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.