A slightly unsettling love of Laura Marling led to me deciding to have listen to these chaps - mainly due to the excellent name. The only other thing of interest I have discovered about them is the lead singer and writer is good friends with Robert Pattinson.
Been Listening by Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit
So it seems folk is cool now. Well bloody good stuff as despite having plenty of cringe worthy moments as a genre it has give us some glorious, magical music whether it be Nick Drake, Joan Baez or more recent gems like Rachel Unthank and The Winterset. That's without mentioning the obvious (initials: BD, answers to Zimmerman). So I was intrigued to listen to this album and see if Flynn is next in line to follow the success of Marling and Mumford & Sons. In all honesty, I don't think they will. The opening track Kentucky Pill sets things off to a flyer and had this quality been maintained I would be absolutely raving about 'Been Listening' but unfortunately such heights are only briefly rivalled on a couple of other occasions on this album. A little too much brass and some frankly irritating percussion too often overshadows the talents of a sparkling lyricist. Flynn is capable of composing charming phrases which unmask a predilection for Shakespearean prose - I'm thinking in particular of 'prickled interest seizing pride' from the charming, wistful 'Been Listening'. This flair for language is also effectively employed on the album stand-out 'Barnacled Warship' telling the story of an eager recruits transition to disaffected military campaigner. This track in particular made me think of the wonderful Decemberists album 'Picaresque' which is high praise indeed. Perhaps an unexpected negative is the duet with Laura Marling on 'The Water.' Perhaps my love of Marling is impeding my ability to fairly judge Flynn but I couldn't help but feel this track would be better without him. His voice simply doesn't compliment hers and there is no sense of harmonic synergy. The bluesy 'Howl' which follows is far better and transports the listener to a smoky bar.Flynn closes the album with two ballads; the beautiful Amazon Love, which features Lillie Flynn (presumably a relative) from Noah and the Whale, is a far more successful duet as the vocals are much more in harmony to create a track of pure velvet. Album closer 'The prizefighter and the heiress' has ambitions to be an epic but despite being a pleasant listens falls short of the grand statement it hoped to be.
I feel like Flynn is capable of great things and would perhaps be better served following a separate musical path from his band who consistently seem at odds with the talented writer. This is an enjoyable album but feels overall like an opportunity missed.
Definitely one to watch but far from the finished article yet. As a caveat I suspect this could be a grower and I could well scold my middling initial rating. I'll keep you posted (if you excuse the pun).
Six out of Ten.