For the past six months Joe Innes has been parading around Twitter with an increasingly bombastic persona. He boasts of ‘HUGE’ gigs and lambasts the ‘FAKE NEWS MEDIA’. He even has a hat. It reads, in bold type: ‘MAKE JOE INNES GREAT AGAIN’.
It’s not a matter of self-doubt, of course. Innes has just been setting the scene for his tremendous new album, Foreign Domestic Policy, a riotous response to Brexit and all that has followed in its wake. It’s just about the best reactionary album we’ve heard yet.
Recent months have seen the release of a slew of records inspired by Brexit and Trump. Though almost all have been funereal in mood, only Joe Innes and his ever-growing Cavalcade have decided to give that funeral a New Orleans jolt of colour and ‘it was great while it lasted’ joy. On the anthemic single ‘Little Rabbit’ wry put-downs to the ruling elites are paired with big pop hooks and jubilant trumpet. A song sprung from the political fall-out of 2016 shouldn’t be begging for a festival audience, but Innes doesn’t preach, and he lets the listener make the necessary connections rather than spelling things out. It’s clear that Innes and his band aren’t out to convert anyone – if you’re listening to an album called Foreign Domestic Policy, you’re probably already on the same page as them anyway.
The party continues at the end of the ‘John McClane’, a song that initially sounds as though it’ll be about Die Hard, but is actually a scathing point-of-view take on toxic masculinity and the damage it wreaks on those at the centre of it. As the song closes there’s a light moment, reminiscent of the Beach Boys Party! album, in which the band jumps into an altogether new John McClane song that seems to be lamenting the fact that the first one wasn’t about Die Hard after all. This irreverent mood is echoed later with hazy party tune ‘Come to My Bar’, which itself ends with an overheard conversation between some rowdy men proselytising about Pearl Jam concerts.
The Cavalcade have taken a bigger role than ever in this new record – there’s punchy guitar, and the vibrancy of the trumpet. In particular, Tom Hyatt’s piano on ‘Moscow’ is a real treat. Amongst all this, the real revelation is Lynn Roberts, whose vocals are offered affecting centre-piece status on a couple of songs, including a competitor for the album’s best track, ‘Born to Queue’. There are hints of Belle and Sebastian to the tune’s bright melody, which capitalises on the pairing of Roberts’ light-as-a-breeze voice with Innes’ curved-smile twang.
It’s all too easy for indie bands to find a sound and commit to it, even to their own detriment; it’s a credit to Joe Innes and the Cavalcade that their album flows so seamlessly from up-tempo Brexit banger to reflectively moody slow-jam. Fans of Innes’ previous songwriting will revel in ‘Cabin in the Woods’, which positively swims in nods to cult film classics. Fans of just-having-a-bloody-great-dance will be sorted from the outset with ‘Catelyn’.
Foreign Domestic Policy is a triumph for Joe Innes and the Cavalcade, who have achieved a rare thing: well-judged political statements have been balanced with big, fun singalong anthems and small, beautiful moments of introspection. We hate to disagree with a hat, but it isn’t a matter of ‘MAKE JOE INNES GREAT AGAIN’ – off the back of this album, Joe Innes and the Cavalcade are a benchmark that other bands need to be measuring themselves against.
Words: Stephen Rötzsch Thomas