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Chart Chat Album Review : Ian Anderson – ‘Homo Erraticus’ (14.04.14)


Chart Chat Album Review : Ian Anderson – ‘Homo Erraticus’ (14.04.14)

This week sees the return of Jethro Tull mainman Ian Anderson (no relation) with his brand new album ‘Homo Erraticus’. Once again Gerald Bostock forms part of the proceedings, a character that Anderson fans will be well accustomed to.

The character of Gerald Bostock was first explored on the ‘Thick As A Brick’ album in 1972 when he was just a young boy.  Exactly what happened to Gerald was then revisited on the sequel ‘Thick As A Brick 2’ which saw the light of day in 2012.  This time around Bostock has uncovered a book entitled ‘Homo Erraticus (The St Cleve Chronices)’ which was written by the equally fictional Ernest T Parritt (1865 – 1928) and details key historical elements of British civilisation and then looks to the future and what it might hold. The premise of the album is that Bostock has written some lyrics around this book and sent them to Anderson.  Let the story commence…

The album is divided into three parts :

Part One : The Chronicles

Doggerland

This is quite a rocky number, backed with John O’Hara’s hammond guitar and Anderson’s trademark flute.  Fans of progressive rock will be delighted with this opening, but it is far more modern than the origins of that genre which were laid in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It sets the scene for the stories ahead with lyrics including “all across the Doggerland / all across before the tides / across with boar and elk and wolves / take the highlands near and wide”.  It begins in 7000 BCE, covering Neolithic man and Beaker People.

Heavy Metals

Despite its title this is a beautifully composed acoustic number, though weighing in at just 92 seconds long it serves more as a link to the story than a track in its own right.  It sees the story move towards the present day, now bridging the gap from 750 BCE to 43 CE which covers the Iron age and the birth of the plough, the axe and the sword.

Enter The Uninvited

Released on the internet as a form of teaser for the album, this sees the topics move through the Romans, Saxons and Vikings and on to the American influences on the world which range from “Playboy, Newsweek, Time and Life” through to “Elvis hips and Monroe lips” before name checking “Apple Mac and iPhone App”.  Even the Somerset Levels get a mention – residents of that area could not have anticipated just how famous their area would become in 2014, though none would have welcomed the floods that brought them to the front pages. It’s a catchy number and one of the songs I have been quick to revisit after my first listen.

Puer Ferox Adventus (Wild Child Coming)

At just over seven minutes long this is closest this album comes to an old fashioned epic.  It kicks off around 313 CE when Christianity first came to dominate Europe after Emperor Constantine The Great permitted and promoted the religion across the Roman Empire. It’s certainly a track where you have to follow the lyrics to gain full understanding of what is going on.  For me this is a good thing, taking me back to the days of my childhood where I would expectantly put the needle on the latest LP I had purchased while sitting down with the sleeve notes and lyrics in my hand.

Meliora Sequamur (Let Us Follow Better Things)

Another Latin named track, and this one is set in the 12th Century and focuses on Grammar School education.  Anderson paints a picture describing “Motarboard, gown, hood and lace come / guide me in learning, in ascension” against an acoustic backdrop.  It is perhaps one of the tracks that passes me by initially but may grow upon subsequent plays of the album.

The Turnpike Inn

The tempo moves back up from folk into rock mode for this track.  As the title may suggest, lyrically this centres around the mid 1750’s when highwaymen would be feared along the paths travelled by horses and their rich passengers.  I love this track and at just three minutes long it would probably sit quite well on the radio although I believe this album is best enjoyed in its entirety rather than being chopped up into singles as and when the record label deems fit.

The Engineer

Time now to fast forward to 1847 when engineering was beginning to make dramatic advancements.  Events noted here include Brunel’s tunnels, tracks and bridges alongside the railway and steamships sailing to the Americas. Lyrics include “Hard, cast in iron, that engineer : God bless Isambard / Piston scraping, furnace-busting / (he) plays the winning card”.  It leads nicely on to the last track in the first part of the album.

The Pax Britannica

And so the first part of the album draws to the close with this, the eight track. This takes the listener through the century from 1815 to 1914, taking in Albert, Victoria, Commerce and trade while hinting at the power and corruption to follow.  “Pax Britannica, Pax Britannica, rules the headland and the wave / Hansa spirit will enrich us, keep us from an early grave / Sweet Victoria, Mother England, gracious queen whom God will save” come the lyrics telling of the time when the British empire was in its prime. 

Part Two : Prophecies

Tripidium Ad Bellum

This starts in 1914 at the start of World War I and oncludes in 1939 just as World War II is to begin.  Musically there is a full on flute solo as this track introduces the second section of the album.  It’s somewhat shorter than the first, consisting of just three tracks which add up to barely ten minutes of playing time.  There are no lyrics here, instead the listener is invited to enjoy the rich tapestry of music on offer here.

After These Wars

This track opens beautifully and gently moving the story on to the 1950’s which saw the arrival of the television and new prosperity as the effects of World War II started to ease.  The British empire was in decline as the world went through a period of genuine transition. The track contains the finest guitar solo on the album although as you would expect Anderson’s flute can also be heard. My favourite lyrics have to be “We thanked the Yank and thanked the Lord / for sparing us from dark invasion.  Now to liberate, rebuild and balance Europe’s new equation”.

New Blood, Old Veins

The second part draws to a close with a nod to the 1960’s where package holidays first started to take off, introducing Europe to the Brit abroad on holiday.

Part Three : Revelations

In For A Pound

Fast forward to 2013, and this is a 37 second track which opens the third and final part of the album.  “I’ve started to I’ll finish.  I’m here, so I’ll stay” declares Anderson as the listener is about to go through the present and into the future.

The Browning Of The Green

Finally we reach the present day and the topic of overpopulation comes up as the chorus notes “it’s the browning of the green / we’ll be tight as canned sardine”.  Again it’s a little more rocky, but with generous helpings of keyboards and flute along the way.

Per Errationes Ad Astra

Just as Tripidium Ad Bellum has no words, this track has no music.  Set in 2024 the sleevenotes describe it as a “warning from the far, alien side” although it namechecks Neil, Buzz and Michael from the 1960’s Apollo mission to the moon.

Cold Dead Reckoning

Now the album concludes as we head thirty years into the future with turmoil, tempest, sea-level rise and the end of the old order. Musically it very much follows the rest of the album and it seems a fine way to end proceedings.

This album is entertaining from start to finish. Listeners should take time to read Anderson’s foreword and the notes from Gerald Bostock as it has been developed as a complete package.  I managed to get my hands on a deluxe edition which also contains an additional DVD featuring a “Making Of” piece and a 5.1 Surround Sound version of the album. His last outing on ‘Thick As A Brick 2’ saw him back inside the top forty album chart and I think that this could do even better for him.

Finally people often ask me if I was named after Ian, but my parents were unaware of the delights of Jethro Tull.  However given my taste in music I am very happy to share my name with the legendary performer!

 

Ian Anderson (not the same one)

@chartchatuk

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13 April, 2014 - Posted by | ChartChat

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