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Wednesday 12 June 2024

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Year Of The Clown – 3 Daft Monkeys

Jul 16, 2018

What’s this, a review for an album that came out months ago? Doesn’t that stand as a glaring omission from your aim of featuring the best in folk and roots? 

Yes and yes, I’m holding my hands up, guilty as charged. What makes it all the more horrific is that 3 Daft Monkeys are one of my favourite bands of all time.

Oh, so it’s a late and biased review?

Er… yes but…

What happened then, was it like some piece of homework that you forgot? Maybe you lost it down the back of the sofa. Or, heaven forbid, your dotty granny ate it?

No, just, well, life got in the way, and I did start it…

And what? Lost your mojo?

No, I don’t really read that magazine.


Oi, no need to be like that.

Why finish it now then?

I keep bumping into them at festivals and it’s become a standing joke.

You’ve become a joke more like. Look, just get on with it, the piddling number of readers you do get have probably shuffled elsewhere by now.

The Year Of The Clown signifies an almost seismic change in the life story of 3 Daft Monkeys, as they become totally independent. No more record labels, management, booking agencies or PR types. The Monkeys have control of every aspect of their musical career from now on. A casual observer might say so what? But in an age where everything is becoming increasingly homogenised, packaged, branded and replicated, real independence is a rare thing.

Many have tried to hammer 3DM into existing niches over the years. They have joined into it themselves in an attempt to avoid that lazy label of ‘festival favourites’, two words that make it hard for artists to get those normal gigs away from fields and tents that make up most of their touring.

I can’t really name another band that has stayed as close to their values and kept the flame alive. Staying on the boil is not easy, all to many settle for a steady simmer that never recaptures the heat or creative spark that made them so good in the first place.

Sorry to butt in, are you going to say anything about this album, or just carry on massaging their egos (and mixing metaphors)?

Look, just fuck off will you, I’m getting to my point and all of this is relevant.


Where was I…

The temptation to just cave in and become a vanilla version of themselves must have been strong. Getting rid of those fancy stage clothes and the quirkiness would have been so easy. Fortunately they have a will of iron and decided to turn the quirk up to 11. They have embraced everything about them that makes them different. Ironically when they are bedecked in outrageous costume and glitter they are more down to earth than ever and hold a mirror up to our troubled times.

Maybe this is why I have waited until now for this review, the truth has been there all along in their music; the World Is On It’s Head, we have a Paranoid Big Brother sitting in the White House, ruled by Money and we are truly living in the Year Of The Clown but This Is Not in My Name – they are saying Look To The Stars and maybe We Are Revolution…

Whoa there tiger, you seriously saying these musician types are some kind of Cornish Nostradamus?

I told you to eff off, but yes, I think the signs were there all along.

The album sways in on a delirious fiddle riff from Athene and asks who put the crown on the head of the clown? This is not a song you sit down to. Mulryne’s frenetic yet precise percussion seems to grow in stature on all of their albums, yet the ringleader as ever is Athene’s sublime fiddle. I maintain that she is one of the most inventive, accomplished and, dare I say it, fun violinists anywhere.

I’m not entirely sure that Tim Ashton doesn’t get his 12 string guitar made of weapons grade materials. From day one of the band it has produced such a sound that you suspect a backing track or rhythm guitarist hiding in the wings. Adding wah-wah to it at just the right point is another of his knacks.

Actually they have virtually got a rhythm guitarist in their new 6 string bass player Jamie Graham. And it’s bloody fretless!

The album has the levels of invention and songcraft that we have come to expect, but there is an added edge of maturity – in the sense of experience and wisdom – in the songwriting and arrangements that should finally slay the ‘festival favourites’ dragon.

‘Fun’ is a maligned word these days, it has connotations of being lightweight and of no consequence. Surely, in this ballsed up reality where Danny Dyer has become a prophet, we desperately need this kind of fun? The establishment have finally shed their disguise and stand there in their ghoulish depravity. I personally need an antidote to the madness, proof that I belong to some other world that has different values, thanks 3 Daft Monkeys, this album is it. Sorry the review took so long….

Iain Hazlewood (and the voice that tells him to do questionable things)

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