Last year we reviewed Salvation Bill’s ‘FML (Feel My Lump)’ which showcased the quirky troubadour pop that one-man band Ollie Thomas (ex-Ute and the Old Grinding Young) specialises in so much. With b-side ‘Tony Blair Extraordinaire’ offering an intimate political edge, we were excited to hear what the Oxfordonian would come up with on his new EP ‘The Glamour’s Off’.
A jaunty vaudeville song about murdering a neighbour’s pet who just won’t be quiet, ‘Dead Dog’ has a dark edge as Ollie repeats the lines: ‘I did this for you, I did this for me so we could live in equality’ time and time again in increasingly sinister yet enigmatic fashion. Mixing the theatric upbeat piano sound of Duke Special with the ever-increasing darkness of Tom Waits, there’s also an awry drum machine beat and dogs barking thrown into the mix – it’s very different and a song you can’t help be intrigued (and entertained!) by. Following this is ‘FML’ which has a sound akin to Sweet Billy Pilgrim covering Talking Heads – you don’t need us to tell you that’s pretty incredible.
‘Love on L Plates’ has a funky start complete with fractured guitar riffs and all sorts of ambient sound as the slightly mumbled vocals cover the horrors of a crooked back and ask the questions we all need answering when things like that happen to us: ‘Can you afford a holiday with the chiropractor bills to pay?’ An oddball sound that anyone who’s ever felt like an outsider will love, there’s an atmosphere throughout the song that recalls fellow Oxford types Stornoway but with more curious eccentricity.
This idiosyncrasy follows through on ‘London, the Big Smirk’; a song that asks if living in the nation’s capital really is all it’s cracked up to be… Despite the ‘thick black smog’, it says how much better London would be than the small town currently lived in that offers nothing but ‘bad coffee’ and cafes that are not friendly to those with a dairy intolerance. There’s a complete change in direction halfway through as the character leaves the small town and starts working in London. There’s an element of Disney villain when Ollie sings: ‘A man who’s bored in London is a man who’s bored of life’ and the following ominous, hysterical chants of ‘London’ add an extra sense of Machiavellian mischief.
The closing ‘The Grifter’ has a subtle psychedelic opening that seems to incorporate a ping-pong battle and synth effects in one madcap match-up. As the character of the song (Ollie seems a storyteller very much in the style of early Cold War Kids…) searches for a hard drink but has to make do with a cup of tea while carrying out his invoice, Ollie enunciates ‘I guarantee he’ll make a sweet return’ in such a way that you feel there’s an incredible journey ahead. The grand-sounding baroque pop finish is a satisfying end to an EP that once again affirms Salvation Bill as a real talent. The glamour may be off, but the genius lives on.
Salvation Bill’s ‘The Glamour’s Off’ is available from Idiot King’s Bandcamp now.