The Constant Pageant is the third album from bombastic Glasgow-based four-piece Trembling Bells. The cover art, which features a castle, a greyhound’s head, a bull-dragon and a rooster-swan does little to hint at the lunacy within. Sounding as though they’ve been influenced in equal parts by The Pogues, very early Marianne Faithful, The Last Night Of The Proms, Jefferson Airplane and Morris Dancing, Trembling Bells employ accordion, lap steel, harmonica and cor anglais to really drive the folk message home.
First track Just As The Rainbow begins quietly but the leprechaun-like guitar playing soon builds in intensity, delivering a sound that is at once ancient, majestic and slightly annoying. Lavinia Blackwell’s vocals are commendably unique, but not always strong enough to pull off the complex melodies without veering into shrill or shaky territory. On All My Favourite Mistakes drummer Alex Neilson adds his vocals to Blackwell’s, a combination that sounds great and is less cloying than Blackwell’s vocals alone. The quirky pop-rock riff is also an indication that the album does at times veer away from medieval folk.
Trembling Bells rock out on Where Do I Go From You (which features some great honky tonk piano), and on Otley Rock Oracle where they drift off on a musical tangent that commendably avoids referencing 70s psychedelia. To See You Again is an odd and fun little duet that borrows from Mozart (well that’s what Mum said when I hummed it down the phone to her – then she changed her mind and said it might be Beethoven). Flashes of Queen and Elton John appear between the violins on Torn Between Loves, and final track New Year’s Eve’s The Loneliest Night Of The Year is indeed the perfect track to listen to if you find yourself alone with a bottle of whiskey this Christmas.
The Trembling Bells have taken the words of wise old bard to heart, converting all their sounds of woe into hey nonny, nonny. The group seem like they’d a fantastic, eccentric, over-the-top experience best experienced live. I think I’ll give the CD to my mum.
Kathryn van Beek www.joyriderpromotions.co.nz
Click here to listen to Where Do I Go From You from The Constant Pageant: