This album is the first time I have experienced the wonderfully and puntastically named Stephen Evens. ‘Employee Of The Month’ was released at the end of August and it doesn’t take many listens to really grow on you. Proceedings kick off with “Dustbin Man” a manic post punk celebration of one of our unsung heroes the dustbin man (probably trash can man in the USA). Is this the first decent ode to that particular key worker since Lonnie Donegan’s “My Old Man’s A Dustman” from 60 years ago? Second track “Push Yr Thumb In Yr Eye” seems to include everything but the kitchen sink musically and hits a great messy punk groove. The driving riffs of “Claude” make you want to move and you almost have to sing along to Mr Evens’ off kilter bordering on beserk vocals. Do you like vaudeville and old school style piano ballads? You do? Well get “Freak Show” deep into your lugholes then. The instrumentation is sparse and incredibly melancholy. This is not a feel good lyric, but a real take on life for many. “One lucky scratch coupon away from retired” is a lyric that will resonate with many of us living a wafer off of destitution alley. This song will haunt you long after you have finished listening to it.
The menace present in “John Snow” is palpable, the occasional happy piano motif is in stunning contrast to the dark lyrics. Words which really make me believe that evil is indeed lurking underground. A great song, but not one to listen to on headphones in a dark room on your own! “George And Kathllen” is the only tune on the album not written by Stephen Gilchrist a.k.a. Stephen Evens. This was written by George Bixley and Kathleen Riddick, so I assume they writing about themselves. It is a love song for the 21st century, beautiful and slightly warped. If you set out to not like this song you would fail. Perhaps the strangest piece on the album, for me anyway, is “I Hate Shop (I Am Shop)”. The wordsmithery owes a debt to Mark E Smith, but this is not anything that merely apes the Fall, it takes things in a very specific Stephen Evens direction. It has a danceable almost funky fuzzy beat to it and Gilchrist sounds like he is enjoying living the lyric.
“Career Criminal” has an almost fairground quality to its instrumentation, I like this tune, but at just 57 seconds I felt I wanted more of it, but the stark ending works well. I can hear the looser, esoteric elements of Blur in “The Crystal Palace”, in fact I would love to hear Graham Coxon cover this eerie, dreamlike, maybe even nightmarish, emotional song. After maybe five or six play throughs of this classy album this track is probably my favourite, for now at least. The album closes with “The Day I Burned My House Down” which feels like a great lost Ray Davies song, more dark lyrics but strangely uplifting. ‘Employee Of The Month’ is a great album and very different to much of what I have heard recently. If you like this then check out Stephen Evens 2017 album ‘Bonjour Poulet’ as well. I think Stephen Evens live will be a proper mad, mental, manic event and I can’t wait!
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