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Levellers Static on the Airwaves Review

Album. Released 2012.  

BBC Review

A 10th album carried by mature, polished songwriting and light-touch production.

Sid Smith 2012

For over 22 years, across 10 studio albums and several live releases, the Levellers have been ploughing a furrow that pitches equity and social conscience with a bracing, ebullient brand of folk rock. It’s a rousing combination that has served them well across a career that’s taken them from cultish obscurity into the limelight.

Although appearances on Top of the Pops, the support of a multi-national record company and a dalliance with mainstream popularity might now be footnotes in their history, the band’s passionate relationship with a smaller but devoted following continues. 

Many of the targets at which the Levellers took aim in those early days remain unshakably in place. Static on the Airwaves aims its sights at the consequences of unchecked greed, social alienation, and the sense that people in positions of power learn nothing from history but condemn others to repeat its mistakes on their behalf.

Though the message has always been be a large part of the medium with the Levellers, they’ve taken care on this occasion not to undercut their arguments by lurching into a belligerent, preachy howl. The indignation and anger fuelling much of Static on the Airwaves is instead wisely focused through a combination of mature, polished songwriting and Sean (brother of Seth) Lakeman’s lucid, light-touch production.

With the album moving at an invigorating lick, We Are All Gunmen swells with a retro U2-like swagger, while No Barriers contains an echoing trace of Are ‘Friends’ Electric? within its musical DNA. Away from bouts of anthemic rabble-rousing, the sparse simplicity of Traveller, gently articulating the outsider’s pain, resonates longer and cuts much deeper than any amount of agitprop rhetoric.

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