Album of the Year: “Method” – 30 Pounds Of Bone

The pull of a good story or a tale of the tortured genius, or the insane recluse has always been seductive to music fans. Bon Iver gets dumped by his bird, goes off to a cabin in the woods up a mountain somewhere in the middle of nowhere and writes an album about it – city dwelling music fans go insane. Jeff Mangum records, what I too regard, one of the best albums ever (Neutral Milk Hotel’s “In The Aeroplane Over The Sea”) and is hardly heard of again – the odd sighting here and there – and not another note recorded. Is he insane? Does he live in a cave with Kevin Shields trying to recreate the sound of angels crying? The myth grows, as does the stature of the music.

I’ve been listening to “Method” by 30 Pounds Of Bone now for weeks, long enough that the facts about Johnny Lamb (it’s a one man band) no longer get in the way of the beautiful collection of songs that make up the album. Still, before I attempt to describe the moving beauty of the album, let’s get the facts out there.

He’s the son of a clergyman, brought up on the remote isle of Unst in the Shetland isles, a childhood obsessed with the sea and the fisheries that surrounded him. He once spent so long in the hospital as a child, he was made to go to school there – leaving with one kidney. He now lives in a van on the Lizard peninsula in Cornwall, and can most often be found in- or on- the sea. Notoriously prickly and utterly unapproachable – unless armed with copious amounts of whiskey – he’s basically a drunk travelling vagrant – pinned down only for the four days that it took to record “Method” upon which he played all the instruments.

“Method” isn’t so easy to describe easily – it veers from sparse folk, to soft and sad sea shanties, to the occasional layered guitar freak out. There’s the sad accordion of King Creosote, some of the fuzz of Neutral Milk Hotel, amid tales of loss at sea and gallons and gallons of alcohol. Oh yeah, the booze – oh the booze! This album is soaked in it. Drowning in the false hope of the first few shots, the accordion squeezes the dripping whiskey out on every push, as the sodden trumpet cries last orders at the bar.

Lamb has a good emotional range to his voice, and a story-tellers nature with it – this isn’t a record of dirges by any means. In fact he’s pulled that great trick, disguising some perfect catchy three-minute almost-pop songs, in such heart rending broke-down messed up folk trappings that stick in your head and demand repeat listens. My favourite songs on this album have changed many times over the last few weeks, which is a sign of a fab record.

The opener (above) to the record is “Crack Shandy In The Harbour” –  a recounting of when Lamb worked in a Plymouth cafe where the local Narcotics Anonymous held their meetings, nipping out as they did for a crack shandy (heroin & crack smoked together). The song, catchy as heck, puts a modern spin on the folk tradition and finishes within the perfect pop timing of three minutes, painting a vivid and desolate picture of that time in the singer’s life. “I’m lonely” he sings, and you relate, “…for crack shandy, in the harbour” – and you’re completely thrown.

There’s one cover on the record, “All For Me Grogg” – a traditional song I wasn’t familiar with, one that seems to be a perky staple in sets of bands like the Dubliners. “Where’s my shoes” they sing, and it gets a laugh. When Lamb reinterprets this, it’s the saddest lament for a life out of control that I’ve ever heard. Amazing.

“The Fishery”  (above) sings about “send fables down, cables down” into a storm of guitars and you know he’s drowning not waving from a sea that will “take me in…over and over… I never learnt to swim”.

Unless Shields and Mangum release that collaboration I mentioned earlier in the next few weeks, I can’t see how this isn’t going to be my album of the year. Ten stunning songs, in less than 40 minutes. it’s a treasure chest of sad beauty, taken under as the ship sank, miles from home and very alone. Alone but for the sailors’ grogg.

“Method” by 30 Pounds Of Bone is available from the cracking indie label Armellodie Records (you can hear all the songs from the record there too), only 7 quid in a sweet cardboard sleeve, out on the 6th of December.

25 thoughts on “Album of the Year: “Method” – 30 Pounds Of Bone

  1. Wow. Was won over by your write-up, hugely impressed with the two songs you posted – Crack Shandy in particular sounds like an instant classic (love the unexpected minor chord at the end of the chorus) – then blown away by the acoustic version of All For Me Grogg on the Armellodie Records website.

    Now I’ve just listened to the whole album. Will definitely be listening again, and fully intend to buy it (though I still haven’t got round to buying the Withered Hand LP, which I also fully intended to do).

    Definitely a folk record, but a very 2010 one. I do see your NMH comparison, though it doesn’t have the same visionary madness – reminded me of The Decemberists in places too – and his (heart-broken/breaking) voice reminds me of someone, but I can’t place it.

    Anyway, thanks for bringing it to our attention – looking forward to hearing it again already.

    • Thank you BTDT this link is far to valuable to leave in a cmoemnt. I’ve moved it mainstream on the main entry. I urge people to watch it.Dare I say that Britain does have a leader in the mold of Thatcher?I think so. They just don’t know it yet.In my view, UKIP is the true British Conservative Party. Like Reform in Canada this party today will one day take power and the sooner the better. Britain has no time to waste and it’s far past time to fire all Europhiles . I am certain would approve. Farage a modern day Nelson and he provides much to think about as he is ignored by the UK LSM , owned and controlled by the EU. Where have I heard that story before?One final thought (). Stephen Harper the second coming and many more to follow as Nigel goes big time . The EU may control all the major news organizations on the continent but they cannot control the net and that is where the real news is to be found.I say that because I know that . I read it everyday. My view: It is far past time the EU (the new and improved USSR) is fired. Europe has far better things to spend it’s money on than a bunch of losers . Everyone has seen that movie before. VN:F [1.9.11_1134]please wait…VN:F [1.9.11_1134](from 4 votes)

  2. Lovely write-up, lovely tunes. (Now I’m plagiarising – sorry steen!) I was surprised by the sweetness of his voice. The talk of drunk vagrants had been expecting something Shane MacGowan-esque! I too will be investigating further… Thanks for the intro!

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  4. Just gone back for another listen – I see Armellodie Records are tweeting about you.

    (By the way, does Stroud really have a heroin problem?)

  5. I just found my copy of ‘The Homesick Children of Migrant Mothers’ the note in it says “decan blue without the nice female vocals” … these were used as memory hints – I remember finding the album didn’t live up to my expectations of grittiness, call an album ..The Homesick Children of Migrant Mothers… you expect rough heartache in the music and lyrics.

    remember Drinking with Mcgee was Shane MacGowan-esque – bishbosh.

    this isn’t a buke by the way – I love that write up Blimpy – and i’ll see if my appreciation is different… my head space is so in a different place to 2006.

    ps – no offense to deacon blue either (couldn’t spell your name right and possibly only know two tunes, so a weird comparison)

    pps – crack shandy was mutual masturbation with no penetration when I was a teen!

  6. “The Fishery” is epic ‘n’ ace. There’s drama there that – for all its musical difference – makes me think of Tarheel Slim and L’il Ann’s best outings.

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  7. Pingback: Top Ten Albums Of 2010 – Part Four « The 'Spill

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