Opening with a staccato waltz and a vocal arrangement as refreshingly far away from autotune as a recording could possibly get, Repeat Offenders by Broken Banjo sets out to be a challenging listen, and succeeds admirably. It’s the Broken Banjo you know and love from live performances, but it’s looking beyond. Take, for instance, “Birdcage“, looking askance to a Seattle of old, or the heavy sludge of “Gone In The Morning“, with its funky little middle eight and delicate fuzz. The latter sounds like the offspring of Dr Feelgood and Motorhead, off its head on sugar and E numbers, running around the school playground, not at one with its environment and not really caring why.
Or take “Leros“, almost but never a lilting ballad, with its gentle opening guitar and tentative vocals. Here, Harry Nilsson Channels Shane McGowan channelling Sid Vicious. Or “Hide Your Face“, with an admission of guilt (about who knows what) amplified by a ‘Hate me. Love you.’
There’s ‘…rope around my neck’ nihilism in “Drunk Again (End To End)“, but it eventually rocks out. Thank fuck.
The overall impression is of a really proficient band not sure whether to pursue its own musicianship or tear the place up. That’s absolutely fine. We hear a killer rhythm section (I can’t think of a better one extant in Medway that doesn’t also include Mike), and we also hear glorious feats of guitar that are (hopefully) never the same twice. But we also hear an apparent conflict between caring deeply and not giving a fuck in Liam’s lyrics and vocals. Having to write the lyrics is a shit job, and anyone who has ever had the responsibility placed upon them will no doubt recognise this.
It’s just as well he’s nailed it on “Might As Well Be Hell“. ‘For all the words I swallowed, false prophets followed’, he sings. Righteous anger trumps nihilism every time, if you can channel it positively. It’s hard, I know.
Not an easy listen, but then neither is Adele. Never compromise.
Phill Dillon portrait by Daisy Parris