There is a grand tradition in British comedy history of taking the mick. For pricking pomposity. For observing the absurdities of normal life and making them surreal. And for often doing it in the format of song. From the very earliest days of the music hall, through the light entertainment bands of the 60’s and 70’s such as The Barron Knights and via the anarchic comedy of Monty Python and Not The Nine O’clock News the musical parody has been a rich vein of comedy gold.
And to this day it remains a source of laughter, tittering and down right awesome ribaldry led, now, by a trio of tank top wearing mop topped minstrels of mirth; Scott, Alan and Bjorn, the Bar Steward Sons of Val Doonican. These guys have taken on the mantle of superior parody and made it their own, combining the comedy song with elements of folk, punk and rock ‘n’ roll to make a fresh new, though unmistakeably South Yorkshire, sound in the world of very funny, observant songs.
Place of Spades, their tenth studio album, only confirms that this band has got talent in, well (pun intended) spades featuring ten* exceptional songs that take aim at mobile phone users, shoeaholic partners, poncey chefs and even the gasman amongst others. Lyrically irreverent but beautifully observed the band bring to musical life everyday situations; the ones that anger and annoy the hell out of the cantankerous, but in a way that makes light of those issues and makes the world seem a better, if more absurd, place.
One thing for certain about the Bar Stewards is that they are unafraid to take on the very best songwriters there have been. Brian Wilson, Lennon and McCartney and Don McLean all get tank topped on this album, but all of them are done with a love of the original song that is so very evident in the finished work. The Bar Stewards are all extremely talented musicians who bring to the songs some of the highest skills you could hope for. Indeed, take away the vocals from their version of God Only Knows (a song that I would normally suggest would be sacrosanct) and you’d hear musical arrangements that the great Brian Wilson would be proud of himself. This is no thrown together collection of clever songs. These are clever songs supported by musicianship and production that would be the envy of many. It has a balance that comes from an understanding of exactly how much to put into a song to make it great, to make it stand out in a crowd.
The Bar Steward Sons of Val Doonican work chuffin’ hard, hard work that is rewarded by their burgeoning reputation on the live and festival circuit. Hard work that is supported, confirmed and reaffirmed by Place of Spades. An album that is shit ‘ot, reet grand and chuffin’ amazing. As Yorkshire as puddin’ and gravy, as funny as that time Bert slipped over and banged his arse on the ice and as clever as Amos Cleverlad, the cleverest lad in Dodsworth, Place of Spades is 56 minutes of laugh out loud, rib tickling and side splitting comedy gold. An album full of beautifully observed absurdities of life that brings a smile to the face, and laugh to voice and a warmth to the heart and soul.
* Make sure you listen to all of track 10, in all it’s 80’s like majesty, there are some hidden gems that reward the lengthy waits between them!
Go on, order the album. Don’t be a daft apeth. It’s chuffin’ great! Visit https://www.thebarstewardsons.com/merch