The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing - 'Not Your Typical Victorians' (Leather Apron) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Rich Hobson   
Monday, 05 October 2015 04:00

menviccover500Formed in the steampunk capital of the world and renowned for lurking in the kind of London Town establishments that no true gentleman would ever step foot in, The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing scream out at the world like an apocalyptic opium-addled Charles Dickens having hitched a ride aboard the TARDIS, mixing two parts steampunk and one part colourful facial hair with a heap full of penny dreadful humour to more than earn their status as a premier act of pure gonzo peculiarity. With two brilliantly conceived and executed albums under their belt acting as a perfect “how to” guide in the creation of deranged social commentary, and a frothing fanbase of undesirables ready to heed their call of anarchy and poor social grace, the odds were in that this would have to be a belter of an album to continue the momentum the band have amassed thus far, and luckily for the goggle wearing masses they’ve gone and done it again.


'Not Your Typical Victorians' is an apt title for a band who are – frankly – not your typical band, and TMTWNBBFN are nothing if not unconventional, taking the steampunk schtick and infusing it with a wicked humour that keeps the subject matter fresh long after their contemporaries have started to rust and buckle under the strain of trying to keep material fun (a phenomena known to scholars as “The Tenacious D conundrum”). The band’s third venture into the world of shady medical practices ('The People's Common Sense Medical Adviser'), iconic historical figures ('Charlie') and occult monarchist skulduggery ('Victoria's Secret'), 'Not Your Typical Victorians' is a gear shift from some of the brazenly comedic efforts on their previous tracks to a more focused look at world building, resulting in what feels like the band’s first foray into a full and proper album, as it were.


Opening to a self-titled track filled with sound bites of various figures saying the band’s name alongside a jaunty steam-pipe tune (in case you weren’t sure who you were listening to), the album’s full and proper kick off is with its title track, 'Not Your Typical Victorian', a roguish bareknuckle bout which has more than a tinge of Anti Nowhere League to it and sets the tone of the album off like a brawl in a working man’s pub. Lyrically the track bears all the hallmarks of its predecessors – anarchic, playful and disarmingly witty, 'Not Your Typical Victorian' is a perfect anthem to summarise the band that aren’t content to sit comfortably and play nice in one single pigeonhole (or class, for that matter).


'A Clean Sweep' flows seamlessly from its predecessor, given a narrative introduction which sets the scene, the band’s pitch gallows humour comes to the fore as they narrate the unfortunate tale of a sweep’s boss who just can’t get the staff. Played with a garish straight face which strikes all too uncomfortably close to the attitudes of child labour bosses, 'A Clean Sweep' is devilishly grotesque in subject yet brilliantly executed to give the listener a soul-damning chuckle. It’s not all clever lyricism however, and the music itself betrays something of a cross genre element that proves that the tag “steampunk” just doesn’t cut it at times, particularly towards the end of the song when the pace shifts from a steady punkish beat to something which sounds like the ’60s Batman theme reimagined by Bay Area Thrashers.


Not one to let up easily, the dark humour is continued in the softer 'This House Is Not Haunted', a track which sweeps away the outdated superstitions which blight society, assuring listeners that there is nothing to go bump in the middle of the night – even if you do live in a house built where the scaffold once stood, with a bathtub (“where the toddler drowned”) and a nursery (“where the twins were found”). Laid on thick and played clever, the track is an unconventional rationalist ballad which suits a band brazen enough to include 13 tracks on the album, and all the ills this entails.


From lighter swaying ballads straight into a jaunty punk rock knees up, 'Vive La Difference Engine' proposes a machine of such capability that someday its descendants may rule the world, all with a sense of jovial pogo-able fun before lurching into the snarly 'Turned Out Nice Again', the sound of British urban frustration encapsulated in a hate-letter to London town and its perma-rain-and-fog. The track’s guttural snarls and screams are perfectly familiar to anyone who has had to endure the sprawl of run down city streets and bad weather, and though the band sing the woes of Victorian London, a trip down the backstreets of Whitechapel today yields the same pure hatefulness.


