Whereas most British country rock bands look to the West Coast honk of Bakersfield and Gram Parsons, Broken Family Band are a different sort of proposition. Armed with a similar sense of mischief and knack for a roaring tune, they instead sound like kindred cousins of that other great homegrown, country-influenced, anomaly, The Mekons.
This, evidently, is a band who bring a quirky personality to bear on their traditional influences. Fronted by Steven Adams – a British equivalent of Gordon Gano from the Violent Femmes- the band have made a fourth album characterized by this individuality. Moving away from heartland influences – there are no overt country pastiches – instead, country influence makes itself felt in the record’s approaches to matters of the heart.
In this respect, ‘Hello Love’ marks a definite progression from previous Broken Family Band albums. ‘Welcome Home Loser’ (from 2005) and last year’s ‘Balls’ were both fired by a scornful worldview. This, meanwhile displays a rather more earnest candour, and it’s far more convincing. The great “Dancing on the 4th Floor” finds Adams unusually open: “Hand on my heart / I’ve been waiting for someone like you to pop my bubble / And nearly all these songs are lies / Except this one.”
If you’re seeking reference points, you’ll find them among the literate, new wave of American guitar bands compiled on Uncut’s recent Wake Up! CD. As with some of those artists, the band’s approach to traditional sources is anything but purist, as they add some jarring stylistic juxtapositions into the mix. “Love Your Man Love Your Woman” sees the band approach ‘70s rock. “Julian” meanwhile, has a touch of fellow black humorist Bill Callahan’s “Cold Blooded Old Times” about it.
This kind of magpie musicianship makes Broken Family Band’s business occasionally a pretty risky one. Happily, though, the band’s chief strength is to wear a variety of influences, but still have their unique character shine through.