‘One, For Words’ by Keston Cobblers’ Club

September 6, 2012

We’d like to think Keston Cobblers’ Club is an eighteenth century band formed by Cobblers’ apprentices in Keston, and having listened to their album of indie folk, we think the real band would approve.

The name actually comes from a piece of British folklore, about a Cobbler who set up so many dances for local villagers their soles wore thin, leading to more business. As you’re about to find out, this is a little strange, as KCC’s recording isn’t perfect dancing material. It’s actually more meditative.

Album ‘One, For Words’ has thirteen tracks, and although one is short and pointless, that’s still good value for money. Over the course of the songs you’ll hear a wide range of instruments, from acoustic strings (banjos, guitars, and violins), brass, piano, mouth organ, accordion, some handclaps, and even what sounds like an old film projector. They’re equally diverse in their vocals, with a sweet female voice, a soft male voice, and another male who sounds wonderfully flinty, all combining in different ways across the tracks. The style is thoroughly indie folk throughout, as everything has that now familiar sound, and they have big numbers with all the instruments played loud (such as Your Mother), and far more gentle tunes, like For Words.

The common image of indie folk is split between big, dancing tunes where people whoop it up, and sad refrains, and KCC occupy a curious middle ground. While only once do they approach a drunken sadness, melancholy infects the entire album. We don’t mean that the album is overwhelmingly sad, because there’s jolly banjo, keen handclaps, and plenty of action, but even in those songs there’s a tinge – and often more than a tinge – of sadness beneath that stops complete enjoyment. The opposite is also true: even in their most depressed moments there’s a sense of fun, and of hope. The result can be disorientating, like KCC doesn’t know what to write, or they’re trying to be fun and just can’t, and there’s nothing wrong with either of these; in fact, the latter would be touchingly honest. But the more you listen to the album, the more you realise this mixture is far more true to life than the perceived divide.

There are a couple more things to mention. The cover, featuring two red busses, in no way prepares you for what’s inside this album, almost as if it was picked at random. Track 11, Ah Jaunt Soon, begins like a folk hymn before the beats kick in, and I’d have liked to have heard the entire song continue like the start. But these two points are just ways of avoiding the elephant in the room, and that is Mumford and Sons. You can’t release a folk rock album in 2012 without being in their shadows, and a comparison is clear: KCC are a small notch below hitting the emotional strings that Mumford do so well, but their concoction of light and dark, the way happiness and depression can’t be teased apart in this this album, is going to create a raft of passionate Keston fans who feel this album meshing with their lives and who will play if for many years.

It’s out now. 7 out of 10

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