REVIEW – The Many Few: assorted Soundcloud demos, 2011 (“as cosily misshapen as candle stubs”)

1 Jun

The Many Few don’t exactly do precision. One guitarist slops acoustic rhythms around like a drunken waiter losing control of a tray. The other doodles away cheerfully, or hiccups free-improv dribbles in a corner. Sometimes both of them land in the same song. Meanwhile, two singers are jostling together: Johnnynorms (he of the small, dry voice) and Melissa Wyatt (who aims for creamy breathiness and theatrical intimacy but ends up kittenish and blowsy). The drummer pins everything together, but worries and wobbles over anything more complex than a mid-paced chuff-along. The bass guitar stumbles vaguely after the other instruments, distracted by a nearby jazz gig.

Unless they’re deliberately deconstructing their pop, or unless they record only while cheerfully drunk (both of which are possible), The Many Few are a thorough fucking shambles, and I think they know it. Do you think I’m going to bury them for it? Hardly. That tumbledown, lopsided indie-pop stagger is integral to their approach and charm. You can toss in those usual Syd Barrett and Captain Beefheart comparisons (you know, the ones applied to almost any wayward indie band who ramble outside the beat a little) but The Many Few are far too friendly and floppy for that. In their cheery, ramshackle way, they sound more like ’90s nouveau-skifflers Zuno Men… if the latter had been stuck in a house-share with a teenaged Kate Bush and spent most of their time half-cut.

You could easily imagine them all sprawled over a tatty sofa – arguing over the washing-up, loving each other and picking over the usual daily scams of living together. You can imagine them hurrying off, at any opportunity, to the local pub for the kind of lock-in which ends in howls of laughter and wrestlings over a battered old board game.  I wouldn’t want to be the one to try getting them organized. It would only spoil it. This scraggy comfort must have been all over the making of this enjoyable batch of songs, which they call “armchair surrealisms” and I’d call animated scrawls, as cosily misshapen as candle stubs.

On the irresistible Catching, Johnnynorms repeatedly starts off on a story, only for Melissa to barge in and take it over. As all of the stories are about naïve men making comically doomed attempts to win over smarter women, this is only appropriate. Wonky high-life guitar ambles around like a cheery woodpecker as Melissa teases “I’m sorry but she had a child when she was young / and she’s not catching that from you”, before announcing her intent of fleecing some other poor bloke for all he’s got.

The upbeat Sweep and Swipe (part genial commuter-belt revolt, part kid’s TV song) bumbles through work, procrastination and rebellion in a very British jumble. There’s a sense of urgent feelings swaddled up and hidden under a brittle, chirpy exterior: something which this song shares with another, Typical British Weather (itself tipsy, woozy and smiling a crooked smile in the rain). It’s left to the messy, chunky power-punk of Meet my Clone to sideline the shambling and the evasions via dirty guitar, a tight irritated momentum and the band’s most ingenious idea. Johnnynorms and Melissa wrangle over the doppelganger relationships of people grown close in appearance and habit, but not feelings: “Eye to eye you’d think we were the same. / But it’s me that feels all the guilt, and rage, and love, and shame.”

Past the 18th Town is entirely different. A haunting acoustic dirge touching (in the briefest of sketches) on transient people, it follows them as they move from rented room to rented room. As old roots fade and new roots become stunted, they lose their ability to recognize and return love. Tingles of guitar harmonics tickle the nerves while the band capture a world of disengagement in simple, telling lines like “send the letters on, / send them back unknown.” It suggests that the ghost of a cold and lonely wind, blowing under that gap in the door, sometimes haunts The Many Few’s sprawling house party.

The Many Few: assorted Soundcloud demos
Soundcloud (no catalogue numbers)
Free download tracks
Released: various dates in 2011

Get it from:
Free download from Soundcloud

The Many Few online:
HomepageMySpace Soundcloud

3 Responses to “REVIEW – The Many Few: assorted Soundcloud demos, 2011 (“as cosily misshapen as candle stubs”)”

  1. johnnynorms July 23, 2012 at 7:58 pm #

    Hi Dann, Thanks for the review – probably our first. I enjoyed your interpretation of the songs, and of the band. You probably won’t have seen our recently constructed website http://www.themanyfew.co.uk, which may enlighten you further. No more tracks yet, but we’re gigging next Friday – info on that site.Thanks again for taking notice, and bravo on a quality music blog.
    Johnnynorms

    • Dann Chinn July 23, 2012 at 11:36 pm #

      Hi Johnny,
      Glad you enjoyed it, and that you didn’t mind me being a cheeky bastard at the start of the review. I was meaning to send you a link but couldn’t track down an e-mail address (nor the original post on the Cardiacs Museum forum that alerted me to the band’s existence). I’ve just added a link to your new homepage to speed things along. Keep it up, and I’m also glad that you’re enjoying the rest of the blog.

  2. Robert Hingley July 25, 2012 at 11:51 am #

    Hello Dann

    I saw your name pop up on our Facebook page the other day and was curious. I saw you had mutual friends with me (Cardiacs lot) and knew you must have liked it independently rather than been press ganged!

    Really enjoyed your review. You kinda hit the nail close to the bone in a most constructive and amusing way. I was surprised to see Zuno Men mentioned and remember them at one of the many great Organ nights around 1990.

    Anyhow as Johnny has stated we are playing this Friday 27th July @ Fiddlers Elbow in Camden (Olympic escape) and we are looking to record better quality demos very soon. Our current demos were hurried live one takes from last year.

    Yours doodling cheerfully

    Rob H

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