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by on 28 November 2021

Eels by the Pint


By David Anstruther

CD Digipak, Eel Pie Records, Twickenham

Review by Vince Francis  

Vendetta is the latest album (and the first of his own original material) of singer-songwriter David Anstruther, who hails from south-west London and is hence a local lad to yours truly.  I generally experience a combination of excitement and anxiety when I get to hear artists who are new to me, but generally I have a genuine respect and admiration for those who have the bravery to put their original work out there, regardless of my own take on it.

There is much to recommend David’s music.  He is an accomplished guitarist.  To my ear, the influence of Mark Knopfler is apparent, particularly when he isn’t using distortion.  No shame in that, in my view.  Knopfler is an outstanding player and one who is inspirational to many guitarists, including your reviewer. 

David has a pleasing, “clean” tenor voice, too.  It sounded to me as if he had also provided all the vocal harmonies, perhaps through overdubs, but I think he may have used a vocal harmoniser on occasion.

No other musicians are credited for specific parts, so it may be assumed that David plays bass guitar and keyboards on this recording.  If this is the case, he is clearly a talented musician.  Whatever, the man clearly has a work ethic on top of his talents and that is to be saluted. 

The tracks are well produced and mostly bounce along nicely.  The opening track, If You Can’t Find Love, has something of a post-Punk feel to it, mixed in with a bit of Phil Spector “Wall of Sound” production.

Toward the end of the album, Snippets and Rain Maker also show great potential.  It struck me that it would be interesting to hear Rain Maker with the addition of some brass and reeds.

However, the stand-out track for me is The Draw-Off (A Twickenham Song).  The title refers to the annual event in or around November, during which the sluices are lifted between Teddington and Richmond locks, so that the Port of London Authority can carry out essential maintenance on the locks themselves and any other areas.  The song is written in a gentle 6/8 time, which gives it a dream-like quality and the chord choice complements this.  I particularly liked the slightly “clashy” chord (I think it’s an Fmaj7#11 if anyone’s interested) and its resolution at the beginning.  Redolent with local references and imagery, and musically, a tasteful acoustic guitar illustrating a line about blues being played on Eel Pie Island and the whole thing being a metaphor for having a sort-out of one’s mind.  If this were Strictly, it would be a “10 from Len”.  The lyrics are included with the CD and might be a little esoteric for non-Twick folk, but I enjoyed hearing in song about The Three Kings, The Barmy (The Barmy Arms), The Pie (The Eel Pie), all of which I would have to confess I may have imbibed the odd tincture in and The Club (presumably the Twickenham Club, where I haven’t drunk.  Honest.

If I could offer a couple of gentle nudges at the elbow, they would be thus.  Firstly, for my tastes, simplicity is often the most impactful approach, certainly initially.  Some of the tracks have some quite sophisticated chord sequences and transitions in them, which is great in itself, but should always raise the question, “Does it help the lyric?”.  Secondly, there are a couple of instances where the lyrics might have benefitted from a bit of a comb-through to get the ideas really crisp and succinct. 

All of that is, of course, one man’s take on it and, as I say, minor niggles in themselves.  I’d thoroughly recommend a listen.  

Vince Francis, November 2021

Photography by Paul Harries, Michael T and Leigh Hatts 

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