There’s two key words with Bellowhead; energy, consummate skill. Okay that’s three. Still true though. E.p.Onymous was the release to whet our appetites while we waited for the mighty first album, Burlesque, but it is an astonishing little gem in its own right. Even with only 5 tracks, it’s in my player all the time
The sound is astonishing; fat, funky and flawless, with an immense energy driving the tracks. If you see the band live they’re even more impressive - one of the tightest acts you’re likely to see, despite the bewildering array of instruments that could so easily have sounded clunky or overdone. Bellowhead do traditional music that sounds utterly contemporary; a mix of Tom Waits’ ’junkyard orchestra’ aesthetic with some serious funked-up rhythm.
E.p.Onymous demonstrates real talent; Jon Boden and John Spiers brought everyone together - the duo already highly praised for punking and funking their way through traditional fare. But what makes the big band work so well is that it isn’t about showcasing or backing one or two talents; this breadth of sound only comes from musicians respectfully complementing each other.
The sound definitely improved on Burlesque with the addition of Gideon Juckes’s driving sousaphone and tuba (Bellowhead have no bassist, which can leave the sound a little thinner on the Ep) but on the whole as a first release this set the bar very high. Chief highlight; a stomping version of the traditional Prickle-eye Bush.