Steve Mason – Monkey Minds In The Devil’s Time

Steve Mason started his musical career in the excellent Beta Band and has subsequently been through a few guises (King Biscuit Time, Black Affair) here he releases ‘Monkey Minds In The Devil’s Time’ his second under his own name and perhaps his best work since those early days. Twenty tracks, nine full songs and eleven bridging sections the record is overloaded with ideas and styles that remarkably don’t clash and in fact flow along brilliantly making the listening of the album a real musical joy. Among the in-between vignettes we get spoken word ‘The Old Problem’, sampled radio commentary ‘The Last of Heroes’, electronic dub ‘Operation Mason’ and even rap ‘More Money, More Fire’ but it’s in the actual proper songs that Mason shines. The full gospel choir on ‘Lonely’, the urgency of the brass section on ‘Fire’ that gives the song a real punch and the angelic keys that run throughout ‘Oh My Lord’. During the verses of ‘Never Be Alone’ Mason sounds like Elbow’s Guy Garvey before slipping back into his unmistakable Beta Band twang during the chorus. ‘Seen It All Before’ sounds not unlike a Hot Chip track as Mason sings ‘Here I go again on the floor’ over the beats. But for me the two stand out tracks have to be ‘Fight Them Back’ with its call to arms ‘a fist, a boot and a baseball bat’ and the beautiful ‘A Lot of Love’ the sublime piano refrain making it instantly catchy. Lyrically Mason is still battling his demons; open about his depression there is one heart breaking spoken word line contained here almost hidden in ‘From Hate We Hope’. ‘I think I was about ten, it was Christmas and I looked at myself and thought how amazing it is to be a human being, but you do forget’ its inclusion is honest, brave and poignant. The album title refers to a Buddhist term for an easily distracted brain and I’m just glad Mason is at a stage where he can turn his vitriol onto the world around and not back on himself and in doing so give us another glimpse of the genius that first emerged all those years ago with ‘The Three E.P.s’.

steve mason

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