Bad News Telephone – Black Hats (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

It’s as the opening salvo of the title track breaks the silence around me that I am reminded just how much I miss Black Hats, it also begs the question was the wonderful Austerity for the Hoi-Polloi really seven years ago! I’m afraid it was. Tempus does indeed fugit! I was unaware that the band was out and about again until this landed in my inbox; no fanfare, no unnecessary palaver, just business being done and done well, everything that the band were known for.

This open track is a fantastic blend of what has always been great about the Hats; a rhythm section built on deft reggae-infused bass lines and skittering beats, that slightly anxious, new wave energy, the sharp, melodic punk edge that also served the likes of The Jam so well, and a Costello-esque vocal line…Elvis not Lou, that is. Add in some blistering brass sounds and the slightly cryptic, street-philosophical lyrics and everything feels good in the world.

All We Ever Wanted slows things down bit, a mid-paced indie groover that shows that the band, for all my post-punk references, are all about the here and now, a real mainstream chart botherer, if there was any justice in the world…though this is a world where, even as I write, Ed Sheeran has three songs in the top twenty so what do I know?

Those reggae rhythms really come to the fore on the choppy Sleep Patterns, a swaying wash of solid grooves and razor wire guitars, as restless and claustrophobic as the subject matter it portrays and Just A Time sounds like the perfect bridge between the Hats past and present, their classic sound made over for today, poignant and precision guitar riffs cutting their way through a beguiling and complimentary weave of beats and bass.

The only thing I love more about having this band back with new recorded material is how out of the blue its release was…though that says more about how out of the loop I am. Anyway, a great quartet of songs, welcome back fellers!

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