Bellowhead – the legendary English 11-piece folk band – have just released their latest, and final album, Pandemonium: The Essential Bellowhead. Knowing that this is their last album, ending with a tour, it is a good end to them as a band. The record explores contemporary folk songs from their back catalogue, with sounds reflecting those of Irish folk bands such as The Dubliners and The Pogues.
The album opens with New York Girls, as it does for 2010’s Hedonism, as an upbeat opener for a compilation album. John Spiers and Jon Boden’s vocals are excellent, with the instruments building up in a good manner. The song is produced with perfection, making sure every instrument is heard- something difficult with the amount of members involved.
Other upbeat songs consist of Roll Alabama, Gosport Nancy and Let Her Run. All songs that take folk to a new level and reflect Bellowhead’s talent over the past decade. Let Her Run is an exceptional song, with the opening grabbing you straight away. The harmonization of this song is perfection with the vocals working wonderfully well together.
The most powerful song on this collection is London Town, with its energy thrown in, allowing for the perfect folk song. The lyrics are in a poetic form, showcasing the brilliance of their creativity. ‘Up London city I made my way/ Up cheapside I chanced to stray/ Where a fair pretty maid I there did meet/ And I greeted her with kisses sweet’. The lyrics explore a story, alongside the influence from Irish folk.
Overall, the album is a success with many brilliant songs taken from Bellowhead’s back catalogue. None have been overproduced and as a band they work really well together. For a last album, all we can do now is look forward to solo albums from any of the 11 members.