A year ago, Justin and the Argonauts released their debut album, ‘Orpheus’. It was a bolt from the grey, a half-cut kraken of an album, flailing wildly as it rose out of the Medway Delta. Their second album, ‘Solace’, shows no signs that the classical gypsy folk beast the band has unleashed has calmed down.
Opening number ‘Turceasca’ slams straight into syncopated semi-quavers designed to be danced to by gorgon daughters with snake hips. There is a hella lot of ornamentation on these notes, played fast here, and live, at breakneck speeds.
Things slow down for ‘Tango Por Una Cabeza’ which sees the boys dancing tenderly and languorously around each other before Justin Parker’s violin breaks impetuously free; and again with ‘Indifference’, this time with Alket Marku’s sweet, legato accordion and Calvin Beedle’s guitar moving gracefully between straight, sensitive, classical tonality and lightly rocky Flamenco.
‘Creep’ is this year’s wtf cover of wonder. Already a firm favourite from their live shows, its slow, misery-filled verses burst into a Wurzelsesque oompah riot of a chorus, deftly controlled by Tom Pascoe’s tuba. The other pop cover, Stevie Wonder’s ‘Superstition’ is the only duffer – a little too slow, square of beat and stiff of hip to really hit the groove.
Shostakovich’s beautiful ‘Waltz No. 2’ manages to be both a faithful rendition as well as somehow containing a tuba solo.
The slow ragtime of Scott Joplin’s ‘Solace’ is lovely, followed by the even lovelier ‘Dance Me To The End Of Love’: melancholy, romantic, gently French, following the better Madeleine Peyroux template more than the original Leonard Cohen one. Justin’s singing voice has improved dramatically between albums. Gone, the slightly embarrassed Mockney geezer growl, replaced by an authentic, tuneful, masculine musicality.
‘Putin on the Ritz’ (ho ho!) is a medley of Russian folk songs, including ‘Black Eyes’ and ‘Kalinka’ and… you can guess. It’s another slow builder, teasing the listener into a waltz before a dervish whirl (as is ‘Hava Nagila’, of course). I’m breathless. If you’re blue and you don’t know where to go, you could do an awful lot worse than going to their next gig.
‘Solace’ is available from: