be alright. Even as Birmingham goes bankrupt, and all the other things we could point a finger at on the UK trash fire right now smoulders.

It's a reminder that even in our darkest moments, we are not alone, that there is power in our collective struggle, and that we can pull our shit together if we can just agree on some truths.

In the spirit of that flux, Joe Hicklin and Callum Moloney have forged a sound that defies categorisation, blending the raw energy of punk with the gritty realism of folk, the result being a potent double pint of catharsis and confrontation. There’s seemingly several albums worth of material on display, from industrial poetry to showmanship indie, held together by its narrative which howls to the struggles of the everyman, from the depths of addiction to the despair of a nation in decline.

Take "This Here Ain't Water," a blistering indictment of mental health stigma and social injustice, or "Shithouse," a raw confession of personal struggle set against the background purrs of a fractured society. These are not songs of empty promises; they are the honest reflections of two men who have stared into the abyss and refused to blink. There’s as much Tom Waits about the tasting notes here, as there is more modern bands like Yard Act, as heard on the bouncy “Trees.”

“Black Dog / White Horse” unlocks something really wonderful. An Americana song from Hicklin’s love of Delta blues legends and country mavericks. It’s a momentus, mature track that knocks the debut album training wheels firmly off, setting it apart as something altogether very different to what every other band is doing right now. It’s looking up out of the trenches rather than across No Man’s Land at your prescribed enemy.

As a punk band that doesn't play guitar on stage, without that to rely on, they’ve had to assemble their own flavour of punk from the ground up, akin to Sleaford Mods. The result is an album that is distinctively mystical, and ageless, comfortably propelling itself between soul, hip hop, and rock, transforming its monochrome Midland tales into a whistlin’, glitzy, heroic Western.

The record culminates in “Dig” – a post-bingo hall and barroom-sermon swagger into the sunset, saloon doors flung open. The kind of closer you don't get from a band barking at you about social politics for an hour. It’s Frank Sinatra spluttering petrol from his lungs. It’s silly in the way “Purple Rain” was when you first heard it. When you were sort of taken aback by its spectacle. But it enters the heart and you leave their shows (and this record) with their message of hope cattle-branded on your soul.

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