Indie Brittannia: The Stirring Debut of Orphans & Vandals | Solid State

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Indie Brittannia: The Stirring Debut of Orphans & Vandals

Posted By on Thu, May 14, 2009 at 1:05 PM

I Am Alive And You Are Dead is the debut effort from the London based Orphans And Vandals — an album that is already being wildly lauded by UK music media as an early candidate for record of the year. Even in an age where trailblazing independent label releases are eagerly pursued and oft-heralded, it is still rare and well worthy of notice that a debut could be elevated to such acclaim mere weeks after its release.

The record stands out instantly, and not just for the explicit sexuality of its lyrics or their prosaic, narrative-like delivery; nor for the fact that the band is comprised of three remarkably talented multi-instrumentalist women with a gay man at the helm.

The sound of Orphans and Vandals is a gritty, urban-hued street carnival fare unheard in some time — and certainly an aesthetic first for the seemingly all-inclusive, ever more cliche banner of "indie-rock." The true orphan on the record might be guitar, which gives away to robust string themes, musical saws, glockenspiels, rowdy harmonicas and toy pianos.

Lead singer Al Joshua's elaborate tomes on lost youth, alleyways, night buses and sexual misadventure are delivered with the dizzying ferocity of an insane, junkie tour guide. When Joshua subdues his mania long enough to catch a melodious chorus, he does so with an engaging rustic charm — like a lovable old drunk just remembering the words. Joshua is a worthy predecessor of other UK minstrels, emerging like a civilized, modern day Shane MacGowan or an indie rock Jarvis Cocker.

With plenty of time yet to debate the year's best releases, its true that this intrepid debut has the early makings of a record that might soon be shortlisted with other imported classics from the Atlantic's eastern shores.

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John Pritchard

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