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MR LOVE & JUSTICE: Reviews

News From Nowhere Reviews

Some bands are quite difficult to pin an easy label on, others less so. On the surface Mr Love and Justice seem to fall into the latter category. The problem is you can find yourself pinning so many “easy” labels on them that you still end up with a long, complex and ultimately unwieldy generic description. Just the sort of band that I like then, one that you can unravel like the layers of a musical onion. One layer may seem to be built from Byrds-esque jangle, another from the very psychedelic tarmac of roads once travelled by The Beatles in their later, experimental modus operandi. Others seem to relate to the more bucolic acid folksiness of revivalists such as Devendra Banhart.

Lyrically there is the usual wonderful mix of quintessentially English Cider Dreamtime (Leaving Imber, This England) and more universal anthems of love and Haight, a musical scope that meanders between West Coast continental drifting and West Kennet pastoral musing. In the past I described the band as “Historical, socio-political, agri-folk pop” or even “farmers for fifteen minutes” but this time out they often seem to largely transcend the green fields below and head off for more trippy, cosmic voyages. Maybe they are no longer content to be Moonrakers and have decided to journey to the source of the reflection in the water.

Either way, News From Nowhere sees Mr Love & Justice wearing their most accessible musical trappings yet, their musical references, literary interests and political leanings may be the same but somehow they have found a way to take it to a much wider audience.
Lots of bands now come as a collective rather than a fixed line up, umbrella organisation means that whilst key individuals retain control others can be cherry picked to suit certain songs. The man with the ideas here is singer songwriter Steve Cox, obviously in love with jangly American folk rock and a certain strand of English whimsy.

His core support stretches to some ten or so individuals – check out the website- from a pleasing variety of genres, making them an eclectic bunch and perfect for the shuffling through the twelve tracks on offer. Stepping into News From Nowhere is a bit like strolling into a decent music emporium, lots of possibilities and all open for consumption. Titles like Leaving Imber and This England speak of home grown concerns and whilst there are acoustic moments, there’s also a great deal of West Coast LA jingle in the melodies. According to one on line source, this album has far more oomph in the mix than previous offerings, the whole thing seems innocent yet the centre is strong and tight knit.

You could make the point that vocally this isn’t most convincing article and there’s certainly better openers than Give Back My Heart later in the running order, This Channel’s Always On for one. However that’s all forgivable when the springing banjo drive of Red And Green coils through your headphones and leaves a smile across your face. Intriguing stuff.
Occasionally, an album will rise from the depths of the underground fully formed. It's a thrilling thing, reminding us to never stop scouring the shortwaves for brilliant and innovative art.

News from Nowhere is the fourth album from London psych-folk rock outfit Mr. Love & Justice. It is built around lazy swaying drifting acoustic guitar melodies, which are verdigrised with psychedelic pirouettes - banjos, vocal harmonies, organs and percussions. It's a sound that links the entire history of London, from punk and rave to stone circles and Neolithic ritual.

Steve Cox is the cornerstone of Mr. Love & Justice, who is joined by a band of merry string pluckers, beatsmiths and organauts, such as Ian Gregory on drums, who has played in the popular psychedelic XTC side project The Dukes Of Stratosphere. It is these little touches that draw you forward, that make you lean in and realize that a lot of love and attention has been lavished on these timeworn but timeless tunes.

"Give Back My Heart" starts things off with a mellow raga rock, along the lines of The Brian Jonestown Massacre when Anton Newcombe isn't being a psychopath. Acoustic guitars are transformed into microtonal shruti boxes, while understated marimba melodies underpin Cox's reedy vocals. It's somehow evocative of both India and Africa, at the same time, while still being rooted in Albionic soil. It's a poppy and accessible lead in to Mr. Love & Justice's world.

"Hollow Crown" is a bit doomier, moodier and more pensive with glistening post-punk guitars and a stomping beat. It has the same exotic beauty of Faith-era The Cure, a similar bedsit meditativeness as Felt before Lawrence went synthpop. The traditional miserabilist greyscale pallet of post-punk is shot through with opalescence, thanks to the gelatinous waves of mild flange. It is these kinds of detail that show Mr. Love & Justice know what they're doing and how they're going to do it. They have a clear and distinctive vision, which gives them more time and energy to focus on the details and crafting something unique.

