The long awaited second album by Malojian landed on our record player last week and it’s fair to say we haven’t listened to anything else since.
Opening with what is surely one of the most original lyrics in modern music “Fourteen Ninjas on the telephone. Say call back later cos there’s no-one home” – the song takes the listener on a journey that could either be about coming down from a bad trip or dealing with a life changing event.
Beautiful accordion, warm reassuring violin and easy rhythm give this a sound of early 70s Neil Young with just a slight hint of the Eagles in the harmonies.
‘Communion Girls’ is a deliciously dark satirical look at Northern Ireland’s past through the eyes of a lustful, Kung Fu inspired teenager. The horror of a dark situation is sharply contrasted by the clever lyrics and melodic chorus.
The title track ‘Southlands’ is simply awesome. Clocking in at over five minutes this is possibly the longest song we’ve heard on a Malojian record. The imagery within the song is breathtaking. Pedal steel gives the song a Wild West feel and as it unfolds in places we get a feel of the loss suffered by Clint Eastwood’s fictional characters in Josie Wales and Pale Rider. “The Southlands had fallen. They drove us to the sea. I lost my wife and child there to curiosity”. A change of key and tempo follows as the lonely traveller departs on a journey that appears to lead to war and ultimately beyond. “The hooves they pound above me. They’re drilling in my brain. The Queen she said she loved me. That’s what this for. The King he went to war”. Finally, the song changes back to its original key and tempo and potential realisation of the futility of the cause that took the traveller on his journey is delivered. “Sure we all run to nothing in the end”. The real beauty of this song is that it can be whatever the listener wants it to be. This is Malojian’s very own ‘American Pie’.
‘Shame On Me’ is a delightful full on country rocker with some of the most amazing guitar we’ve ever heard.
‘No Alibis’ gives us a hint of 70s Queen with its feel of ‘You’re My Best Friend’. Its piano based rhythm and bass line echo that song in places, but this songs twists around the gushing touchy feel of that song into a more questioning searching of why a trusted loved one acts they way they do, as the singer longs for somewhere to hide for their constant mistreatment.
Produced at Millbank Studios by long time band member Michael Mormecha it is clear to see that the band have gelled and are working together using the experience gained from numerous live shows throughout the UK and Ireland perfecting their already considerable talents. The addition of Una McCann’s keyboards and accordion really bring a new dimension to the mix as do Jan Lyttle’s strings. Most bands talk about the difficult second album, but there’s no hint of that here.
‘Bathtub Blues’ is a saucy little number with more than a hint of Mungo Jerry’s ‘In The Summertime’ about it. Finding its inspiration in a request from Stevie’s daughter, fed up with daddy using her time bath time to practise his songs, instead writes one for her. With its bouncy rhythm and tongue and cheek lyrics it’s a song that could sit nicely on the soundtrack of a Carry On film.
‘What Am I Worth’ is a song of sheer beauty. Self-questioning the role within a relationship as alluded to in the title the deep melancholy of the song is carried along by beautiful harmonies and arrangements. Strings and accordion back Stevie Scullion’s heartbreaking lyrics “I reached for the moon, but it was never enough. Wrote all the tunes; you don’t care about that stuff”.
‘Together Alone’ has all the makings of a well-deserved hit for the band. Multi-layered harmonies, soaring strings and an uptempo beat makes this one reminiscent of the Eels during their ‘Daises of the Galaxy’ period.
‘Southlands’ is a complex album and we’ve only scratched the surface here. Musically the arrangements twist and turn and lead us on an unexpected journey complete with fluid visuals and harmonies that are implanted in the listener’s head via the lyrics. In a way Stevie’s song-writing has become so good that this is a record that several people could listen to and derive the own totally different understanding of it. The songs are equally as good as anything found on Neil Young’s ‘Harvest’ or Roy Harper’s ‘Folkjokeopuss’. Indeed, in places it is obvious to see that both of these artists have been strong influences on the musical style of Stevie and on his direction for the band.
Listening to this record is a truly personal experience and Malojian have delivered a creative and sumptuous musical treat that leaves the listener craving for more.