ROBB JOHNSON & The Irregulars
A Soundtrack To 2020 Fusing Satire With Razor Sharp Wit.
64 year old Robb Johnson is a prolific singer-songwriter with a lifelong passion for fusing satire with a razor wit.
Indeed, he is often referred to as “one of the last genuinely political songwriters”.
On researching his background I have discovered his preponderance to churn out new songs at a rate well in excess of anyone that I know. Forming his own record label – Irregular Records, to fulfil his staggering output, 40 album since 1985!
Successfully using lyrics to dramatise major historical events on many of his previous albums, Pandemic Songs chronicles the unprecedented impact on humanity during the first half of 2020.
His PR sheet proclaims that all 13 + 1 songs were recorded with a socially distanced, pared down line-up of his current band The Irregulars; John Forrester (Bass & vox); Arvin Johnson (drums & Spanish guitar); Fae Simon (vox).
“Saint Mary” kicks off the album and relays the origin of the pandemic, using Mary, a pig sent to market, to emphasise how blasé and uncaring the Bourgeoisie were, including Merchants & Accountants continuing to
“dance round and round in rings, see how we live like kings”.
But, Johnson then poignantly highlights that it was the poor, the sick and the old; plus the nameless and homeless who were the first to demise.
The second track “Monday Afternoon in the Paris House” narrates Johnson’s last live gig at one of Brighton’s more bohemian establishments, whilst the following song “422” implores that:
“maybe next time you might listen,
maybe next time you might hear,
when that voice comes out of nowhere and whispers in your ear –
This is Nothing”.
As each track unfurls, we are taken through a chronological record of the lockdown, of masks and ventilators, of disinfectant and of standing in the street on a Thursday evening applauding the NHS and even of ‘that’ incredible Cummings’ drive to Durham.
The penultimate track regales dissident observations in Brighton’s splendid mid 19th. Century development; “Palmeira Square” on June 17th. with a telling chorus
“somehow you’re still here,
somehow I’m still there,
Halfway through the year, in
The additional track; “Big Floyd” isn’t Coronavirus related of course, but starkly focuses on the horrid and sickening death, on May 25th 2020; of George Floyd in Minnesota.
Basically, it’s an album that articulates a musical report of what we’ve all been watching on our Televisions for the past 6 months (as well as collectively and individually bungling through as best we can).
In years to come they could play this album in school history lessons to hammer home the dreadful situation and devastating consequences on the entire world in 2020.
Trouble is, for all of us now, as Autumn approaches, the blasted virus is still with us, still affecting the entire globe.
Who knows; this might just be Vol. 1 and Robb Johnson could very well be working on the follow up, Pandemic Songs Vol. 2.
While a young and spirited Billy Bragg initially sprung to mind; half way through listening this morning, I got a spooky, vivid image of David Frost from TWTWTW circa 1963, introducing either Lance Percival or Millicent Martin to sing a similar sort of song to the selection that you find here on Pandemic Songs.
Jack Kidd: “Messin’ with the Kidd” on lionheartradio.com
Released on 4th. September 2020