JOE GO BEAT
Alea Iacta Est
[self-released]

State-of-the-nation albums are by their very nature hit and miss affairs. Attempts to encapsulate the modern turmoils of the UK usually come off pretty fragmentary. But with slowthai sort of doing one last year maybe it’s something Northamptonians feel drawn to; something in the Nene water that Joe Go Beat has been busy supping on too.

Anyroad, Joe Martin has done a 35 minute, lockdown written/recorded solo album that’s not quite full of his usual piss and vinegar in GoGo Loco [and previously The Mobbs], but none-the-less is certainly not the ramblings of a contented individual. Here he utilises some of his previous central influences – The Who, Dr. Feelgood, Billy Childish, The Black Keys – to create an often more restrained version of his usual primitive rock’n’roll displays. Whether mining garage rock, pub rock or something more rootsy, it’s these familiar tropes on which he hangs his delicate barbs at Brexit-loving little England.

Opener ‘Dirty Old Rag’ does little to disguise its target – The Sun newspaper and their ilk. “Dirty old rag/The vomit splash/The xenophobe voice/Filling heads with trash/Dirty old rag/Solely to blame/For every evil/For all our pain”. There’s little room for wiggle in deciphering that message. And it comes attached to rhythm’n’booze barnstormer – the old tactic of getting them dancing and taking it all in subliminally…or something.

“Sold a lie by the tuneless clown”. There’s no let-up on songs two and three, ‘Albion Town’ and the title track. He takes aim with both barrels at David Cameron’s Brexit vote, the public discourse that followed, and where it has all ultimately lead us. If there’s a more prescient lyric around at the moment than “Scrolling up and down on your media feed/Until your inquisitive fingers bleed” this writer has yet to hear it [incidentally if you want the lyrics they are all there to read on Bandcamp].

‘Ipso Facto’ righteously growls along like an update of The Sonics garage punk classic ‘Psycho’, berating how within British narratives it is often the empty vessels that make the most noise [hello Katie, hello Piers]. The firmly tongue-in-cheek exhortations of ‘Jingo Man’, meanwhile, tells of a man who “Will save us all/From the terrors of foreign rule”. Joe’s interest in British wartime culture provides the title of ‘Stand By Your Beds’. An acerbic takedown of small-minded English people, the songs levity is suddenly absent in the pay-off: “Look out at the stars/You stupid blind fools/We are specs of dust/On the universe’s walls”.

Sometimes it can overwhelm with so much bile to ingest; ‘The Hope & The Glory’ is a smashing Berry/Dylan-esque rocker, but it’s like being bashed over the head with one too many concepts. But that’s not really an issue; you don’t come to this album for love songs. The whole album can be neatly summarised as one man’s bafflement at the post-Brexit landscape. The chorus of ‘Walking Backwards’ is thus: “I thought we’d left behind/The blue, white, red and pompous kind/But it seems we’re walking back/Walking backwards [clap clap]”. And that’s quite heartbreaking when you think about it. Final song ‘T.T.F.N.’ is a wave goodbye to the European Union [“Tut ta for now my old friend/Let’s hope we meet again”].

This album is perhaps a cathartic outpouring of resistance to our Brexit betters, a plea for other ways. Either that or he’s just a bloody Remoaner! This album is a sorrowful collection, full of regret and with little evidence offered to stay positive. Yet it remains an enjoyable ride for the spirit with which each note is played, and the intelligence coursing through every hard-written line. You only improve your future by reflecting on your past mistakes, after all.

Phil Moore

Alea Iacta Est is out now via the usual digital platforms