The Flat Five
It’s a World of Love and Hope
Easy Listening Tunes From Chicago’s Hippest Kids.
I’ve said many times that Bloodshot Records are my favourite Record Label in the world; producing many of my Top 10 Albums of all time. One of the things I love about them is their ability to release albums that plainly aren’t commercial, but still deserve a home on my shelves.
That is the probably the case with this album by the Flat Five, a collaboration between Chicagoan musicians Scott Ligon, Casey McDonough, Alex Hall plus Bloodshot stalwarts Nora O’Connor and the divine Miss Kelly Hogan.
It was the inclusion of Ms Hogan that piqued my initial interest, as her two albums are still favourites at RMHQ an in particular Mrs. Magpie who teases me mercilessly about my crush on the singer (who has the finest voice in modern Country music!).
This album, on the other hand is as far away from Country Music as you can get.
Even the opening chords of first track Florida had my head spinning; and when the chaps began singing in harmony my head spun Exorcist stylee! Oh Lordy…what’s going on here?
I couldn’t believe my ears as they sounded uncannily like those groups wearing matching sweaters, white slacks and floaty skirts with pudding-bowl haircuts that inhabited Saturday night TV in the 60’s grooving too and diluting the latest Bob Dylan or Herman’s Hermits hit into oblivion.
It has taken some willpower on my behalf to listen to this album the obligatory three times; but I have and can confirm that the whole album is in that much maligned vein; and I don’t think the Flat Five are being ‘ironic’ in any way, although they may be and I’m not getting the joke.
When you dig past the veneer some of the songs are actually quite dark – Birmingham being a good example, with Nora O’Connor singing an almost Gothic Randy Newman type story over a tsch-tsch Modern Jazz back beat. Similarly This is Your Night sounds like Andy Williams until you study the lyrics; Andy never sung about buying a big bag of dope as far as I know!
A couple of songs to struggle to veer away from the twee; Kelly Hogan is a delight on Bluebirds of Michigan, as is the lush string arrangement. Almond Grove, on the other hand sounds like it is inspired by the Byrds Psychedelic period and bodes well for a complete album like it.
Bottom Buck is probably my ‘favourite’ song here, with Scott Ligon (?) taking lead on saccharine sweet love song, supported by what sounds like a pump-organ and a banjo. Kelly and Nora’s harmonies are delicious in the background too.
On the other hand I Could Fall In Love With You and the Mills Brothers/Andrews Sisters pastiches Buglight and It’s Been a Delight, were probably great fun to record and sing live, but both make my teeth itch and it will be a cold day in Hell when I listen to either by choice.
All of the songs here are written by Scott Ligon’s ‘oddball genius’ brother (their description, not mine) Chris Ligon of whom the band have a shared love.
In their defence The Flat Five may actually be paving the way for a new fashion that only the Hipsters around the world ‘get’ and I’m behind the times daddy’o. Only time will tell.
Released 14th October 2016