Thursday, February 26, 2015

Here's a review of the new Ranch House CD by Freek Kinkelaar in Vital Weekly....

Of mice and men: working on an extensive re-release project of all Deep Freeze Mice albums, singer/guitarist/songwriter/professional wrestler (that last one is only a rumor) Alan Jenkins has released the fourth Mice album Saw A Ranch House Burning Last Night. For those unfamiliar with the Deep Freeze Mice - they were an 80s Leicester-based band who made a very successful combination of awkward yet brilliant pop featuring clever lyrics, odd phrasing and timing and downright weird experiment - often combined in a single song. Ranch House, as said, is their fourth album and finds the Mice in a transitional phase. Losing their drummer Graham Summers due to ‘creative differences’, the atmosphere in the band during the main recording session of this album had improved massively. And you can tell on the album. They also had to rely on a Simmons electronic drum kit on some of the tracks. Something you can also tell on the album. The Simmons may have been state of the art in 1983, when Ranch House was recorded, but its sound in 2015 is possibly most sympathetically described as ‘typically 80s’. This does not hamper the songs too much, but it does firmly places the Ranch House’s great pop songs - such as The New Emotional Twist, You Took The Blue One, Hitler’s Knees, The Damage and oh, I could go on and on - in that period of time. This CD version contains no less than 12 bonus tracks ranging from studio outtakes to a live performance in Leicester in 1982. Even though Summers had left the band for the main session of Ranch House, he did contribute to an earlier session, so you get to hear him of a few songs. Future Mice drummer Pete Gregory is featured on some of the bonus material. And, most importantly, there is more to this album than the music: the CD booklet is quite amazing with 20 (!) pages of background information and full color pictures. Try to find that quality and quantity in the Big Names of the current pop music industry, say U2, Justin Bieber or Coldplay. One possible explanation is their fans cannot read, another one is that they are simply not interesting enough to write about in booklets. Every Mice re-release so far has featured such a high quality booklet with interviews done by Jenkins with Mice members or, in the Ranch House’s booklet, with producer/engineer Geoff Griffith. The interviews are funny and elaborate, but also document the history of a band surviving in the margins of pop music. Being released on Jenkins’ private label Cordelia Records, this album deserves to be a best seller. Both musically as historically the Deep Freeze Mice reissues are among the best the independent music industry has to offer. And this is your last chance seeing, as Jenkins’ predicts in the booklet, these are the final reissues of the Mice’s work. Grab your copy before the Ranch House is lost in time. Essential. Really. (FK)