Where, oh where to begin?
Those Shamanistas among you who have read my previous missives (is there anybody out there?) may have cottoned on to my predilection for ‘80s anarcho-punk. So, when I saw that Blood Moon Wedding: An American Nightmare featured the talents of a certain Mr Steve Lake I was suitably intrigued.
Steve Lake was a member (the only constant) of Zounds, a band who released a single on Crass’s label and played with plenty of so-called anarcho-punk bands without, if I may say so, really fitting in to a scene renowned for being shouty, issue based, and somewhat (very) po-faced. Lake‘s lyrics were often very personal, reflecting his experience, his insecurities, as well as dealing with some of the wider political issues of the day.
Zounds were never one of ‘my bands’ in the way that Conflict, Discharge, and Amebix are/were, so after giving Blood Moon Wedding a first whizz through, I felt the need to understand Lake‘s journey better. Ergo, I bought and digested his book, Zounds Demystified (RECOMMENDED). I’ll be clear from the get go, this ain’t anarcho and it ain’t punk either, but that makes it all the more interesting for my money.
OK. Let’s get to it people.
It’s not often that I get a promo from The Shaman that I immediately love. This is a good thing and is deliberate on my part. Reviewing is a privilege and a really valuable way to hear new, different, and challenging things. These are the things that I throw my hat into the ring for. Things that I probably wouldn’t be immediately drawn to of my own volition. Blood Moon Wedding is one of them.
What a mistake it would’ve been to have missed out on hearing this.
Immediately on hitting play, the heady stew of guitar infused Americana juxtaposed with Lake‘s quintessentially English voice pulled me in. The opener Spell is a proper, honest-to-goodness earworm, spinning a tale of obsession, backed by a classic rock sound. Hmm, not sure if that’s a good description or if I’m damning a curiously seductive sound with faint praise? Maybe some of the late, great Mark Lanegan’s work is a better point of reference.
you need to sit in semi-darkness with a glass or two and devote some uninterrupted time to Dean and Lake’s vision of a doomed, dysfunctional, obsessional love…
Blood Moon Wedding is a story, a road trip through an imagined/experienced American Gothic underbelly, populated by characters from the mind of Tom Waits or Henry Miller. It’s a disjointed opera a little in the manner of Kevin Rowland’s One Day I’m Going To Soar, particularly in its use of an unreliable narrator.
The semi-call-and-response nature of the track Some Things Are Worth Believing really serves to emphasise the storytelling nature of the album, and again, Lake‘s half-sung/half-spoken style underlines the difference between the two characters, standing in sharp contrast to Mia Dean‘s powerful, trained voice.
Murder Ballad interlaces passages sung by Dean with spoken word by both protagonists that provides the listener with a bit of exposition as to why our antiheroes might be on the run through the arse-end of small-town America. There’s much about this piece in particular that put me in mind of the movie True Romance. I’ll say no more than that but if you know the picture, you’ll get what I mean when you hear the song.
One of the (many) great things about being a reviewer for this fine webzine is that I get to hear whole albums, longer pieces of work listened to as the artist intended, rather than a standalone track here or there. So many albums make much more sense listened to from beginning to end in one sitting, and this is a prime example. Some of the songs really stand out for me – Spell, Blood Moon Wedding Part 2, Murder Ballad – but the whole is so much more than the sum of its parts.
To really feel the full melancholic impact, I would love to see this tale of obsessional love and death played out in full as a live show. That could be seriously heavy. Failing that, to truly appreciate Blood Moon Wedding, you need to sit in semi-darkness with a glass or two and devote some uninterrupted time to Dean and Lake‘s vision of a doomed, dysfunctional, obsessional love. It’s a beautiful thing to behold.
Scribed by: George Green