University of Sussex Students' Newspaper

From MP to MC

Freya Marshall Payne

ByFreya Marshall Payne

Mar 1, 2016

The Reform Club’s debut album received critical acclaim when they released it back in 2013, alongside a barrage of media attention; not least because the band’s frontman Norman Baker was an incumbent Liberal Democrat MP at the time. Renowned for his progressive views on drugs and sharp distaste of the establishment – his book The Strange Death of David Kelly was unanimously celebrated by political commentators – Baker’s witty, politically charged lyricisms are a refreshing contrast to much of the post-modern output: commerce seeking businessmen masquerading as artists.

Unashamedly retrospective and clearly self-aware, The Reform Club never cease to provoke and entertain, carrying an elusive essence of aloofness. Standout track Give War a Chance is an irresistible critique of Blair’s warmongering, with the opening refrain “I am an envoy for peace/But I’ve got war on my mind/I’ve dealt with Iraq, I’m shafting Iran/Syria watch your behind” carrying a wholly correct prediction, chastising Cameron’s bombing whist uncovering the root of the madness with a heat seeking intensity any general would be proud of.

Juxtaposed to a creeping folky instrumental, Baker and Mike Phipp’s lyrics are given a platform no parliamentary speech can rival. The Reform Club also excel at old-school Rock and Roll ballads of longing and loss, with One Way Love and That Girl giving the album a genuine sense of authenticity; the former dealing with the age-old issue of loving one who will never reciprocate, the latter echoing the same notion in a flurry of minor chords and a chorus “That girl, That girl, I am in love but she’s leagues above me” that is simultaneously simplistic yet byzantine.

Occasionally the observations do descend into nonplussing territory, with the perplexing Shopping feeling like a diet version of The Clash’s Lost in the Supermarket, lacking any real focus or bite. But overall, The Reform Club’s influences shine through rather than over-shadow, with the REM-esque Walking Down The Line, “People come and go/See them come and see them go” brimming with reflection and melancholy.

Never Yesterday’s meticulous political editorial makes it worth a spin, but where the album blossoms is through its inherent honesty. Love and life flutter among the words with such cordial belonging it is almost like opening a diary; and that intimacy gives this album its heart.


Glenn Houlihan

Freya Marshall Payne

By Freya Marshall Payne

Editor-in-Chief. Freya also works on a radio show for Platform B, "Off the Fence", and has freelanced for local newspapers. Freya was previously the Badger's News Editor, and while at sixth form college she founded a student newspaper, The Cymbal. Twitter:

One thought on “From MP to MC”

Leave a Reply