ON initially seeing the title Joy Street I had some concerns that Songdog had headed out on a path of jovial musical whimsy, but I should have known better.
No, this is Songdog as their fans know and love them, the bleak vision of guitarist and songwriter Lyndon Morgans coming to the fore in songs with titles like The Dry Wind of Oblivion, Razor-Wire And Tinsel, Helldorado, and Love Dies Petal By Petal.
This is Songdog’s seventh album and they continue to be the best band you’ve never heard of. Bruce Springsteen and Robert Wyatt are fans, just saying.
Songdog is, as it always has been, a vehicle for Lyndon Morgans’ somewhat individual view of the world. But he doesn’t just condemn existence out of hand, he highlights life’s incongruities and perversions and stupidities and clinically skewers the things that put a brake on our outright happiness.
Lyndon is a poet, lyricist par excellence, a singer of passion with the world-weary tones of a Bob Dylan or a Tom Waits, but most of all someone willing to put his life and thoughts up for our judgement.
The title track, Joy Street, pretty much sums this up. His words are powerful in offerings such as “I’d had a hangover all day long/a day of grit in the wind” and “Now I’m bidding adieu to a twenty-quid whore/she looked so much older than an hour before/back on her phone before I even reach the door”.
There is a dark humour here in lines such as “Some boy band anthem with extra cheese” and “I said: ‘See that bird? It flew maybe 10,000 miles just to die in the mud in that park over there.”
The 11 songs on Joy Street are a (dark) pleasure to listen to. They are really stunning poems put to words rather than meaningless wafflings manipulated to fit a dum-de-dum-de-dum pop song beat and should be cherished for that.
Songdog isn’t just Lyndon. There is also Karl ‘Pod’ Woodward on mandolin, banjo, harmonica and piano, Dave Paterson on drums and accordion, and Jasper Salmon on violin. Their contribution acts to strengthen the songs without trying to dominate.
If you want to hear something that is so different to most of the musical mush out there, get hold of this album. It is a great listen, with songs like It’s Not A Love Thing having a quite — dare I say it? — uplifting air.
Joy Street is life as it is, without the sugar coating. A rare treasure.