It is this focus that makes for true underground success. News from Nowhere was predominantly recorded at home, over the span of two years, but you'd never know it from Mr. Cox's fidelity. Even the most humble recording software can be capable of greatness, but it takes a lot of effort and know-how to achieve it. Effort, technical knowledge, individuality, innovation, accessibility - what more does one need for a four star record?

It seems to me that Mr. Love & Justice's strong songwriting allowed the troubadours an opportunity to hone in and focus on crafting something excellent. The more you listen, the more is revealed - as phantom horn lines emerge, like on the spectral mood of "Doing That Time."

If you like '60s music of any stripe, from The Beatles to the acid-mangled folk of Pentangle and The Incredible String Band, you will be transfixed by News from Nowhere. Also, aficionados of more recent artful pop, most specifically Elliott Smith, will be transfixed by the small details and exquisite craftsmanship of News From Nowhere. This is a major win for folk rock, perfect for the latter days of summer. Throw the windows wide and let the guitars ripple and shimmer, transforming your world into a gypsy caravan.
J Simpson - Even Ground (Aug 14, 2015)
The fourth release from Swindon-based musical collective Mr Love and Justice, headed up by Albion’s own Steve Cox (vocals and guitars) and ably accompanied by Marcus De ’Freitas (sax, bass, backing vocals), Rob Beckinsale (keyboards, guitar, backing vocals), and Brendan Hamley (percussion) has been honed over the last two years during their Lazy Sunday Afternoon acoustic showcase. As a result, the songs have been nicely bedded in, and here they are fine-tuned to perfection (my independent critical opinion, separate from the fact that Steve and I are colleagues).

As a songwriter and performer Steve is very much in the English protest tradition, as shown by Hollow Crown and Red and Green. You know that not only has he written these songs, he believes every word he sings. This comes across in his vocal delivery and the musical intensity that the whole band bring to the work, particularly on the poignant Leaving Imber and the impassioned This England. As with Billy Bragg, the Levellers or Show of Hands --this band’s natural shelfmates -- the personal and political are inseparable, but there is also plenty of beauty here in the form of Strawberry Thief’s instrumental magic. This record of finely-crafted and well-observed songs elevates protest to an art form. A superb release on every level.

Watchword Album Reviews

One of the bands I have most enjoyed reviewing for Albion is Mr Love & Justice, and this new album is another fantastic collection. Steve Cox's songs are brilliant slices of contemporary electric folk-rock; tracks like The Shilling Folk, We Raise the Watchword, and Sunday Morning Sunset Town are all brilliantly observed and superbly performed ,with an expanded recording line-up of Matthew Wood on bass, Marcus De 'Freitas and Nick Weaver on guitars, Brendan Hamley on drums, and Rob Beckinsale on piano accordion. Their superb musical abilities bring out the best in the songs.
The Swindon based band Mr Love & Justice has recorded 13 new original tracks for their fifth album “Watchword”. Besides singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Steve Cox the band features Marcus de Freitas (guitars, vocals, string and brass arrangements), NickWeaver (guitars, vocals), Rob Beckinsale (keyboards, accordion), the two bass players Matt Wood and Mark Stevenson, as well as a great rhythm section with drummer Brendan Hamley and the two percussion players Trevor Smith and Nick Ruddle.
The tender instrumental "Trees" starts the musical journey with Cox’ beautiful guitar playing, supported by the fine rhythm of the drums. Cox is a fine guitar player and has a beautiful voice. The CD continues with the nostalgic song "The Shilling Folk" with Stevenson’s driving bass, the rhythmic and melodic Pop hymn "This World" as well as the folky "We raise the Watchword", spiced with an intoxicating rhythm, Beckinsale’s virtuoso accordion playing and wonderful choir singing. The Canadian songwriter David Celia plays guitars, percussion and harmonica on "The Bottleneck Song" and adds his voice to the harmony choir. De Freitas’ wailing slide guitar, harmonica and the melancholic singing dominate this Americana. Guest musician David Headon delivers stunning acoustic guitar and bass playing on "Sunday Morning, Sunset Town". De Freitas works a lot with synthesizer and thus creates a symphonic sound with strings, brass and woodwinds. My favourites though are the acoustic songs like "We, the Chartists". Brilliant playing together of acoustic, electric and slide guitar as well as the shuffling rhythm and Freitas’ Banjitar, a six string instrument not guitar not banjo, accompany the hypnotic singing. Guest keyboarder Joan Besen, Freitas on synthesizer and Cox on guitar, bass and drums perform the psychedelic rock of "Blood & Oil" and Barry Andrews treats the keys on the final instrumental track "East".
Mr Love & Justice’s new album offers a first class semi acoustic fusion of folk, rock and pop. Their music stands out with extraordinary harmonic vocals, excellent arrangements and great musical accompaniment.
Watchword, the latest album from Swindon band Mr Love & Justice is 1960s-esque, simplistic-yet-effective, folk pop. Stand-out track We, The Chartists, which has a Wicker Man feeling to it. Never Know Why is another sterling effort.

