Sounding like the best night out on the wrong side of town, Dalston’s finest and dandiest vagabonds The Urban Voodoo Machine return with their long awaited and much delayed fifth long player ‘$nake Oi£ Engin€’.
Led by the vivacious Mr. Paul-Ronney Angel, the black n’ red wearing collective have been wowing audiences for well over 15 years with their self-proclaimed “bourbon-soaked gypsy blues bob ‘n’ stroll”. Some say they are the best live band in the country, others say they are just a bunch of drunken ne’er-do-wells. Both could be right, but one thing’s for sure, you cannot ignore them.
Recorded back in early 2020 at Space Eko Studios by The Future Shape Of Sound main man Alex McGowan (who also produced alongside PR and drummer J-Roni-Mo), ‘$nake Oi£ Engin€’ captures the relentless live energy of a band who have been described as The Pogues meets Gogol Bordello playing the last damn party at the end of the universe.
Paul-Ronney Angel writes songs about living in London as an outsider. Relatable issues such as the struggles of addiction, depression, mental health problems and being fuckin’ skint! With a love of The Clash, Tom Waits and AC/DC, these swampy blues jams, New Orleans jazz inspired ditties and mournful murder ballads have been lovingly crafted by the ringleader and his crew over a bevvy or three, and a few smokes along the way.
Four of the eleven songs have been previously released as singles and soundtrack the Covid/Brexit years better than the frontman could ever have imagined. The prophetic ‘Living In Fear’ was written as a dig at the Windrush scandal and the Grenfell disaster, and took on new meaning post-Covid when we actually were living in fear. The Caribbean feel created with the addition of steel drums and brass is upbeat and fresh, and a memorable hook is always going to win me over.
‘Empty Plastic Cup’ is an ode to the rich getting richer and the poor getting fucked! It has ‘Goodbye To Another Year’ vibes, with typical bombastic, UVM backing vocals, a killer sloppy guitar riff and enough brass to kick your ass! It builds and builds to a climactic finish; you just know it’s gonna be a live favourite.
The big band vibes of ‘Johnny Foreigner’ fit the bill and the lyrics hit home even with the raw, tongue-in-cheek vocal delivery. A larger-than-life tune delivered by a larger-than-life band. The reflective ‘January Blues’ is the morning after the night before comedown. Again, with hindsight it could be a prophetic reaction to Covid as the singer drawls “last year you can fuck right off, and this year, I’ve had enough of you” over mournful violin and acoustic guitar.
Of the new songs on offer, opener ‘Little Jimmy & The Wrong Crowd’ is an early favourite. The unmistakable PR vocal drawl is omnipresent, the blasts of brass and primal beats glorious as ever. But the surprise vocal rap is sung by James Brown II and the overall Cuban feel of the track give a new dimension to The Urban Voodoo Machine killer sound.
‘Pill Popping Cross Dressing Copper’ is 2 minutes of musical insanity, another high-energy party song to add to the arsenal. ‘Hell’s Caravan’ is a sombre, death march with regimental drums and killer voodoo backing vocals, ‘Dropping Like Flies’ an ode to lost friends, while the ringleader takes us to church with the gospel-tinged sermon ‘Carry Your Weight’.
There’s enough diversity and familiarity to please fans old and new and something to whet the appetite for those who are yet to capture the band live.
Live, The Urban Voodoo Machine channel gypsy punkabilly rave-ups, mariachi marches, outlaw country and bluesy jams, with a heady dose of burlesque and circus sideshow craziness when available. These are the sights and sounds of The Urban Voodoo Machine, and ‘$nake Oi£ Engin€’ is the perfect soundtrack to the crazy world of the band who just refuse to die.
Author: Ben Hughes