According to the internet, Billy Liar is “an acoustic punk/folk band from Edinburgh, fronted by the solo singer of the same name”. Not really sure exactly which guise we are dealing with here, but it seems to be a fully plugged-in whole band effort. The press release doesn’t seem to specify which or differentiate between them, and doesn’t identify anybody else in the band.
The inlay taken in hand with the internet has unearthed Tim van Doorn, a Belgium based studio engineer (formerly playing in Clueless) as bass player, Robin Guy of Rachel Stamp on drums, Joe McMahon (presumably of Smoke or Fire fame) on guitar and vox, and ‘Little’ Dave Parker, apparently an LA-based tattoo artist of some renown on lead guitar. We also have a guest vocal appearance from F***k T****r and, multiple contributions from Franz Nicolay of The Hold Steady, World/Inferno Friendship Society and Against Me! on keys.
The press release through up a bunch of red flags for me. The “for fans of” section listing (but not limited to): F***k T****r, who I think is a total cartoon character of a person; Tim Timebomb (aka Tim Armstrong of Rancid), whose solo material I really struggle with for some reason; Beans on Toast, who seemingly rides on the coattails of F***k T****r, and apparently introduces his songs wherever possible as tales about “me and my friend F***k T****r, yeah”; and The Gaslight Anthem who, in my opinion, haven’t done anything good since their first album (which by and large still slaps hard).
To cap this off, we’ve got a quote from Tim Armstrong himself: “Billy Liar is one of my favourite songwriters. Powerful and honest.” It’s a great sentiment, don’t get me wrong – I even agree with him on this. I just can’t take the guy seriously: (the extremely lengthy string of absolute musical turds he’s curled out notwithstanding) he just strikes me as being a ridiculously overblown parody of himself.
…frequent readers will know very well that I review EVERY SINGLE VINYL RECORD that people trouble to send my way, and I’m not one to take a press release on it’s own merits. Which is good news really, for all concerned, as I think this LP is actually pretty good.
I’ve said it often enough in the past, but anybody from the UK that is honest enough to sing in their own regional accent rather than forcing out some awful Americanised twang or godawful Mockney “apples n’ pears guvnor oi oi!” nonsense endears themselves to me to an extent almost by default. Thankfully, this tends to often go hand in hand with an urge to produce decent music. This guy Billy Liar has a really appealing voice which successfully transmits emotion and deliver a biting epithet. He can also clearly pen a decent enough tune.
The lyrical themes are I suppose nothing new but are of the type that consistently appeal: poor mental health; failed relationships; dark pasts; drinking and self-medicating to blot it all out. Relatable content I believe the youngsters call it.
Musically speaking, I personally found a bunch of reference points to Boston style street punk. Chiefly The Ducky Boys ’Three Chords & The Truth’ album sprang to mind here (it’s a largely forgotten classic, mate), as did ‘Do or Die’ by Dropkick Murphys (which is a great record with minimal plastic Paddy nonsense, and the only worthwhile thing they’ve recorded). You get the picture: high tempo, rabble-rousing meat and spuds rockers in great proliferation, with the social awareness factor of Pinkerton Thugs.
There’s far worse ideas than chucking some of your hard-earned at this one, whether you agree with any of my opinions about other artists mentioned in this review or not. Listen below and judge for yourself.
Tony of Nurgle rating: 8/10