More about: Stephen Evens
As the late great Ian Dury noted in his song of the same name, “there ain’t half been some clever bastards.” Stephen Gilchrist, the man at the heart of Stephen EvEns, is definitely one that falls into that exclusive category. He’s one of those Zelig-like characters who is always turning up where something cool is going on. He’s occupied, on occasion, the drum stool for an amazing list of bands from Blur’s Graham Coxon to The Damned and Cardiacs. One minute he’ll be producing threateningly evil, metallic clunks as the bassist in the superlative Hot Sauce Pony, the next turning up in a full tweed suit to perform eccentric songs with just a Casiotone keyboard for accompaniment.
But what our Mr Gilchrist, who has also nurtured and recorded many of the South London scene’s finest acts at his Brixton Hill Studios complex, loves more than any of these other duties, is strapping on a guitar and stepping up as the frontman of his own Stephen EvEns project.
Employee of the Month is their long awaited second album, some three years in the making but worth every nanosecond of the wait. Gilchrist, of course, could have probably played every note on this album himself. But instead he’s assembled a pretty impressive array of musicians to help him share the load. Jen Macro, guitarist with My Bloody Valentine and the much-celebrated Hurtling, features liberally throughout, while members of Cardiacs, Hot Sauce Pony, Ham Legion and Gabi Garbutt & The Illuminations turn up in a number of various roles too.
Nevertheless, the spotlight remains on Gilchrist, his unique view of the world expressed through a voice that’s set to growling indignation at times and heartfelt sincerity at others. Similarly, the album veers from the downright angry - see the crunching ‘Push Yr Thumb In Yr Eye’ or anti-Tory rallying cry ‘Dustbin Man’ – to the lilting, folky romanticism of ‘George & Kathleen’ and ‘Freak Show’, where Gilchrist weaves a tale of a life of hardship to truly magical piano accompaniment from former Cardiacs man William D Drake.
But the best stuff is what you’d call trademark Stephen EvEns, powered by headnodding grooves and garage rock guitars and peppered with just the right amount of twists and turns. ‘I Hate Shop (I Am Shop)’ seems to be about the soul crushing hell of a nine to five existence, set to a nihilistic bed of jagged riffing and thrilling mob rule backing vocals. ‘Claude’ is dispatched at headlong pace and plenty of vitriol, while ‘John Snow’ is more stealthy, sneaking up on you with its snake-like beat and a lyric that’s about the bloke who discovered cholera but urges us to keep faith with our doctors, taking on a new relevance in the light of today’s anti-vaccination and G5 conspiracy theorists.
‘The Day I Burned My House Down’ brings things to a close, a song about self-destruction executed with a hilariously sunny swing, all jolly pianos and cheery brass. It’s a suitably surreal ending to what is an album of many parts and different faces. Employee of the Month? Stick that man’s photo on the staff room wall right now.
Employee Of The Month is released on 28 August 2020 via Onomatopoeia.
More about: Stephen Evens