There are few bands around who have been written off more times than Reverend And The Makers. After making their breakthrough with UK Top 10 single Heavyweight Champion Of The World and coming to prominence at a time when Arctic Monkeys put the Sheffield scene on the map, the band appeared to be cast aside by many critics upon the release of their second album, A French Kiss In The Chaos.
But appropriately, considering the title of their most well-known single, Jon McClure and co refused to go down without a fight. It has taken relentless self-promotion – The Reverend is on Twitter so much it is a wonder he has time for anything else – plus an army of loyal fans built up through acoustic car park gigs and impromptu shows in the homes of their supporters, but they are still going strong after 10 years as a band.
That is some achievement, especially for an act that are rarely given much air time on prime radio stations or in the big music magazines. And if that wasn’t impressive enough, all three of Reverend And The Makers’ albums post 2007 debut The State Of Things have peaked in the Top 20 of the UK Album Chart, which is not to be sniffed at. So how does their fifth effort, Mirrors, compare to their previous releases?
Well, one thing that Reverend And The Makers could never be accused of doing is standing still and Mirrors sees their sound transform once again. Granted, not all of the band’s evolutions have been a success – 2012’s dance inspired @Reverend_Makers was a misstep – but Mirrors is a different beast. It is undoubtedly their best work to date and has even earned rave reviews from Noel Gallagher and The Libertines’ Carl Barât.
The signs looked good as soon as soon as first single Black Widow dropped, with its filthy riff up there with Arctic Monkeys’ Do I Wana Know? from last year’s AM. It is a bold statement of intent (“She’s gonna swallow you whole/ cause she’s a black widow”), a song that instantly makes you sit up and take notice. But, perhaps more importantly, it is also ably backed up by the rest of the 13 tracks that make up Mirrors.
Hypnotic album opener Amsterdam instantly sets the tone with its marching drum roll. At just over a minute long, it is just a taster of what’s to come and the seamless transition into Black Widow instantly suggests that this is something special. Off the back of Black Widow’s hook comes another flawless segue into the delightfully infectious Makin’ Babies, where McClure’s lyrics show a simple insecurity (“Everyone I know is makin’ babies, what about us?”).
Stuck On You is equally catchy, bouncing along joyfully without a care in the world, while The Trip is a driving rock anthem that recalls the earlier aggression of Black Widow. It is followed by El Cabrera – a brief cinematic interlude that wouldn’t sound out of place in The Mask Of Zorro – and the unfussy, rocky blues number Blue, which is further confirmation of a band who have not put any restraints in place and are just enjoying themselves.
Fans of the band will surely look forward to belting out the chorus of Mr Glassalfempty, while The Gun is a waltzing reminder of The Beatles’ later work. Then there’s the beautiful elegance of My Mirror, where Mrs McClure’s delicate vocal combines effortlessly with dramatic strings. As the end comes into sight, the Reverend sucks us in with the sweeping acoustics of Last To Know, before delivering the final knockout blow with Lay Me Down.
Ahead of the album’s release McClure explained that he and fellow songwriter Ed Cosens were intent on making “a record that we loved”, before adding that they “set about making art we are actually proud of”. The result is the sound of a band at the top of their game. The potential has always been there, but Mirrors harnesses it. Reverend And The Makers should be rightly proud of what they have achieved.