BY GUEST CONTRIBUTOR CHAS DE WHALLEY
Well oh well oh well oh well!
Not only is The Stroud Song Contest (SSC) back again for a fifth glorious year, but, if the first handful of entries is anything to go by, then the songs themselves are going to be even better than ever!
Always quick off the mark – and this year first out of the box – are SSC veterans (and possible classic car aficionados?) 3.0L Capri, a bunch of enigmatic electro montage merchants whose ‘Hank Scenario’ is a wittily-worded homage to legendary 1960s lead guitar hero Hank Marvin… of The Shadows. Hank who? Well, I guess it’s possible his name won’t mean much to those under a certain age, but at the very least you should get the joke!
Next up, and breathing down 3.0L Capri’s neck, is Johnnie Ha Ha, another regular runner in the SSC stakes – not mention an original member of 1980s Goth rock aristocrats Alien Sex Fiend. Don’t know when he relocated to Stroud but musically the move can only have been a good one cos his Bowiesque ‘Broken’ offers up atmosphere, angst, a sinewy and sensuous synthesizer soundscape plus a great groove. What’s not to like?
But just in case SSC voters might find his dark dystopian vision a little hard to take, Johnnie has also resubmitted the song as a (tongue-in)cheekily reworded ‘Lovely’ by alter-ego Jennie Ha Ha. Is/are he/she/they hedging their bets? Or halving their chances of winning? Take a listen and see what do you think…
After some tonal turmoil and turbulence, you might expect that ‘The Civilised Garden’ by singer/songwriter (and Painswick mental health practitioner) Simon Derder would come as a welcome relief. Certainly you can’t get much quieter than a single voice and an acoustic guitar. But one look at the lyrics will tell you that Simon is wrestling with the state of the world as much as any of his noisier neighbours.
Some might say the Stroud Song Contest exists in a bubble – but you certainly can’t accuse the Five Valleys’ musicians and composers of being divorced from reality!