Here’s a wee selection of the reviews for the new album ‘Bones of Contention’. They’ve all been great except one but I’m gonna stick the bad one in anyway for the comedy value 🙂
By Neil McFadyen for www.folkradio.co.uk
10th May 2013
Award winners at Celtic Connections and firm favourites live, The John Langan Band have independently released their debut album Bones Of Contention. This infectious mix of frenzied abandon and dark contemplation has been an epic undertaking for the trio (John Langan – vocals, guitar; Dave Tunstall – double bass, backing vocals and Alastair Caplan – fiddle, backing vocals). Two years in the making, Bones Of Contention boasts voluptuously proportioned tracks, a veritable United Nations of musical influences and an infectious disregard for musical convention.
The album opens with Aquaplane, the fastest-paced ballad so far this year. The a capella opening gives way to a Balkan / Spanish fusion of piping hot fiddle / guitar with naught but a driving bass to keep them under control. As the tale unfolds, the first of the extensive instrumental breaks the album luxuriates in demonstrates the finest of guitar, bass and fiddle in turn. With the attention of the listener firmly in their grasp, the band switch to the mellow, dreamy Winter Song. One to please the most ardent lover of folk music, Winter Song feels like a summer love song and, despite the contemporary nature and rich production of the album, has a very 1970′s folk sentimentality. Fiddler Alastair Caplin has enjoyed an honourable mention on these pages before, when his extraordinary fiddle playing brought great depth to Brooke Sharkey‘s May EP – his own fiddle-piece inserted among the summer haze is comparable with Aiden O’Rourke at his best. Although the most overtly folky section of the album, later on the lyrically rich Auld Jimmy nods to a kindred lineage. Among the high energy are more mellow moments, with the sombre guitar and piano of Piano Miniature allowing a brief classical influence on the scene.
The energy of this album will bring listeners back time and again. The sinister instrumental Midgets On Acid takes an accordion on a tempestuous chase through dark, damp streets. The toe-tapping happy busker in Pumpkin Pie shows the laddie Nutini how it really should be done and there’s even a cheery wee tune about lung disease.
The album has its darker phases too, despite the seemingly endless vivacity. Demons, with its bowed acoustics and two-pronged attack on musical sensibilities presents shades of The Sensational Alex Harvey Band before a less than heavenly choir leads to a fiery, frantic conclusion. In Streets of Glasgow observations of city low-life sit proudly somewhere between Jacques Brel and Irvine Welsh.
There are even shades of Delta Blues (albeit in a dizzying duel with an Appalachian fiddle), with Charlie’s Rant showing off John Langan’s guitar prowess. This segues headlong into D-mented, where the processing is switched up to max, as a fiddle wails hysterically over the top of a bowed double bass that’s being punished beyond its endurance while striving to inject some structure. Eventually, there’s the arrival of a rainy mandolin to wash the blood from the battlefield before leading a dance around the corpses.
Conventions are abandoned with a recklessness that borders on the insane; in Bones Of Contention, The John Langan Band offer a collection of songs and tunes that take us on a vertigo-inducing reel around European and American acoustic traditions delivered with a jagged, punky and irresistible edge. That a few guys from Glasgow could conspire to create such an immense sound between them is not unprecedented, but to achieve this with such lyrical and instrumental flair is a rare, rare thing.
Rock Society Magazine Review
Review by Jim Gilchrist, The Scotsman newspaper
N FALLEN angels, pursuing demons and wry Glaswegian street cameos are borne on a wave of Balkan intensity in this high-energy band’s debut album. Singer-songwriter and guitarist Langan, fiddler/mandolinist Alastair Caplin and double-bassist Dave Tunstall have made their reputation as a live band: this album reflects their occasionally rough-edged but compelling, take-no-prisoners style.
The manic opener, Aquaplane, starts with an a cappella chorus before shifting into the gypsy-ish top gear which informs much of the album, while Langan delivers with authority the more measured and bitter lyricism of Winter Song.
Brittle harmonics usher in the swagger then manic swing of Pumpkin Pie, while a barrage of fiddle, bass and Langan’s accordion propels Midgets on Acid. Streets of Glasgow combines dark and feverish drive with overtones of Brecht and Weill while things get scarier in the shadowy Demons – a folky echo, dare I suggest, of the late Alex Harvey.
Review by David Innes, R2 Magazine
Review by Dan Holland, Folkworlds.com
When the line drawing on the cover is three naked musicians with their instruments, followed by more illustrations of the naked trio spread across the cover notes, that has to tell you something about the band. Not sure what that might be but if it’s designed to convey idiosyncratic exhibitionism, quirky extravagance or bizarre eccentricity, the illustrations serve their purpose. We’re talking about The John Langan Band and their new album ‘Bones of Contention’ – released 5 April 2013.
Imagery aside, this is a lavish chunk of folk that sits firmly under the title of ‘different’. From the driving gypsy-dance inspired pulse of ‘Aquaplane’ to the unrestrained jazz-edged, folk-funk of ‘Pumpkin Pie’ there’s nothing predictable about this album. Taking a step towards the edge of weird is the instrumental ‘Midgets on Acid’, which has a distinct free-form, experimental feel from wildly pumping bass to dissonant fiddle. By contrast there’s ‘Winter Song’ an almost-traditional ballad and the gentle (yes, really) fiddle-led instrumental ‘Piano Miniature’, then off we go again with unbridled drive as ‘Streets of Glasgow’ explores a myriad of strange characters.
Following a rather disturbing song called ‘Demons’ that evokes whirling Eastern European essence complete with a thoroughly thrashed tambourine, there’s the appropriately titled ‘D-Mented Set’. This three-piece opens with a jumping quasi-bluegrass, percussive fiddle tune ‘Charlie’s Rant’, moves into the distinctly hard to listen to cacophony of ‘Tunstall’s Rant’ and finally the infinitely more listenable strings of ‘Riley’s Rant’.
Avant garde folk fusion? Virtuoso performance? Uncontrolled profligacy? Not sure, possibly all three. Although I am sure of one thing, hear this album once and it will not be ignored. Not for all but a surefire certainty for some.
The John Langan Band is John Langan (vocals, guitar) Dave Tunstall (double bass, backing vocals) and Alastair Caplan (fiddle, backing vocals).
Reviewer: Dan Holland
Review by Sam Wise, Acoustic magazine
I used to by this mag when I was a kid learning guitar, who would have thunk it..?
And Finally, the clanger. Well you cant win ’em all. Personally I think this one was written by either a very prudish woman or a man with a very small penis who’s been offended by the artwork and had a half-arsed listen to the first track, but everyone’s entitled to their opinion;