Not going back to that!
Listeners to Doozer McDooze‘s new album Not Going Back To That who are unfamiliar with the Essex troubador could be forgiven for writing it off as naïve sentimentalism. “Yeah, everyone might think about chucking it all in and living in a van”, you can imagine people thinking. “… but life just isn’t like that.” But of course, it is like that for Doozer and his partner-in-crime The Famous Artist Birdy Rose.
Faced with the option of scratching by on minimum wage opportunities probably with zero contracts or the harsh realities of the benefits system (which the Sun might have you believe is the life of Riley, I’m not sure reality reflects that – and I’d certainly not like to find out) – they bought a van on the back of some workshops they ran at a festival and chose to spread their creative joy to the masses instead.
A brave move – think about what the forebears of our current government did to people who chose an alternative lifestyle – at least a sidestep from ‘the system’ – it’s brave, on so many levels. Braver than I’d be – I need the security blanket of a steady wage, a payroll department to deal with all that pesky tax stuff – of course, I don’t have any tangible artist talents I could get away with taking on the road either so it’s a bit of a moot point.
So, far from being overly-idealistic fantasy this is the work of a man who walks the walk as well as talks the talk. It’s authentic. Documentary-like. Not that that really matters to the listenability – but I think it’s really important. There’s a few tracks duplicated from 2014 album Let’s Give Up Everything And Go And Live In A Van, but there’s better production in here, and I can really discern the development in his writing and playing too, as much as my non-expert ear allows.
But there’s no over-production either – the sentiment of To Everyone I Upset and Really Didn’t Mean To is charming, and with just guitar and voice is a fair replication of Doozer’s live style, raucous, raw – and fun! He invariably sings about serious things, but with a healthy slug of irreverence and a smile on his face. Searching documents the quest for answers to questions that, well, probably don’t have answers – although certainly I’d say he’s well on the road to living a life that’s always interesting!
Dreams is probably amongst my favourites on here – an optimistic refrain, acknowledging that there’s always going to be pitfalls but slow progress forward is reason enough to carry on. Whilst many of us might live in dread of the likes of debt collectors and their ilk, Doozer shrugs it off content to keep them off his back, and keep moving along. The pace drops for Let’s Not Forget – about being the best you can, and remembering those who’re now absent – and appreciating folk whilst they are there. Can’t argue with that!
I seem to recall that Pirate Captain was about a friend from my sketchy memories of Roystonbury. It’s sombre by Doozer’s normal musical mood – it sounds like a goodbye of sorts to me, it’s certainly moving! Consumers gets back on to more familiar territory – basically lambasting the dreadful consumerist society we’re all ensconced in, and frustration and self-loathing at being compelled to participate in it. “Bend over and take a bow, we’re just consumers now!” – indeed.
Title track Not Going Back To That is ludicrously catchy – it starts out by betraying the lack of a plan b should project live-in-a-van doesn’t work, but soon develops into a defiant cry of, well, that he’s not going back to that of course! Whilst we’re on catchy, Bimbling Man has the easiest singalong chorus ever – reflecting on the hyprocrisy of folks who moan about their life without taking steps to change it, certainly the antithesis of the performer.
Outlaw Song is another wanderlust inspired foot-tapper – I’m not sure whether he’s strictly living a sinners life, but it’s nice two-fingers up at folk intent on normalising everyone. As Alan Ewart wrote in his review, “everyone needs a bit more Doozer in their lives.” How dull would the world be if the demonisation of creativity and fun was any more prevalent? Sorry rails somewhat against the overall theme, because it does express regret – a reflection on a failed relationship, perhaps? It’s a nice sentiment to want to make amends.
I must admit that when I read They Don’t Give A Stuff About Us I immediately had Michael Jackson’s They Don’t Really Care About Us – I was a bit sad when it wasn’t a pastiche of it at first, but this has a reggae feel to it with the guitar pattern – taking a pop at the seemingly relentless greed of those in power, I suspect with an eye on the drive to frack the hell out of our countryside for short term profits and long term environmental consequences, war-mongering and other activities our esteemed leaders engage in. And how we’re all complicit in it.
In his recent video interview Doozer said It’s Nice Down Here is his favourite song to play at the moment (although it might’ve changed since then) – fast paced and fun, reassuring those virtual ladder climbers that most of us probably are or have been at some point that it’s not so bad at the bottom of those greasy rungs – with a morph into a cover version of Gaz Brookfield‘s Solo Acoustic Guy mashed into the middle of it for good effect.
I Don’t Wanna Go Home is a song he stumbled across around a campfire with a guitar being passed around – and well, it’s a bloody anthem isn’t it? It captures that feeling I’m sure many of us have had when contemplating the end of an excellent weekend in a field, I guess the difference is that most of us pack up and go back to the grey world before the next trip. Singing along with this is mandatory – indeed, I’ve heard plenty of revellers singing it even at festivals where Doozer isn’t playing!
The album finishes up with I Am The Worst Businessman The World Has Ever Seen – a harsh self-evaluation of trying to monetise this alternative way of living. Being a travelling musician he’s relying on the word of organisers, an old van to keep working – it’s got to be pretty tough to make all that stack up. Of course we may want to live outside the system completely, but you still need the juice to make your van go, how do you know how much to charge people for a gig? This song probably brings home to me why I’d never ‘do a Doozer’ – I reckon that he’d become the second worst businessman the world has ever seen if I did!
But yeah, I love this album. It’s not complicated musically – it’s raw, it’s passionate, it’s funny and above all it’s authentic. In many ways labelling the sentiments as naïve is true – but when I say that, it is that brilliant childlike way of pointing out the utter absurdity of the way the world works in such simple terms. I might not be brave enough to step outside of the machinations of our corporate-controlled world – but I’m sure glad that there are folk out there who do.