Mr Love & Justice — who are named after a Colin McInnes novel — wanted to create something that sounded like the good old days and in this album they have. Nostalgic folk music is increasing in popularity. Mr Love & Justice are a band that deserves more recognition.
Historical, socio-political, agri-folk pop does not form a massive section in the local music shops, but if Watchword, the latest album from Mr Love and Justice, is anything to go by, it’s a genre that deserves much more attention. On the surface many of the songs, such as The Shilling Folk, seem to belong to a slightly twee pastoral dreamtime, a place of maypoles and markets, cow byres and barns. A place that seems to only exist in the back catalogue of the likes of Fairport Convention, the books of Richard Jeffries or Thomas Hardy and the rose tinted memory of grandparents. But on closer inspection you soon realise that there is a lot more going on here than Andy Warhol’s oft misquoted adage of being “farmers for fifteen minutes.”

When the darker underbelly of the songs are examined you find a more serious topics being examined, topics that are normally found on albums by The Oysterband, Chumbawamba or The Men They Couldn’t Hang. It becomes obvious that song writer Steve Cox is not only musically astute but also historically and politically aware, covering subjects relating to the frictions between the old agricultural based society and the advance of Industrialisation. The Chartist movement and the Tolpuddle Martyrs may not seem like the most immediate subjects for songs but this album works, by god it works!

It certainly helps that these normally dusty subject matters are given brilliant musical vehicles to carry them along. Dovetailing traditional folk structures with sumptuous, accessible and slightly retro, pop sounds, this unlikely pairing of genres pays dividends. Some of the vocal arrangements could have come straight off of The Byrds seminal album, Sweetheart of the Rodeo, whereas Blood and Oil has the dark urgency of a Midnight Oil protest song. The album has a few numbers that seem more reflective and personal, such as Never Know Why and Sunday Morning, Sunset Town but these don’t distract from the fact that this is more or less a concept album…just when you thought that it was safe! But this is no flamboyant prog-odyssey. It’s a lean and succinct musical message about this country’s past.

With the great and good of the local (and not so local) scene making up the ranks and adorned with Ken White artwork, this is a local album but with a global message. It may start out as just an album of good music but hopefully it might make a few of you reach for the history books to undercover the bigger stories being referenced here. Learning was never this much pleasure when I was at school.
Watchword by Mr Love and Justice

Out on Homeground Records at www.mrloveandjustice.com Swindon indie pop folk band Mr Love and Justice are launching their latest album, Watchword, at The Vic in Old Town on October 19. The watchword literally of this band, led by Steve Cox, is their essential English quality, with an early Beatles influence and beautifully penned songs that stay in the mind.

The CD is top and tailed by instrumentals kicking off with Trees, an hypnotic piece of pretty guitar, jazzy drums and illustrious keyboards.

The Shilling Folk has some stunning close harmonies and is pure Mr Love and Justice as it has that village folk feel to it, with a box drum tom tom beat and lilting melody that conjures up the days of yore.