'The Worst Sideshow Ever' takes the constricting tone of the previous track and merges it with a gaudy, creepy melody which perfectly conjures up images of run down circuses and fairgrounds. A stark contrast to the shorter punk ditties that precede it, instead showcasing a side of the band which falls more in tune with The Melvins, the track combines a chunky plodding riff with venomous vocals for a six minute plus run-time and yet still manages to keep the humour intact, painting a picture so vivid that even if the track never enjoys its own video (which it most certainly deserves) the band supply enough imagery to let the imagination run wild.


Continuing the band’s penchant for spinning the tales of ne’er do wells, muck snipes and bludgers, 'Inheritor's Powder' and 'Miner' make a 1-2 burst of punk rock as the band sing of a murderous black widow and the woes of mine workers respectively. Whilst 'Inheritor's Powder' is a mosh-happy punk ditty which clatters around with reckless abandon, 'Miner' takes on a much more pogo friendly pace, bouncing along with its message of social injustice. Social inequality is an ever-present theme on the album, and where tracks like 'A Clean Sweep' trod before, with the profit of an individual over the suffering of their worker, 'Miner' takes a more serious tone as it woefully acknowledges that the workers will die of silicosis, whilst the owner will “do very well”. It’s probably in that social commentary that The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing prove just how different they are from the usual schtick oriented bands, be it Steampunk, Pirate Metal or Battle Metal, there aren’t many (if any) bands that can blend the humour with a message intelligently, without coming across as either a one-trick pony or otherwise preachy.


'(I'm In Love With) Mary Lloyd' is a brilliantly executed unrequited love song, played in a way that it’s easy to believe it could be sung by a down and out bloke, missing only a piano to complete the classical cockney pub scene. Spry and catchy, Mary Lloyd brings the spotlight back onto the band’s comedic leanings, breaking up the class commentary of its predecessor and follow up track, 'Third Class Coffin'. Hammering the point home with the catchy refrain “A third class citizen/even when I’m dead”, 'Third Class Coffin' is a perfect sing-along, mixing bass build-ups in the verses with all out blasts for the choruses.


The final original track of the album (with album closer, 'The Gin Song', released in 2014), 'How I Became An Orphan' takes the album to a perfectly Dickensian finish, once again lying the tragedy on thick as the band recount the many deaths they have suffered, like a Dickensian Jim Carroll. Atmospheric and dripping in the macabre, the band draw as much gallows humour as possible before closing on the off-beat drinker’s sing-along, 'The Gin Song', which mixes odd arrangements with spooky tones to create a completely off-kilter ending. If 'Not Your Typical Victorians' were narrated by a single character, 'The Gin Song' almost acts as a “it might all be shit, but then there’s gin” message, a typically British sentiment if ever there was one.


In 'Not Your Typical Victorians' The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing have taken the very best elements of their previous two efforts and merged them into a cohesive piece where each track is perfectly placed with its predecessor and successor. The band have certainly proved to be popular (having filled out The Cuban bar earlier this year at Camden Rocks, much to my individual chagrin) and with this latest effort they certainly look to continue building a dedicated fan-base and making waves. Much more than just a steampunk band, and much, much more than a gimmick, 'Not Your Typical Victorians' is an excellent listen and continues to define how bands of their ilk should approach the art.


'Not Your Typical Victorians' is available to order on Bandcamp (alongside the band’s other material).



The Band Play:


17 November - The Musician Pub, Leicester
18 November - The Talking Heads, Southampton
19 November - Fulford Arms, York
20 November - Think Tank, Newcastle
21 November - The Underground, Camden
22 November - Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar, Brighton
24 November - The Ruby Lounge, Manchester
25 November - Stereo Café Bar, Glasgow
26 November - Alfie Birds (The Oobleck), Birmingham
27 November - The Bullingdon, Oxford
28 November - The Louisiana, Bristol


To pick up your copy of 'Not Your Typical Victorians' - CLICK HERE