Forty Elephant Gang - The Time We Lost
Sitting at the top of the #TEAMw21 current "Must see live" list are Forty Elephant Gang. Undoubtedly their name piqued our initial interest in them and a couple of top quality singles marked them out as being definite ones to watch, an opinion more than cemented by this five star gem of an EP.
Forty Elephant Gang bring with them a refreshing sound that is able to adapt as required yet remains distinctly theirs. They also have something to say, the title "The Time We Lost" is an obvious reference to the Lockdown period and its influence filters through songs in different ways.
"Fences" opens to an urgent guitar and mandolin sound with percussion like a ticking clock, recalling recent events that seem so long ago they seem almost strange to recall yet this brings them back vividly.
"Shouting over the fences - pull the kids from the streets
Hide the papers and passports, store the food that we need
try to get you some sleep"
A trip back to the covid days of foraging for food only to find empty shelves and general panic
"Hide the cash in the floorboards"
The urgent verses give way to an explosive chorus
"It's a crazy situation - are we dreaming?
There's a poison in the water that you're drinking
Don't say another word unless you mean it
I'm tired of all the lies and you deceiving"
There's inventive powerful percussion running through the track and the vocals seem to perfectly capture the peoples voice at the time. A final third part to the song sees another pick up in pace in a race to the finish with a mixture of great playing and harmonies and voice of hope ""Sometimes you gotta believe in something"
When we first heard "Miss You" it had us hooked after the opening few seconds with its mandolin and acoustic guitar opening - it is truly sumptuous before a word has even been uttered. "Miss You" is for those couples who have lost their joie de vivre, who need time and space apart to rediscover themselves individually, so that they can revitalize and rekindle themselves as a couple - but now we can see more of the context in which it inhabits - a world where for a time everyone was at home, confined
"You can take my money go and buy some things you like
I'll stay here and watch the football - grab a beer I'll be alright
Take the kids round to your sisters - have a wild girls night out
Dance into the early hours - if I need ya then i'll shout"
The chorus makes those feelings of confinement and over familiarity even clearer
"You know I love you - but I want to miss you
So don't hurry back cos I'll be fine on my own
You know I love you - but I need to miss you
We can reacquaint ourselves when we come back home"
There is a beautifully easy going feel to the overall sound that is so warm and engaging it is impossible to resist, including a divine mandolin solo!
The alternative bleak future is spelled out as one of a world of dull routine
"Staring at our screens in the evening
Conversation don't last too long
Catching up on TV and drinking, well that can't be wrong"
One that will play out for their remaining years!
"Sit here silently until the end of time"
The vocals have a laid back charm to them and the band play with an effortless ease ending with a cheeky whisper
"Don't leave me"
"No More Tears" opens to majestically mournful fiddle and piano, akin to a sort of americana "Nights In White Satin". The mood is now a lot darker, the novelty if thet is the right word has definitely worn off.
"Heard the news on the radio - must have been several years ago
Only young so we didn't know how the world would change
Same old signs in the picket lines
Same old words in the daily Times
Read the headlines and realise that it never ends"
It is a song of someone worn down by the relentlessness of everything
"I've got no more tears left to cry" is perfectly captured by a vocal that somehow has the feeling of exhaustion stamped over it
With grand production values it is as lyrically hauntingly sad as it is musically beautiful.
Starting to the sound of a stylus hitting a record, "Simple Life" opens to an old time chorus of harmonies played out over an acoustic guitar in a very low fi fashion, before bursting into life with an array of stringed instruments.
Initially there is a hint of optimism ( albeit maybe more bravado than real hope ) in the air
"Somethings going to change I can feel it in my bones
If I'm lying to myself then I know I'm not alone"
The subsequent verse, although still hopeful seems less sure
"Somethings going to change
I can feel it when I look up through the stars
I don't need the pull of money
Or the sound or the distant sound of music from the bars"
By the bridge - the singer has reneged on all the promises of personal change and is out being lured by all that he had previously promised to forsake and he's later to be found in "The shiny neon lights"
In a 3 minute song that questions whether people can truly change, the success is down to the delivery of the vocals, positively upbeat and hopeful in the opening verses, and then accepting the reality in the bridge and final verse.
From the start of "Hard Times" where the opening bars are played out over a background of gloomy news reports this has the felling of something special about it and here presented in its full nearly 7 minute format, it is a wonderful epic tune.
The chorus hints at the worries brought on by the precarious financial position people now find themselves in and that fear that things will not get better - that there is no cure to the crisis
"Everybody's talking about Hard Times
You teleport your way into my mind
From worlds afar I've left behind
Hard Times the medicine I need never arrives
I see the magic in your eyes"
The overall beautiful mandolin led sound is punctured by a scuzzy electric guitar solo which somehow fits perfectly. As the song develops further the intensity of the playing and the background news reports get louder and louder and as the vocals try to match, it all builds to a barn stormingly mad, almost "A Day In The Life" folk orchestra' crescendo that fully justifies the epic tag.
Closing with "Fun While It Lasted" - Forty Elephant Gang leave us on something of a dreamy lullaby, though there's a gloomy undertone that the best may have passed and what is there to look forward to?
The vocals are suitably pragmatic and downbeat, accepting that the good times may have passed.
"As the embers burn away - down to ashes yesterday - It's gone but it was fun while it lasted
As the music softly fades, to an evenings serenade it's done but it was fun while it lasted"
There is a suggestion that this part of the natural cycle of things
"I don't see the point in any complaining - you only see the sunshine after it's raining - is this not the same thing?"
For a song with the word "Fun" in the title there is not really a lot of fun to be had
It's very strong EP that refuses to be pigeonholed - the main constants being the harmonies, the beautiful instrumentation throughout especially that prominent mandolin and the distinct British feel to it. The Forty Elephant Gang have a refreshing outlook in their subject matter and their writing is certainly superior, subtle and definitely worthy of your attention.