If you’re thinking of starting a band, the first thing to make sure of is that you’re in it with people who you don’t hate. Second is to ensure that you come up with an excellent name, preferably with a pun in the title. So, when the wonderfully monikered Lardpony and the equally excellent The Deirdres split up, it was only natural that their embers should come together to make something with an even more impressive title. Steinbeck may be long gone, but his legacy is not – just look at the GCSE curriculum or, even better, have a listen to the brilliant Of Mice and Mental Arithmetic.
The wit evident in that pun isn’t a one off, either – Ants and Bees are Communists may sound like the kind of title that a self-styled ‘random’ teenager might make-up to impressive an equally self aware ‘quirky’ girl whilst drinking cider on a weekend, but there’s a lot more to it than that. In fact, in terms of lyrical content, it’s utterly outstanding, both funny and thought provoking, from it’s opening gambit of ‘I think patriotism is a form of racism/I think I’ll just have a cup of tea’ and onward. There’s not an urgency to shove it’s intelligence in your face, but you can definitely sense it, hiding just out of view behind the slightly off-pitch harmonies and twangly instrumental arrangement. In spirit, it feels like the anti-folk dream fleshed out and made unmistakably English, with it’s quaint humility and homely charms. Stopping just short of twee, mixing folk and pop without being folk pop, they even managed to do a good job of covering a Mew track – never the easiest of tasks. There’s not been much material put together by the group and even less recorded and distributed, but thankfully there’s an EP on the horizon, too.
In all honesty, the fact that these are excellent can only compound the misery that they were on a bill that also included Mat Riverie, Judy and the Blumes and Internet Forever means a clean sweep of bands that are fantastic and that I missed sometime in February. Luckily, the few tracks that the band have given away go some way towards healing the wounds.
Of Mice and Mental Arithmetic – Ants and Bees are Communists
Of Mice and Mental Arithmetic – Mica (Mew Cover) [download from sweeping the nation, to celebrate the blog’s 5th birthday. happy birthday.]