This World is a Dylanesque tune, a poem set to music. It has a slower pace and some lovely guitar which compliments rather than overpowers the vocals. The title track We Raise The Watchword is a sway along song with a catchy hook, sunny chorus and glorious fade out ending.

The whole album is well rounded and mixes past, present and future in a melodic recipe of folk, pop and rock.

Everything is a happy song with warm vocals over rock guitar and a lush guitar solo to finish. The Bottleneck Song is a shorter, bluesy number with bite and Sunday Morning, Sunset Town is a poignant track sung in minor key with simple backing vocals and great echo. The song paints a soundscape with some haunting brass, again a cracking guitar solo and a psychedelic ending that fades into a police siren.

Never Know Why has an Americana feel, moving away from the familiar English folk. It has a blues streak and angel choir backing while We Are Chartist is strong track, foreboding and defiant. The name reminds me of my history A-level about Parliamentary reforms and is just as scary. The backing vocals are reminiscent of a Gregorian chant and the powerful track ends in a keyboards finale fade.

Blood And Oil has a guitar backbone and rock guitar headline with some intricate and exciting riffs while Build A Fire is a story song with a throbbing drum beat. Driving Home conjures up the Maypole on the green effect but with a rocky beat at the heart - and it really works.

The CD ends on another instrumental with the sounds of India wafting across sunbaked, white walled streets. It has the Beatles influence again but this time it is the Maharishi years, and the sounds of the sitar. This corker of an album has a number of guest artist including Barry Andrews from XTC, Canadian singer/songwriter David Celia, Joan Besen from Prairie Oyster, David Headon from Invisible Inc, along with Swindon’s Rob Beckinsale, Nick Weaver, Brendan Hamley and Matt Wood.
I suspect I’m not alone in wondering why music shops have never included a provincial, socio-political, agrarian, folk-pop category. I am? Well please yourselves. However, with the release of the Mr Love and Justice’s glorious Watchword album, HMV will surely soon bow under the pressure. Their music is infectious, lyrically astute, with Byrds-esque harmonies and a definite rural feel, but it’s much more than Andy Warhol’s, oft misquoted, adage about being, “farmers for fifteen minutes.” Catch them live and pick up this highly recommended album at the launch party at the Victoria on Monday.

Homeground Album Reviews

From the opening track Welcome to Our Garden (on which the band come across as a more radio-friendly Show of Hands) to the closing track, it is a very English sound, with influences from great English artists like XTC, The Kinks, and Paul Weller jostling for position in a collection of superbly crafted and well written songs.

Biting, questioning, intelligent lyrics cocooned in vocal harmonies, acoustic guitar performances to die for, and a mellow laid-back groove remind me of some of the earlier Beautiful South albums, on which the melodies sometimes hide the force of the lyrics. In the case of Mr Love & Justice this is a good thing, because you get sucked in by the groove... a marvellous album, an excellent collection of folk/rock/pop music. It has an English charm and an English soul, and is all the better for it. Wonderful stuff.
Mr. Love & Justice present Homeground with the inviting sound of 1960s British pop, with catchy hooks, a friendly competition between vocals and guitar, and playful, candy-sweet lyrics that happen to have a razor waiting in the center.

The initial taste of that sharpness, in the deceptively innocent "Welcome to Our Garden," cuts deeply. The rest of the album can't pack as much surprise, but vocalist Steve Cox sounds so innocent, Chris Anniss and Nick Ruddle keep their percussion so mellow, that the sharp edge of the lyrics manages to find an unprotected spot every time. Only Andy Jones' bass and Marcus de Freitas' guitar issue give reminders of the danger, with a constant growl hiding in the otherwise gentle instrumentals as they wind along "The Road" or let time drift "Watching Water."

