Review: WOLK MUSIC by Grant Sharkey

WOLK MUSIC by Grant Sharkey

Grant Sharkey is an ultra-prolific double bass-playing funny troubadour. In 2013 he set out to release and tour two albums every year for twenty years – November 2021 sees the release of ‘Wolk Music’.

Armed only with his double bass and his razor-sharp political wit, Grant has carved his own path through the music industry and, now on his 18th album (designated as 18/40 – in a Factory records-esque numbering system), he shows no sign of slowing or giving up.

This is a what a two album and tour per year schedule looks like

The stripped back sound that Grant has developed, with many songs almost sketch-like, enable the agility required to maintain such a prolific writing and recording schedule.

In addition to the strong double bass foundation, the bass is also often pressed into providing percussive elements to keep the songs moving forward. Grant’s versatile voice is often all that is used and needed to complete the song.

Minimalist arrangements invite the listener to complete the sound in their imagination. This collection of songs are not simple three chord tricks and Grant delivers just enough tonality to convey the harmonic progression without the need for further musicians. Whilst exploring the tracks, artists as diverse as The Divine Comedy, Damon Albarn, and Robert Wyatt  are brought to mind.

WOLK MUSIC by Grant Sharkey

The album comprises eight tracks. It opens with DO THE WORK (FELLAS) which is a call to step up and reject the machismo so evident in our current national discourse. THERE’S A MAN IN MIDDLE OF THE ROAD is like an origins story for misogyny, with one of the leading roles played by Laurence Fox. 

Next up, BOO WHO BABY rightly asserts that grown-ups shouldn’t be booing anything outside of pantomimes, especially not the players of their national football team. A change of sound and pace follows with LET’S DRAW A LINE, a short ukulele-led ditty about Dominic Cummings and his connections to Russia, that includes the memorable homage to Cypress Hill, with its refrain of “Insane in the Ukraine”.

More from Central Bylines

The second half of the album leads with a very theatrical sounding tale PUTIN WON explaining the Russian leader’s victory over us. Bass (bowed as well as picked) is doubled with a soulful vocal. Track six’s THE MASTER BASS has a more joyful sound beginning with stark octaves played on the bass to set the key and mood. The song is addressed to supremacists and the so called incel movement. It would have benefited from a fuller arrangement to realise its potential. WOKETOPIA challenges the myth of ‘wokeness’ – its opening section briefly reminiscent of Moloko’s Pure Pleasure Seeker. The final track LO THEY FORGOT pulls no punches in delivering a new sound as Grant effortlessly moves between unusual melodic intervals and chord progressions combining to create a haunting sound. The song points out that the sacrifices of the past are often remembered but that, too often, the lessons are not learned.

Nearly every track comes with an explicit lyrics warning. This is most definitely not for children. It is by turns angry, witty, and passionate. The music and its political core contain a relentlessness that one might expect is necessary for someone with a forty album goal to deliver on.

Is the album too much?

I prefer Grant’s less-angry sound and fuller arrangements and Spoons (2017 on Radical You! 9/40) and Calm Down (2020 the title track of 16/40) are my particular favourites.

I even confess to sometimes thinking, ‘have a day off!’ on the politics, but we have possibly never been more in need of consistent political opposition in whatever form it takes. So, maybe we should be grateful to artists like Grant Sharkey who don’t take a day off and concentrate on telling their story.

WOLK MUSIC (for Children, Fascists and Grown-Ups) is released on 5 November 2021 on all the popular streaming platforms and available to buy with a 16-page booklet from Bandcamp. His 19 venue tour Hands Face Bass, starts on 29 Oct in Bath, and you can find more details on his website

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