Taking the January songwriting challenge by the horns and subsequently delivering his most extensive and notably impressive project to date – the UK’s own PMKS offers 31 original songs, each one in a different key, topic and genre, for this colourful yet chaotic, light-hearted yet disconcertingly dark, new album.
Musically appealing from the outset, delicate jazz piano and spoken word intimacy – a raw, unapologetic deep-dive into New Year’s Day goal setting and keeping – Welcome 2022 makes for an intriguing introduction.
Naturally one of PMKS’ most enjoyable tracks yet, a style that’s refreshingly simple, authentic, and enjoyable to listen through. Given the unwavering eclecticism of the full album though, getting complacent or expectant from here would be a mistake.
Piano and laid-back vocals continue for A Dark Bossa Nova, the style working its magic for the new era of PMKS. Here we get an aptly dark, haunting story at work, which lures you in and holds you captive thanks to the simple yet striking and unsettling manner in which the lyrics and the scene are framed. Suddenly the mind wanders to reality, the world at large – the music has done its job.
Child Soldier captures acoustic picking and varied vocals for an equally uncomfortable listen through one of modern life’s most shameful truths. As ever, Spike holds nothing back, adopts a central character and reveals every last detail for a shocking, rightfully unpleasant audio experience.
Later on the vibe is lifted a little and musicianship elevates things all the more so – a strong quality throughout, it has to be said. Toxic Guilt Trip is a definite melodic and instrumental highlight. The melody is simple again, effective, distantly mixed so as to take nothing from the organic arrangement and softness.
Common Denominator brings in fast-fingered folk and doubled vocals for an absolute highlight. Superb rhythms, simple yet satisfying melodies, and the ever-unpredictable writing of PMKS to freshen things up. A personal favourite, dark and edgy, contemporary, humorous, honest.
We then get a touch of Johnny Cash poetic depth and vocal darkness in the form of Unlucky For Some, before a few dashes of loving connection emerge.
I Love You Madly is simple, to the point, unafraid and honest once again. You Are The One melts the heart a little, the voice aptly lowers its tone and feels suddenly committed to intimacy and honesty – no sarcasm, no hiding, no quirks. A refreshingly different vibe, a love song of mellow swagger and quiet devotion.
Work Event Blues lightens the mood, the slow drone of Spike’s voice suiting the subject matter well as the sultry blues rock progression gets the body swaying. More and more is revealed as the song goes on, a trait that PMKS quite often masters. Immediately afterwards, the unignorable Tory Wet Dreams (51 Weeks) brings politics right back to centre stage.
As the leading single from the project, Gonna Write It Good (Writer’s Block) rains down with the warmth of Americana and crooning rhythms of familiarity. Soon enough Spike’s unmistakable voice injects a raw indie edge and story of personal experience that’s relatable, fun, and a little country-esque in tone.
Hopes are further met in the form of country swagger and an unexpected vocal switch-up – Outlaw Country delivers a knees-up alternative with a few classic twists of PMKS cleverly woven in.
As mentioned, there’s plenty to experience throughout this month’s worth of songwriting exploration. One final highlight is Hit List, joyful in bounce and vibe, familiar in topic from many a sitcom scene; contemporary and PMKS-soaked in version. A great way to counter-balance the unpleasantry and scorn of many of the other political and topical tracks.
“Let’s make a list
When we get pissed
Of all the shags
We’ve ever wished”
Sometimes personal, occasionally humorous, often political, always fearlessly connected to the moment and with very little editing of ideas for a truly punk-rock approach – January Songs makes for an effective go-to when looking to venture through the creativity and expression of PMKS as an artistic endeavour.