Bethlehem Casuals
The Tragedy Of The Street Dog

Wide Ranging Musical Concept From The Mean Streets of Manchester.

The Rocking Magpie asked if I would like to review this album as he felt
it would be more to my eclectic taste, than his I was intrigued. Especially as the band name did ring a bell but where I had seen it was a bit hazy.
Although they sound like a side Newcastle Utd would meet in an early qualifying round in a Europa League game, I eventually recalled them ‘liking’ one of my favourite Manchester scene bands – Dutch Uncles so problem well and truly solved.
The story behind the album is worth an explanatory few words, as it is basically the every day story of ‘someone who has been stealing the music of Manchester’; and they trek through the seamier parts of the city in their search for the truth and the culprit – the sort of thing you aren’t likely to encounter on the average set of sleeve notes!
Even more unusual is the culprit being ….. Street Dog,  ‘a house pet gone bad’ visiting song by song several haunts that clearly didn’t exist when I lived in Manchester many years ago.
A collective of 7 musicians and a variety of musical expertise, the Casuals fall into a number of genres ranging from avant garde to jazz to folk and even to funk, using an equally diverse set of instruments with cellos, clarinets and saxophones to the fore (I am a sucker for a saxophone).
12 tracks that include 3 totally different interludes take the listener through about 50 odd minutes of music that (in my opinion) will definitely force you into the ‘love it’ or ‘hate it’ categories and my eclectic taste has me in the ‘love it’ crowd.
The highlight for me is Street Dog, a meeting in an underpass ‘half cut and scared of losing my soul’ with the street dog offering the narrator/singer redemption after downing tequila – ‘you will be dead tonight’ but showing Hell as full of suited souls so the only alternative is to become a ‘Street Dog’ too.
The second part of this is absolutely a gig closer as the emphasis revs up to have any audience bouncing around like dervishes!!!
The story resembles a scary children’s book starting with a haunting sax leading you  to finding the dog’s owner on the floor as you (the dog) are ‘freed to lead the life your owner never to got to lead’ in (1) Something. And that sax is just brilliant, (2) River Rat is found in The Temple Bar where a sign bans music and ‘the devil is in the detail’, as a very infectious beat gets you moving while (3) The Context seeks out the new location for the music in a small jazz club type beat but the ‘music has gone for far too long’.
(4) The Oke opens with a clarinet as The Oke has a ‘murder of crows taking flight’ to Salford, the new place to be hypnotised by a cello.
(5) The Passion allows reference to ‘ghosts of the Hacienda’ with the two interludes allowing full rein to the range of musical tastes within the band seeking a saviour’ to the tragic music loss – this leads to (8) Street Dog (see above)  and (9) The Drink where the solution is close, but not before (10) Interlude VI, which has the feel of a smoky Soho jazz club of the ’60s with Paul Desmond playing in the background.
(11) Magpie Park is where the ‘story comes to a close after dark’ in a spooky delivery akin to a kids horror show before (12) The Change brings the story to an end.
If anyone has recently seen Man And The Echo with their music/story show the Casuals could fall into a similar category but with (my view) a totally different type of more cultured music and yet again I feel the word hypnotic is a decent adjective to use.
The album is created in such a way, that it’s hard to describe in a small review as this is so different to most of the music and gigs I see and hear but this is a very talented band where the stories and music have been linked after some very careful consideration.
My eclectic taste has (thankfully)  given me a chance to hear a band that could well have passed me by, BUT I see they are due to appear in Newcastle at the historical and listed Castle Keep – a great and unusual location where the last band I saw was Frightened Rabbit several years ago; but ‘the virus’ will certainly see that May gig disappearing.
My eyes will be glued to the re-scheduled date.

Review Courtesy Bill Redhead Esq.

Released 17th April 2020

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