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A Magazine for Sheffield

Magpie Billy & The Egg That Yolked

Following on from 2012’s conceptual debut 1612 Underture, which took the 17th Century case of the Pendle Witches trial as its basis, this curious electronica project uses more familiar themes of suburban alienation and paranoia for the follow-up.

Subtitled ‘A Study of the Northern Ape in Love’, “resident broken hearted, bitter and spiteful ape on the verge of a nervous breakdown” Adrian Flanagan (Kings Have Long Arms) and “synth Yoda” Dean Honer (I Monster) have this time blended kitchen-sink commentary with dark satire to tell the story of Magpie Billy, a social drinker whose main pastime is “getting into arguments down the local after a few pints”. A perpetual “shed dweller”, Billy’s growing alienation from his wife is not helped by the constant presence of a formidable magpie perched outside their house, who gradually begins to impose on his life in ways he never thought possible (“Magpie, magpie, bird of my nightmares...”)

Narrated by Maxine Peake, this Edgar Allen Poe meets John Cooper Clarke tale is married to whirring wonky pop and stark electronic rhythms, with Peake’s Lancashire vowels drawing comparisons with mid 90s synthpop black comedians Dubstar. ‘R.E.S.P.E.C.T. (This Bird Has Flown)’ and ‘M.B. Motorcycle Enthusiast’ border on horror soundtrack territory with eerily disquieting keyboards and ‘First Foot On The Misery Ladder’ will leave you feeling queasy with its fairground organ.

But the album ultimately emerges as a story of triumph over adversity – real or imagined, it’s never quite clear – and the baroque musical theatre retains a hint of levity throughout. Flanagan himself says the album “touches upon the universal need to be loved but simultaneously left alone”, and the final result is oddly touching, with the emphasis on ‘odd’. You’re unlikely to hear a more eccentric and engrossing album this year.

Jordan Cullen