Sieben, or, if you will, “The Mighty Sieben” (aka Matt Howden) returns with a new album for 2018 called Crumbs, and it’s quite different from what you might expect…
How’s it different? Well, before we get to the music itself, I want to mention the change in the “attitude” presented here on Crumbs. It is without a doubt Sieben’s angriest and most cynical album to date. It deals with political and social issues, something that hasn’t been a part of Sieben’s list of topics, or maybe even agendas beforehand.
It seems like, as so many of us lately, Howden has had enough and he felt like he must stop everything, raise his voice and ask in his best British accent: “What the fuck is wrong with you people?”
This album touches on subjects such as inequality, fake news, “our rulers” and Brexit (to name a few) but it does it with a wink, mixing sarcasm and charm. Just look at the album’s cover photo (by Mal Whichelow) where you can see Howden sitting on his “imperial-throne”, sipping tea, holding a cane, surrounded by candlelight and flowers.
It is from there that he’s asking you: “Do you want crumbs from the rich man’s table?”
Howden is metaphorically poking us with a pointed stick and he seems to like it.
Crumbs is packed with irony. It has the approach of a punk album (or “gothpunktronic” as Howden himself calls it); multiple short tracks ranging from a few seconds to four minutes, each with a kick or a knife’s twist.
But the real beauty is in the contrast; these punk messages of rebellion, the feeling of being fed-up stands against the elegance of the vocals and songs themselves. When I noted before that this is the angriest Sieben release, that is not to say that anger is pushed to the fore. It is subtle- hinted and implied rather than shouted.
As for the music itself, while Sieben’s earlier drew comparisons to neofolk stalwarts like Sol Invictus and Fire + Ice, Crumbs is more of a mix of styles: alternative rock, goth, dark-wave and, yes, neo-folk.
At times it sounds a bit like Nine Inch Nails and at other times more like Iggy Pop; and before you rightfully ask: “does the world really need more NIN and Iggy?” -Relax. It’s just a “flavor”. The heart is still there.
The music has a raw vibe to it but it’s not harsh to listen to at all, quite the opposite. The coarseness is like the anger: subtle and residing in the shadows.
This album could have been released in the 80’s; as it captures not only the sound but also the youth and mischief of those times, something which is dramatized in the lyrics as well.
It is filled with repeating loops, electric beats and both voice and drum samples. Sieben’s signature violin still makes plenty of appearances, intertwined with the more upbeat rhythms and buzzing guitars.
Howden deems Crumbs to be his best work so far. As a long-time fan, I’m not sure that I agree. I may be too stuck on his classics. That is not to say this album is not good, it’s only a reflection of how much I love the earlier ones.
If you are looking for good old English neo-folk, you might be slightly disappointed with Crumbs. But if your mind is open and your fists are clenched, this album is very much worth checking out!
The last two tracks of the album are bonus tracks, which features alternate “band versions” of two of the album’s songs (“Here is the News” and “Coldbloods”, in that order).
While these are not bad, I would have preferred to see them released separately rather than being tacked on to the end of this album.
I have a general dislike added or bonus material appended to an already full and complete piece. I feel the album should have ended on track number 16 – “Can You Hear The Wind Coming?”. That may not be an issue for other listeners, but it’s the only negative thing I can say about the album.
Crumbs is available in a cross-shaped fold-out digipak and was released on Howden’s own label, Redroom.
“You want crumbs?
You want some?”