Proud and Wanting More – The Mudlarks Cruel Britannia Album Review

Portsmouth, as a city, has always been brimming with lyrical talent. With local festivals such as Icebreaker, Southsea Fest and Victorious, you don’t need to look hard to find an eclectic mix of gifted musicians. From acoustic covers to psychedelic rock bands, Pompey seems to have it all and, like snowflakes, no two bands are the same. Every musician or band oozes personality and potential but there are a few that stand out from the rest. One of these is, of course, The Mudlarks.

Founded in 2015, the band is described as ‘four geezers playing full on crowd pleasers’ and pays homage to British Isle tradition. The Mudlarks, for those who don’t know, was originally a term created to describe those who would hunt in the dockyard mud to find treasure. Although this no longer happens anymore, The Mudlarks seek to pay homage to this tradition and their working-class Pompey roots.  

The members of the group include singer songwriter Ben Brookes, guitarist Charles Harris, bassist Luke Walker and drummer Kris Walden and, since their humble beginning, they have made leaps and bounds in both skill and stature. Where they were once playing small sets in pubs before, they are now performing at festivals, such as Victorious, and are releasing their first debut EP Cruel Britannia on the 10th May.

Their latest tracks, Breadline, Love in a Box, The Devil Herself and Uptown Downtown, feature on their upcoming album and are proof of their growth as a band. It is clear, when listening to their tracks, that the members of the band have a great synergy. And, it is this synergy that makes what they do possible. Without it, they wouldn’t be able to create the same catchy and upbeat tracks that will make perfect listening on the common, under the summer sun.

It’s hard to pin down their style however but that’s not a bad thing. You could call The Mudlarks an example of indie rock but there are other inspirations found in the lyrical mix too. The Devil Herself seems reminiscent of 70s rock and Uptown Downtown has a ska beat to it. The latter is by far my favourite as it has a catchy tune, accompanied by bouncy bass, that you can’t help but dance to.

The Devil Herself is a still crowd pleaser however with stunning vocals, skilled guitar and intense drumming. It feels gritty and raw and brings old rock back to life in an epic few minutes.

Other tracks, such as Breadline, maintain the up-beat vibe of Uptown Downtown and keep you swaying side to side. The guitar throughout gives a sense of excitement and whimsy which complements the lyrics to a T.

Love in a Box is my least favourite song on the album, but this isn’t due to any fault of its own. It’s the slowest song of the album and I personally prefer faster ones that I can dance to. Yet, what grips me the most about Love in a Box however is the emotion behind it. Like The Devil Herself, it’s gritty and, as you listen to the track, you can feel intense emotion build up inside you – as if you too can feel how the singer is feeling. To get music like this, that keeps true to itself, is rare in the age of pop and autotune and that I why I appreciate this album and The Mudlarks so much.

My only fault with Cruel Britannia however is that there are not enough songs. Although this criticism feels a bit cheap, I do find that because of the length of the debut EP the listener is left slightly underwhelmed. You engage with these songs on a deep level and join the band on an emotional journey when then suddenly, it’s over. I remember sitting in silence after the final song and really wanting more. The Mudlarks had built me up so much and, just as I lost myself in their music, they let me go.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing for the band. To create an album that is so rich that it leaves people wanting more is a feat for a debut EP. Hopefully this will encourage more audiences to support the band and spur them on to create a full album that encapsulates their true potential.

The Mudlarks and Cruel Britannia is a key example of music done right. Every band member excels at what they do, whether that is singing or drumming, and they all complement one another brilliantly. It is clear they share the same vision and have given their all to create this splendour of an album.

Listen to The Mudlarks and you’ll see why people are so proud of Pompey.

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