That unpredictable edge gives Homeground more power and deeper effect than its early pop sound would otherwise allow. An easygoing album that refuses to fade into the background, Homeground has dark appeal for the nostalgic and the cutting edge alike.
Sarah Meador - Rambles (Nov 26, 2005)
Ages after the success of the legendary XTC, the English town of Swindon has brought forth a new promising band known by the name of "Mr Love & Justice", who have recently released their first album, "Homeground". Reviewers have praised the quintet's debut variously as the "finest example of English acoustic rock available anywhere today", an "album that has a lot to offer" or a collection of "wickedly achieved pop songs", if not "rolling pastoral tunes". The band name The Beatles, Billy Bragg, XTC and Richard Thompson as their major inspirations, whereas others have identified the influences of The Byrds, Loving Spoonful and "perhaps even" Jefferson Airplane and Paul Weller.
One way or the other, "Homeground" is a well-crafted album with excellent guitar work, clever lyrics (such as their statement in favour of British multi-culturalism in "Welcome to Our Garden") and a genuinely "English" feel to it: a promising debut in the realm of acoustic roots/rock music!
Erik Margraf - FolkWorld (Jan 31, 2006)
The band is a pretty good all rounder, a mixture of folk and pop, but has a unique style and a definite spark.
The album boasts some great lyrics, acoustic guitar music and fantastic vocals. It has number of very memorable songs and some I cannot help humming away to.
'Welcome to our Garden' opens the album and is a fabulous song. It sets the mood for the rest of the CD and reflects the spirit of the band well.
The track 'Wheatsheaf' possesses a lovely soothing quality and wonderful sentiment. The song beautifully illustrates and compares love with the flourishing seasons and to the growing of the corn. 'Homeground', is a soothing and easy song to listen to. The music is mostly simple and gentle, it is an enjoyable, relaxing listen.
Arriving on a wave of acoustic guitars and rough harmonies, this UK five piece will remind people of what groups used to sound like. Coming across as a group with a kind of musical link to Crowded House, catchy lyrics and hooks are the elements that make Mr Love & Justice stand out from other well-established bands.

The opening WELCOME TO OUR GARDEN is a sarcastic look at all things that is great about the English weather and countryside, amongst other things that can be found in “our garden of hate”. Even though IDEAL MEAL has a catchy chorus, the organic sentiments in the song come across as pure mother earth propaganda, “when you reap all that you sow, you only eat what you can grow”. I think we can assume that the song is not about supermarkets and fast food. We are then treated with beautiful images of running through the grass and flax on WHEATSHEAF and the hometown sentiments of WISH HOUND.

