Review by Saysay Matthews
When you listen to “Digest” you get the distinct impression that Mr Keep Calm is a gent that’s somewhat disillusioned with the world and baffled by the people that occupy it. From the off, track one, “The Naked Truth,” suggests that he’s sick of going through the motions of what is the general norm in modern day society where you’re expected to conform and that really he’s desperate to tell everyone “the naked truth” and vent his views. So he does, with ‘Digest,’ effectively becoming his soap box. It’s a bizarre soap box that has a diverse range of quirky assortments. At times it feels like an early 90s easy listening offering, but of course, he’s not here to just talk about love, and on some tracks I felt like I’d drifted off to sleep in a foreign land and ended up in the middle of the bad guy’s tune in a musical. The latter particularly refers to ‘Taking It All In Your Stride’ has a pretty creepy feel to it.
So, what of the man at the helm? Mr Keep Calm is a songwriter and performer who seems to skip genres covering indie rock, folk and electronica. The Cancelled Cheques now join this musician who knocked around the Glastonbury music scene as a solo act for years and was once lauded as Central Somerset Gazette’s “Musician Of The Year” 2011. For me, and this comparison could end my days as a music critic, I thought this of his vocal: “It’s like Morrisey with a smile.” He reels off witty, poetic lyrics about subject matter that you really should feel quite glum about. It’s a social commentary and not a very flattering one for those out there. In ‘Labels’ for example he speaks of being sick of the stereotypes that are given by people by those who aren’t informed.
The frustrated artist screams out, and although it’s a bit clichéd, I’m an artist myself and I can sympathise. In “Shirt and Tie” he speaks about selling his soul when he takes a job wearing that attire and you think, “fuck yeah, Mr Keep Calm, let’s follow our dreams and stick a middle finger up to the corporate sector.”
‘Digest’ is a pleasant listen although for many it may be a marmite album and for most it will probably be a ‘grower’ as I’d be lying if I’d say that there is anything particularly catchy. Not necessarily a bad thing, of course, the lyrics are worth listening to over and over and with every listen there was an abundance of newly recognised lyrics that made me smile. I have to commend his subject matter and say that I’m glad it’s not an album that just talks about love and heartbreak. Contradiction on the way now…
I suppose now I need to pick out a standout track and it’s actually one that talks about love and heartbreak. I know, I’m a c**t. Perhaps it’s because I have a certain empathy with Mr Keep Calm on this one, but it’s “No, no, no, no,” in which this cute admission of giving up on someone who doesn’t feel the same brings out his strongest vocal performance with a melodic, heartfelt outpouring of love and regret. I’m feeling that way about someone at the minute, a fucking nightmare of a person with their erratic behaviour and apparent complex problems (aka bullshit), and I know I have to give up, in fact I’m going to walk into the middle of an open field and scream “Whyyyyyyyyyyy?” as soon as I finish writing this review and send a bitchy text. Hopefully it’ll rain for dramatic effect.
Holy shit, unprofessional tangent there. Soz, blud.
Anyway, in summary, I’ve heard that Mr Keep Calm and the Cancelled Cheques are pretty beasty live and worth a watch. My informant for this piece has told me that he’s played quite a lot of festivals this summer and has a few gigs lined up and that is just one of the ways you can pick up a CD. He’s also going to be running Oxjam in Glastonbury this October so inevitably he’ll rock up on stage there too. Go and check him out, he’s good fun.
You can find out more about the man and his cancelled cheques at mrkeepcalm.co.uk where he’s giving away a free EP up until 29th August.