When Jon McClure first bound onto the music scene, he was full of endless optimism. Originally a writer for the Arctic Monkeys, the Reverend (of Reverend and the Makers) was convinced that his left wing politics could be put to music and make a difference to the world. Sadly after just one album he became disillusioned with the music industry and formed Mongrel releasing ‘Better Than Heavy’, their debut album, for free via The Independent.
Pulling together Joe Moskow from The Makers on synths, Drew from Babyshambles on guitar, London rapper Lowkey, Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders and former Monkey Andy Nicholson on bass to form a grindie supergroup was presumably his attempt at a multi-skilled masterplan. Yet the mid-way position between grime and indie, the aptly name Mongrel can’t help to fail to excel in one particular field, instead falling somewhere into the middle under adequate.
Sometimes, when paired with a brilliant bassline, McClure’s politics make sense. In ‘Lies’ we’re told “the whole country is full of lies, you’re all gonna die, I don’t trust you anymore” and ‘Barcode’ offers up a chilling warning of the human race being ‘a commodity, we will quantify’. Yet sometimes, his lyrics can move too far towards preaching with the listing of oppressed countries such as ‘Lebanon, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Darfur, too many to name,’ in the otherwise brilliant ‘The Menace’, sometimes being too hard to stomach for your average music fan.
A good effort for sure, but ultimately ‘Better Than Heavy’ leaves us yearning for the catchy tunes and daily life descriptions that made Reverend & The Makers debut so special. We admire the message but can’t help but feel we’d rather have The Reverend back in his very own church.