VARIOUS ARTISTS – Deep In The Woods: Pastoral Psychedelia & Funky Folk 1968-1975

Subtitled ‘Pastoral Psychedelia & Funky Folk’, this three disc anthology from Strawberry Records delves deeply into an era where folk music adopted a more progressive approach, and prog/psych bands weren’t afraid to get whimsical. Although the music within isn’t always easily pigeonholed, the bands and artists featured cross genres and moods freely, in a way that captures a period like no other, mixing folk narratives and very English tones with the worldly haze of a prog rock experimentation and a love of jazz. Without these genre-bending pioneers, John Martyn’s ‘Solid Air’ mightn’t be the much loved masterpiece that it is, and Al Stewart might’ve been forever stuck in a Dylan-esque narrative rut. And that’s just scratching the surface.

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Whilst browsing the internet, I stumbled upon a list of ‘obscure albums’ everyone should hear. At the top of that list,there was an album called ‘Your New Favorite Band’ by The Argument. No, me neither…so I guess their job was done (we’ll gloss over the inclusion of The Big Dish and the far better known Danny Wilson in their list). They likened The Argument to Ben Folds Five, so that piqued my interest. Next stop: I had a look on Spotify to see if I could hear something from it. No such luck, obviously.

 …What’s that at the top of Spotify’s list of bands with similar names? The Blackout Argument? No, never heard of them either. It seemed only natural therefore, that I’d hit the play button and see what they sound like.

It’s heavy. Hailing from Germany, The Blackout Argument specialise in a similar brand of hardcore metal/punk as Ignite and Shift. More metal than punk, for sure, but spiky around the edges. ‘Remedies’ is their second full-length album.

‘Tempest (Rescue Remedy)’ is a thirty second intro and sets the tone for the album with its pounding bass drums, before leading into ‘Broken Teeth (Agrimony)’ where The Blackout Argument marry heavy guitar riffs with shouty hardcore vocals, lightening to a singing voice for the choruses. Very little new in that approach, but as always, it’s whether they do it well or not that the real issue. ‘Treasure Chest Confidential (Gorse)’ is probably the closest the album gets to the punky hardcore (as opposed to metal) and may appeal to fans of The Sainte Catherines and recent Propagandhi – a definite highlight for me.

‘Kidnap Yourself (Aspen)’ is sludgy with the same sort of shouty vocals which dominate the album, more than reminicent of Glassjaw; again this utilises the more tuneful vocal for the chorus. I wish I could pinpoint whom that voice reminds me of – initially, I thought it was Jon Bunch from Sense Field, but it’s not soft enough. ‘Seven Tones of Grey (Pine)’ has slightly punchier verses leaning towards Sick of It All’s more metallic material, but it’s the more emo/screamo chorus that makes them feel more modern at the time of writing. ‘Dead But So Alive’ starts with a heavy, but tuneful guitar riff, but once vocalist Raphael starts shouting (or more specially alternating the shouting with the cleaner chorus vocals) it becomes very similar to previous tracks.

For melody, ‘Vampire Searching for Some Light (Larch)’, is a standout and probably the album’s best track, being more hardcore punk, recalling Strung Out and co, but there’s still more in common with metal than punk throughout. While The Blackout Argument are great musicians, ‘Remedies’ isn’t always the easiest album to listen to, as it’s so dense. With lots of hardcore punk and metal, though, it’s time that allows hooks to shine through, so I’ll certainly return to it and give it more listens at some point in the future.

There are a bunch of free mp3s up here:

December 2009