“Tales From Albion” by MITCHELL TAYLOR
The record opens in a pub barroom with “Pub Politics” in which a carefree Mitchell tells us "we're all going to die, so let’s enjoy tonight, let’s not fuss and fight." Casually throwing caution to the wind for one more pint over conversation involving furniture and revolutionary politics, the record plunges us into the uncertain world of being 18 and in England in the first decade of the 21st Century. It’s a world he paints clearly as he lets us glimpse fleeting images of life through his eyes that capture all the joy, heartache, ambivalence and certainty of life just on the edge of adulthood.
“Tales From Albion” is the exceptional debut album from Mitchell Taylor - at 18, the artist formally known as Project Wolverine has recorded something of a masterpiece carefully assembled into ten superbly crafted songs. Yes, it’s high praise but it’s well deserved as the culmination of several years’ hard work. In 2009 and 2010 Mitchell Taylor (under the name Project Wolverine) released two albums - 2009's “Life, Love, Loss & Politics” and 2010’s “Lost Boy Blues”, two great lo-fi records that sometimes played more like demos but showed an artist with a burgeoning talent - and it is songs culled and re-recorded from these two collections that make up the bulk of “Tales From Albion”. But even then, with two lo-fi albums and a string of impressive live performances under his belt, the leap to “Tales From Albion” is still a very big one and not just in the production or the addition of a smattering of extra instruments - or the near perfect performances captured in these recordings. It is in the songs he's chosen and the order they play. If being an artist is about making decisions then Mitchell has made all the right ones here. He has recorded an album that is above all shockingly cohesive and single-minded in its vision.
On “Daily Mail” Mitchell proclaims that his generation just need some clarification that they are the future of this nation, sliding the statement next to the image of him and some friends being moved on by a policeman for loitering. He explains it wasn’t like they really meant to cause any trouble, they were just looking for somewhere to hang. On “Cold Baked Beans”, Mitchell sounds defeated and lonely in a world consumed by rampant consumerism, and he takes the same tone later on the album with “England”, an alternative anthem that paints an England defeated and cold - yet the song still sounds patriotic, the sadness conveying the curious love we all have deep inside for our cynical island. On “Socialism Is For Lovers” Mitchell worries about the life of debt he's destined to live after university while he expresses his darkest fears for the future on “Coalition Blues” when he paints a dystopian future without a National Health Service.
Mitchell’s 21st Century England is a dark and cynical place, obsessed with consumerism and rampant with lazy tabloid journalists and overzealous policemen ready to pull apart today’s youth at every turn, but it is also an England cluttered with characters - friend and foe - whose encounters fill the lyrics of every song like Polaroid snapshots tacked onto a bedroom wall. The album’s final two tracks take us even closer to home; what picture of teenage life would be complete without the girl he pines for on “Loves You More Than I” and asks “is there a man who loves you more than I?” The final track ("Some Girl"), framed inside an encounter with a police officer who tells Mitchell he looks like a thief, has him responding that he's not looking to steal, he's just looking for love. There's hope still for Mitchell in his dark world of policemen and politicians. Yes, his subject matter can be heavy but this doesn’t stop the album being enjoyable and uplifting in its youthful exuberance.
“Tales From Albion” is a meteoric step forward, well arranged and almost perfectly crafted, and with just enough fray around the edges to retain the rawness we loved on his earlier records. Throughout the record the smattering of extra instruments is just enough to keep the record interesting but not so many that it takes the focus away from Mitchell as a solo artist. From the drums on “Cold Baked Beans”, the strings on “Coalition Blues” and the uprising of instruments on “Some Girl”, the balance is never over-powering leaving Mitchell with his tunes and his lyrics to take centre stage. “Tales From Albion” is nothing short of a masterpiece from the prolific Mitchell Taylor, for forty minutes or so he lets us see the world through his eyes and this is his greatest achievement. He sounds like the voice of his generation; he shows us how the youth see the world of today and he dares us not to ignore him. And ignoring an album as good as this would be criminal.