Review: 'BELL, JEFF'
'Turned Every Screw'
- Label: 'Rhythm Of The System' - Genre: 'Alt/Country' - Release Date: 'December 2014'- Catalogue No: 'RSR-002'
|Our Rating: 8/10|
'Turned Every Screw' is the latest album release (his third) from singer songwriter and poet Jeff Bell. Jeff is certainly a man who has a way with words, having written the poems 'I Once Kissed Pavarotti in Dalston' and 'Ok, you can call me an oddist if you like!'; a brilliant attack on the Conservatives (both available to read at: Jeff Bell at Penniless Press.
So, how does 'Turned Every Screw' stand up to wit and wisdom like that? Actually very well. There are twelve tracks on the album (actually thirteen due to the bonus track 'Wasted Hours', all packed full of insightful social comment, and forming eloquent stories taken from real life.
The music varies from jazzy rock, to rock, to ballads and back again, without ever seeming disjointed or having anything that grates. This is perhaps because Jeff has written, recorded and performed everything on the album save for the track 'Get The Chains' which includes French group Le Skeleton and London based Australian drummer Ryan Kalkman from Mouths. As a result, Jeff seems comfortably in his element.
Added to this is Jeff's undeniable talent as a lyricist, being able to evoke images of a London filled with seedy bars, alcohol and the highs and lows of life. The album opens with the jazzy 'Get The Chains', a song that is fairly reminiscent of early T om Waits, especially in Jeff's delivery, however, this is clearly, uniquely English and carries with it a wit and imagination in storytelling: - “I met a beautiful girl, she was brushin' the bar room floor/ She smiled at me as she walked past, I thought, get the chains/ I joked that I was in love, I'd buy her a Hoover one day/ As she laughed out loud, I thought, get the chains”
In a few short sentences, Jeff is able to convey both a distinct picture and an atmosphere which will resonate with most listeners, and this is his talent, his words are able to produce comfortable feelings and half forgotten memories. Such as on 'All I See is You', an almost funereal balled cataloguing a relationship break: - “You waste me when you taste me, you had me in your palm/ Now the sun don't shine like it used to, since you been gone/ And the spilt red wine on the duvet is now all I see,
Of the memories of you, when you were still with me.”
Overall, whilst this is something that will never translate to the dance floor, it is an excellent album, after all anyone who can throw in the lines: - “I shelter from the rain it the local bar that doesn't feel the same/ I'm drinking down the sediment, to wash away the sentiment.” will always get my vote. This is a perfect album for drinkers and thinkers everywhere.
Review - Nick Browne
‘Low Key Affair’ is equally sad-baked -but with pangs of light provided by guitar. That inebriated voice is racked with real guilt. This song wrings you dry. ‘Only a Footstep Away’ is lightly jazzy and gently sweeps over you like a slight haze. The lyrics are interesting and memorable.
Then ‘Damn You’ crashes in. This is a rockier affair. A blues harp ruffles the edges and the beat bumps provocatively against your rear. A growling guitar adds a lick and a snarl, and goes well with the gravel dust voice.
‘Never’ is slighter benumbed. An astute lyric rings out across the painful gasping of the sounds. But the hobo comes out again for ‘Like Blood. A finger picked tune follows the gritty voice meekly, before an electric guitar gushes in with excitement and adds the acid. This is a high point.
‘Phoney World’ is – perhaps appropriately – the least blueish track on the album. But ‘Faith’ restores the order, with an unsettling chord progression and lamenting vocals. This type of song is where the ruinous voice of Bell weaves a special magic. It is rough like sandpaper against thigh, and as acid as vinegar on the shelf. This is a stand-out song, with the kind of jaw-dropping guitar solo at the end that will make your hair stand on your head.
‘I See’ is the most ‘Rolling Stones’ sounding track on the disc. This will be one hellishly addictive barnstormer in any live show. Keen guitars slide menacingly across the flea-bitten rhythms and sexy vocals.
The album finishes with ‘Everything’ which reflects the sentiment that we started with in ‘Rome’.