Johnny Flynn: A Larum
The first time I heard Englishman Johnny Flynn's amazing A Larum, I thought it sounded like Ray Davies working with the Pogues. What puts Flynn in such brilliant company as Davies, the Pogues, Richard Thompson, Billy Bragg and Mark Knopfler is his brilliant meshing of tradition and nouveau. Flynn sounds genuinely authentic, like he's some ancient beamed up from Stonehenge or Hadrian's Wall. His music often has a we've-been-screwed peasant rage that probably served Norman troops well at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. A busker as well as Shakespearean actor, the 25-year-old Flynn has visions of the alleys, cemeteries and squatter tenements peopled by the barely-getting-by. The Shane McGowan-ish, spit-in-your-eye "Leftovers" sarcastically turns Dumpster diving for scraps of food into haute cuisine with an irascible, unstoppable chorus: "Leftovers is what I want, don't need no fine cuisine, give me a dime for bacon rind or slip me some of that old sardine." "Tickle Me Pink" is another headlong dash into brilliance, with a trance-inducing repetition that hangs in your brain long after the sound fades. A few tracks have an off-kilter oddness that may limit Flynn's success in the States, but all in all this is an impressive, smart album I suspect I'll be coming back to for years to come.
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