The Urban Voodoo Machine are one of the most intriguing and genuinely unique bands out there at this moment in time, or anytime for that matter. They play with an energy and swagger that many bands make huge efforts to garner, with Paul-Ronney and his band of misfits however, it is as natural as night following day.
This third album marks the bands 11th year and they celebrate it in style with a set of songs that are able to define moods, raise a listener up to the warm white clouds and crash them down to the cold, wet gutters at the drop of a hat. This is the third act, Love, Drink & Death
Opening with ‘Your Hour Of Darkness’ the rockabilly vibe is sent crashing out with groove and sound advice about how not to be a “schmuck” and “piss your life away”. It features lyrics from the bands friend Sam Powell who sadly dies ten years previously although whether the words were left behind or given via a Ouija board it is not known. What is known is that it adds a certain poignancy to the song and makes it all the more meaningful.
It is followed by the story of a man, a ‘Pipe and Slippers Man’. A seemingly reformed character (played by Rat Scabies in the video, see below) who would smoke crack, drink, get arrested before finding salvation and living the quiet life. There is a big honky-tonk feel here, the trumpets have a big say before the violins and even mandolin get the moments in the solos. It is an unbelievable blend of instrumentals alongside the vocals, there is so much going on but it is never over saturated which is a hard thing to get right but they have done it seemingly effortlessly, it is also one of many stories and characters from the bands life to feature.
‘Crazy Maria’ returns to the gypsy soaked element of the first album before the rock n roll returns ‘Captain of a Sinking Ship’ with Captain Angel firmly at its helm.
As the albums title suggests the subjects deal heavily with the theme of love, drink and death, the jived, more up beat songs tend to deal with the darkest subject matter such as ‘Train Wreck Blues’.
Telling the seeming story of love and heartbreak before the realisation that it is dealing not just with lost love but the effects. In this case suicide on the central line. The music makes it a very deceptive song, it is a real bouncer and so up beat that it takes a couple of listens to come to the point. Incidentally it features a superb guitar solo from New York Dolls man, Steve Conte.
It’s in to dark, atmospheric territory with ‘Loretta’s Revenge’, a slow haunting seven minute piece that would have made ideal music for Natural Born Killers before it is back to the subject of booze with ‘Drinking My Life Away’.
The impressive roll call of guest appearances continue with Jim Jones (a founder member before the rise of Jim Jones Revue) appearing on ‘Sharkwaters’, another impressive song with southern acapella feel. A lone piano makes brief tones with the vocals which are accompanied mainly by claps of wood before a small amount of drums bring the song out, it is short and sweet but a real stand out.
The mostly instrumental ‘Jimmy Cuba’ is straight out of the New Orleans blues clubs with a hefty Latino helping chucked in.
The most impressive of the guest list features the legendary Wilko Johnson on ‘Help Me Jesus’, a hugely gospel influenced number that has taken the style before being urban voodoo machined. A shorter version of this one first popped up as a single earlier in the year but has improved on an already great song.
One of the highlights is saved for the end with ‘Goodnight my Dear’, a song that again showcases the skill Paul-Ronny has with his distinct voice, in my opinion he is a modern Tom Waits. The gruff, ravaged sounding voice spills character and emotion far better than any of the bullshit wannabes on any of the TV ‘talent shows’. The combination of voice and words follow on from the likes of Waits, MacGowan and Cave, telling stories and making you feel like you know the people involved.
The Urban Voodoo Machine are not just a band, they 11 musicians who are top of their game and second to none, they each know their instruments inside and out giving each song a unique flavour when that instrument is called upon to take the lead. The drums are able to do it as strongly as the trumpets and violins as strong as the guitars.
They have made three albums that each have the same basic sound but manage to sound entirely different, they have a soul of their own.
If they happen to be playing near you on the upcoming tour then you have to see them because you have never seen a show quite like this, that I can guarantee you.