Letters from the Underground
(On the Fiddle Recordings)
There are few bands that would use the situation in Darfur and the 7/7 London bombings in 2005 as material, but for fans of the Levellers it's in keeping with a band that have always worn their politics proudly. The Levellers, who describe Letters from the Underground as 'a consciously political record' were at the forefront of the radical green movement that took off in Britain in the late 1980s when the band formed. Musically, they have rarely wavered from their folk-punk roots.
Despite a devoted fan base built during a 20-year career the Levellers have largely been ignored by the mainstream media and with Letters from the Underground one can hear why.
The sawing fiddle and frenetic pace are omnipresent. While opener The Cholera Well isn't bad, as the album progresses the similarity of the tracks make it sound like one long political rant. There's an urgency to songs such as A Life Less Ordinary, spirit to Burn America Burn and a fast and furious finale to Death Loves Youth, but the album is peppered with none of the fun and variety that lifts other bands in their genre, such as the Pogues.
One can applaud the Levellers' left-wing stance - they share their recording studio with up-and-coming bands - but unfortunately, this generosity doesn't necessarily translate into interesting music on their part. They have been compared to the Sex Pistols with a fiddle player, but here they don't have the bite to be punk or the lilt to be an engaging folk band.