The New Crossroads
Funky lounge dub, led by South London scenester extraordinaire Patrick Lyons:
“You’ll never be alone, hanging with your friends, down at the New Cross Road”
9 July 2021 (Independent Venue Week 2021 event details below)
12” record, audio cassette, and digital platforms for streaming and downloads
Dog Tunnel Records, London (UK)
Cover photo: Bénédicte Dacquin
The New Crossroads
The Slam, the fierce opener to this sharp, live-to-tape EP, gives us a glimpse into the murky past of beat poet, raconteur, promoter and ‘king of the South London live scene’ Patrick Lyons. Short on specifics (as ever – but a youthful marijuana bust in New York is hinted at), Lyons shrugs off his time in ‘the big house’ with a characteristic insouciance ‘I was young anyway, maybe that’s what saved me’. At live shows Lyons describes the song as a tribute to Johnny Cash and the Folsom Prison Blues, and privately admits some benefit from the tuition on offer, and time spent reading . But there is still a visceral memory, ‘the slam of that cold steel prison door, it echoed like a deafening roar … you know that echo? It never really went away … If it had’ve been water, I would’ve drowned on the cold prison floor…’.
The Water Rats finds our hero in London, decades later, downcast at the impossibility of re-visiting his favourite New York club (the legendary CBGB’s), ‘my mojo just wasn’t right…’, but then bursting into celebration one night strolling past a bar, with the realisation that the passionate scene he craved was alive and well and pumping out all around him, ‘heard a beat, next thing you know, my feet were dancing in the stree-eet’. Rebirth…a jaded New Yorker finding pure joyful abandon in the rough-tough pub-club night life of New Cross, where the crowd are ‘out of their skins’ and ‘bouncing off the walls’. ‘You’ll never be alone’, Lyons enthuses, ‘hanging with your friends, down at the New Cross Road’.
Flip the record (or shuffle your mp3, or whatever) and he’s back, ‘OK, get ready …’ shouts Lyons, into a vintage echo box. There is an idiosyncratic, faltering ‘1, 2, … 3, 4’, and we’re off, into a deep, dark dub, ‘all the while, watching, watching Mirrors of the Dead’. This is a cryptic and somehow blankly mournful number that pulses with unexplained meaning. ‘Fix the broken eggs she said’, muses Lyons, ‘but I fixed the hunger instead’. Deep bass prowls and rumbles and drums surge and ebb as Lyons spits out an oddly distanced reflection, seemingly on some past domestic troubles, ‘single window pane (pain?) … in broken frame … separate … hearts that break’. This Midnight Fox ‘is cleaning up the chicken bones’, indeed!
The EP closes with a glorious alternate take of The Water Rats. In truth this is because the band were only confident with these three key songs in a live-to-tape format after so many practice-free months of lockdown, but there is an appropriateness to emphasising this strange lounge funk shuffle and its celebration of a shambolic scene that not only revived and embraced Lyons but crowned him its unlikely king. There is a certain homage and reverence from just about every band that has made its name playing South London bars.
Me=U is a band composed of a collective of musicians, film makers, performance artists, poets and revolutionaries. Patrick Lyons (a.k.a. ph7) is a poet, radio broadcaster, actor and promoter, and a pivotal figure on the South London independent music scene for years; Harry McHale is a student at the Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts and saxophonist; Genaro Mastroianni, born in Naples, Italy, has played drums since the age of 17; Herman Noel provides a subtle and sweeping guitar wash; and Cat is a New Zealand-born, London-based musician, visual artist, and writer, providing the driving fundamental bass for Me=U.
Recorded in a single one-take session live to tape in a fevered session during a brief respite between the first and second lock downs of 2020 the Lock Down EP captures the band at their louche best, taking in their stride the demands of un-editable live-to-tape recording - despite most members of the band scarcely having had chance to rehearse over most of the year. No sooner was the EP locked down than everything locked down again, with Dog Tunnel only able to finalise and master the EP in the late Spring of 2021.
Recorded and mixed to open reel, Dog Tunnel’s physical releases are mastered in-house to cassette and 12” discs cut on Dog Tunnel’s own valve-driven, studio-quality RCA lathe from the rock n’ roll-era.