Matt Simpkins first discovered the Britpop of the Small Faces, the Kinks and the Beatles via Blur in the Eighties and they have been the wellsprings of his musical inspiration from FuzzFace through Sons of Joy, Rev Simpkins and the Phantom Notes, to Pissabed Prophet. This album mixes the colourful and riotously explosive Britpop psychedelic influences of the Small Faces and Beatles with the melodiousness and carefully-observed lyrics of the Kinks. Think of a uniquely inspired blending of elements drawn from ‘Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake’, ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ and ‘The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society’.

Simpkins has been enjoying a renewed burst of creativity following a diagnosis of and treatment for cancer and this collaboration with Ben Brown, of Dingus Khan and SuperGlu fame, found its initial inspiration in the sounds of an MRI scanner. ‘Spooling’ is that catalytic song, which opens the album by channelling the experience of the scanner sound streaming through you and contains the seeds of the rest of the album through a bundle of tunes that unwind in Simpkins’ head.    

Don’t let that generative source fool you into thinking this is a dour affair, however, as this album is anything but! Simpkins responds to his personal challenges with an exuberant celebration of life in the midst of dark forces; there’s always beauty to find, as he writes in ‘Evensong’. He’s a “giddy boy”, “writing home about life in the bell jar” and finding that the “sweetness of decay / Drips blessing on these autumn days”. These are songs that celebrate creativity, relationships, nature, rural traditions and seasonal prayers.

Village green references regularly infuse his alt-pop psychedelia and relate primarily to a life lived on the Essex-Suffolk border. ‘Telling the Bees’ honours the tradition of staving off ill fortune by informing bees of a recent death, so the hive can be put into mourning, and is sung in Essex-Suffolk border dialect. Simpkins once had the pleasure of working with the Small Faces Kenney Jones to orchestrate the classic album ‘Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake’ on which inspired use is made of Stanley Unwin and his invented language Unwinese; a possible source of ideas for this ingenious song.

The band name brings together both influences as pissabed is the ancient name for dandelions, so named for their diuretic qualities when eaten; diuretics also being a feature of treatment for some cancers. Like a prophet, Simpkins is reporting back from within the bell jar of cancer treatment to share a renewed zest for life as he refuses to mourn a dream and resolves to let life and love flow.    

‘No Gap’ fizzes as it tells the story of the relationships that, for him, have “turned up sound & colour on a gorgeous world”. In “the duskdark” of “the dimday”, the nightingale sings, the evening primrose scent beguiles, and Venus sails above the Plough (‘Evensong’). He leads us through “depths and shallows, joys and sorrows” sharing the fat of the marrow, the blessed day’s apple and the breath of his breath. At the end are two lives leaning into one and returning home to rest (‘Humber Doucey (Sweet Shadow)’).

Zany in parts, moving in others, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more unusual, inspired and profound album this year. ‘Pissabed Prophet’ will thrill, intrigue, amuse and inspire.



Jonathan Evens



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