Ganglion by Adullboy – Review

I was introduced to Adullboy’s music a few years back via a Sunday afternoon wander through my Facebook feed. A link to a video of him singing in a Glasgow pub had been posted by a musically knowledgeable friend, Mark Feeney. Since then I have caught him playing live on a couple of occasions on the acoustic stage at Bathgate Music Festival. That first song I heard was 21st Century Man which appears on his first official release from 2015, The Banyan EP, a well crafted collection of songs from the heart, relating day to day experiences to such subjects as pop culture, (Hulk Walks Alone),  personal situational observations, (21st Century Man) and on a hidden track at the end of the CD, growing up in the 80’s and not really feeling any wiser for it (When I Was Young) – a personal favourite of mine.

A year down the road and Robin Crosbie has negotiated the detritus of a very trying year which saw personal loss turn his world upside down, to once again step into his alter ego’s shoes to write, record and release his second official EP, Ganglion.

A preview of a couple of the songs was given to those that attended the first Les Frites Petites nights at The Purple Orange back in October, which was then followed up with an album launch, again at The Purple Orange, Bathgate on the 2nd of December. A superb night of local talent hosted by Robin which saw appearances from Lovers Turn To Monsters and Peter Johnstone, before Adullboy took to the stage with a rarely seen full band line up. Also worth a mention from that night was a bookend performance from The Pure Gallus which included the classic “Daddy’s Doing Drugs”. Unfortunately his set went largely unnoticed following the triumphantly received performance given by Adullboy and The Barry’s. If you get a chance look him up, he’s been described as “David Byrne played by Harry Dean Stanton, directed by David Lynch” and it fits perfect.

I missed the opportunity to pick up a hard copy of Ganglion on the night, but I did get one through the post on 31st December 2016. Having attended 2 very different sounding performances, both of which were excellent, I was looking forward to hearing these new songs from the comfort of my own couch.

At 8 tracks long with a cumulative listening time of just under 30 mins, Ganglion is a step up from the 5 track, 22 mins of the Banyan EP. The album is an exercise in open uncensored honesty. It’s like a dip into a personal diary. The subject matter is, at times, very personal and on first listening it can be a bit uncomfortable, as if your own conscience is telling you to close the diary before the owner comes back.

Opening track, Ibuprofen, lays bare the pain of crippling depression. A subject often ignored due to the lack of physical evidence. On this track it is given a voice in the shape of Adullboy’s latest new instrument, a “haunted” Magnus Chord Organ and a realisable image as Robin relates the pain to more common illnesses such as viral infections and cancer. A churchlike atmosphere is developed thanks to the hollow sound of the organ and by the end of the song the gathered flock can be in no doubt that depression brings real pain.

Don’t Wait Up brings some light relief as we are treated to the black comedy of an extended night out. Almost out the door of the local public house, our story teller finds himself drawn into a series of conversations and situations which eventually lead him to house party and the inevitable sunrise observance of the 24 hr party people.

Take Care Of Business turns the screw on your discomfort. It quickly becomes clear that the singer is letting us read the page in his diary where he recorded the deathbed advice offered to him by his recently deceased father. It does carry a message of positivity though with the repeated words to “Love the Living, Remember the Dead”…..sound advice.

Drunk At a Family Party will bring a smile to more than a few listener’s faces as they realise that once again, Adullboy has tapped into an all too common experience of the alcoholically challenged.

At midway the Elephant Knows What The Eagle Forgot is a bit of a shift away from the sound on the rest of the album. It is lyrically more catchy than the rest and would have been happily at home on The Banyan EP as it provides a worldly wise observation of the generational gap.

Is The Heating On In Here? returns to the situational imagery and positions the listener as an observer looking in on a dispute between two lovers who are falling out over the temperature in the room. One of them suffering from the heat whilst the other is complaining of the cold and when the final lyrics are ebbing away, you are left to guess whether they will both be on the same side of the closed door.

I Don’t Have a Tree hints at social responsibility as the singer bemoans the fact that his time is spent clearing up the leaves from the trees of others.

Closing track, Happy Days, sees Robin return to his eighties upbringing, invoking the memory of the Fonz and his adopted family, but only as a medium to convey his own isolation. However from the notes on the CD cover; “Adullboy is Robin Crosbie. I asked a lot of people to help me & everyone said yes. I want you to know I will love you forever for that.” And so, far from being on his own, Adullboy can rely on many helping hands. In fact we are all Adullboy.

Ganglion at times addresses subject matter that is uncomfortable to listen to and sonically the lo-fi folk album can be challenging when considered against the polished finish of the auto-tuned generation, but that’s missing the point as Adullboy has opened up his heart and let us in. At this point in time it is not necessarily nice in here but it’s still beating strongly.

Adullboy, Ganglion and The Banyan EP can be found on Bandcamp

Ganglion : a structure containing a number of nerve cell bodies, typically linked by synapses, and often forming a swelling on a nerve fibre, was once treated by hitting it with The Bible until the trapped fluid was dispersed.

 Note from author.

If you’ve liked what you’ve read, like and leave a comment. Cheers.

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