The difference of opinion between two people expressed in THE ROAD changes the mood of the album, proving that the group have the ability to change their sound. The near instrumental TUMBLEWEED features the repetitive line “I do that too”, giving the song a strange mystic mystery to what it might be about. WATCHING WATER is a slow melancholy acoustic track, which the group should produce more of. HIDE & SEEK is like an answer to The Beatles ‘Hello Goodbye’, making this a fine way to close the album.
EDF - Phase 9 TV (Mar 7, 2005)
Mr. Love & Justice follows the acoustic pop rock train as it makes its stops along the finer realms of our great planet. With a singer who might just be the reincarnation of young Dylan albeit with a British accent...wickedly achieved pop songs that will have you humming along in no time? Yes absolutely in an easily digestible format.
J-Sin - Smother.Net (Mar 7, 2005)
Homeground is just about the finest example of English acoustic rock available anywhere today. 12 brilliantly crafted quirky, lyrical, haunting harmonies that reflect the bands own Homeground, Swindon. Comparisons to Swindons other finest, XTC are inevitable but don't be mislead, other influences abound, Beatles, Pink Floyd, Bragg, a real eclectic mix resulting in something unique and refreshing and often moving. Welcome to our Garden and Wheatsheaf set the scene early on while Watching Water and Hide & Seek made the hair on the back of my neck tingle and induced tremendous feelings of nostalgia for the old West Country from which I myself hail. If you thought acoustic guitars can't rock then think again.
If Acoustic Guitars are your thing, you’re fed up with the Crows failure to release anything new and now that Billy Pilgrim's 'In the Time Machine' is permanently out of stock, you could do a lot worse than invest $10 and 45 minutes listening to Homeground. Homeground presents 12 competently arranged tunes, all with their own appeal and all finding that fine middle ground between the raw acoustic and the over-orchestrated. From the upbeat complexity of Ideal Meal through the wonderfully rambling Tumbleweed, to the simplicity of Wheatsheaf and my personal favourite, Watching Water, Homeground is mature, educated and enjoyable. With a raw edge that reminds of the Finn Brothers before they sold out, Homeground has that ‘hand made in the country’ feel that brings the best out of the acoustic sound. It's not Billy, but its the next best thing. Recommended.
A superb offering from Swindon's best band since XTC. The album reflects their surroundings: gritty urban lyricism surrounded by rolling pastoral tunes. The opening tracks, Welcome To Our Garden and Ideal Meal, sum up the overall feel of the album; great pop tunes with lyrics drifting between disillusionment and hope. Wheatsheaf introduces the folky feel to the procedings and is followed by Wish Hound, a track that wouldn't be out of place on XTC's English Settlement. Towards the end of the album, Tumbleweed is a drifting, rambling instrumental that relaxes the listener before Window Shopping brings you back down to Earth with a bump. If you're wondering about this album, buy it now, your curiosity will be well rewarded.
At the time of writing this, there seems to be a lot of media arguments over what is or is not "folk music". I don't propose getting into that here, but would just say that if Woven Wheat Whispers, or the artist believe their music falls into our very broad definition of folk music they are welcome here. This should serve as a warning that the following album is one that the "folk police" will detest, but it's one that I genuinely love. There are no 18th century broadsides, no re-workings of Child ballads nor references to any true or imagined "tradition". If that's what you are searching for, move on to one of the other great artists we work with, for this is an acoustic rock / pop / folk crossover that is splendid in every respect.
Homeground is to date the only album by this 4 piece band from Swindon, but what a cracker it is. If there is any justice in the world, it should be the first of many. Sitting here in a grey nondescript northern town during February, summer sunshine seems so far away, but this album brings great washes of blue sky, golden sunshine into my life. The overall vibe of the album suggests English summers, simple pleasures and carefree times. Listening you can catch references to classic and quintessential English pop by Ray Davies, Paul Weller or XTC. You pick up on the shimmering 12 string guitar that brings to mind Roger McGuinn or The Long Ryders and catch timeless pop sensibilities of The Beatles, Crowded House or..... well just fill in the classic artist of your choice! This is a far more vital album than those references may suggest though as Mr Love and Justice are no mere style copyists. Superb melodies run throughout the length of the album and these are coupled with catchy hook laden choruses. They arrangements and playing are never anything less than first class and the production is wonderful.
It seems unfair, to single out just three of the twelve tracks as samples, but I sincerely hope that it will be enough to tempt you to download this album, or visit the band's website to purchase the CD or their more recent EP.I cannot recommend this album enough. As I said earlier, the old guard may get their knickers in knot arguing that such albums are not "folk". Personally I don't give a toss. It's folky enough for me and has everything this pair of jaded old ears seeks in a contemporary release.
- Woven Wheat Whispers (Mar 26, 2006)

LIVE Reviews

The sun was falling like a yellow beach ball as the crowds thronged to the 6X tent. Mr Love and Justice, a Swindon-based band, were already on stage. Their attractive mix of strong harmonies, skilled playing and easy banter with the audience helped to get everyone in the festival mood.
High Note Acoustic Showcase relaunch at St Bonaventure's: Those who weren't there for High Note's first Acoustic Showcase at St Bon's missed out on an excellent musical treat. The night was topped off by the performance of Mr Love & Justice from Swindon, fronted by singer-songwriter Steve Cox. Again excellent original songs, leavened by a couple of familiar covers. The sound produced by the vocals and guitars of Steve and Nick with inventive and well-matched percussion from Brendan even had some people dancing at times! We look forward to their return to St Bon's before too long.
fluent and just thoroughly delightful to listen to you. The pop and folk flow but they also can work up a fair rock sweat too. They are accomplished musicians and so they switch easily from one to another. They have an impressive array of tunes.
The evening was rounded off by Mr Love & Justice, who performed their well crafted & intelligent songs. They were funny & relaxed between songs, talented & well balanced during them. Great stuff.