Album Review: Reverend and the Makers – Mirrors

By on Wednesday, 14th October 2015 at 12:00 pm

Reverend and the Makers Mirrors coverVeteran Sheffield quintet Reverend and the Makers have just released their fifth LP ‘Mirrors’, which marks their second effort on independent record label Cooking Vinyl, and their first foray outside the electro-pop milieu in recent memory. Recorded alternately in Sheffield and across the Atlantic in Jamaica, ‘Mirrors’ was helmed by Sheffield-based producer Dave Sanderson (The Payroll Union, Hey Sholay) with additional production and mixing from the highly sought-after Youth (The Verve, Crowded House, The Fireman). The stark juxtaposition of recording locales coincides with a rather abrupt change in the band’s sonic landscape, which frontman Jon McClure discussed in the album’s press release as follows:

Ed [Cosens, Reverend and the Makers’ guitarist and songwriter] and I became resolute to make a record that we loved. Why not indulge the overwhelming urge to not play games anymore and set about making some art we are actually proud of rather than the release-tour-festivals-repeat cycle we’d been on since forever? And so we took the files we’d been diligently recording off to Jamaica and spruced them up a bit whilst making a film. The result is the best thing we’ve ever done in my opinion. The reaction when I play it to people is like nothing I’ve seen before, except maybe the first album.

Accompanying the audio album ‘Mirrors’ is a set of film clips by acclaimed director Roger Sargent, created in Jamaica to pair with each track on the record. The video vignettes are filmed in a lo-fi analogue style that matches both the ’60s psychedelic rock atmosphere of the record as a whole and the individual character of each song. In conjunction with the album and film release, McClure has also released a book of his lyrics and poetry, illustrated by Horace Panter from the Specials, aptly titled ‘The Lyrics and Poetry of Jon McClure with Illustrations by Horace Panter.‘

McClure’s ever-erudite lyrical style and the band’s prominent rhythmic foundation are the two constants on ‘Mirrors’, and probably the only stylistic carryovers from previous album ‘Thiry Two’. The edgy dance vibe is gone, replaced by a sultry Jamaican-influenced soundscape of minor key harmonies, colored with gritty blues guitars over vibrant brass and strings. The songs themselves are a bit all over the shop, representing a pastiche of different styles and moods tenuously strung together by a general tone of muted West Coast psychedelia.


In the opening sequence to ‘Mirrors’, the hypnotic prelude ‘Amsterdam’ segues into the tribal percussion and groovy electric bass of the dark early single ‘Black Widow’.  The psychedelic flower child vibe of ‘Makin’ Babies’ is a welcome ray of sunshine, dampened only slightly by ‘Stuck on You’, which is perhaps more ironic than actually grateful.

‘The Beach and the Sea’ is a slow, dreamy interlude in the middle of the album, its two lyrical lines expounded upon by a lush instrumental setting of lilting backing vocals and a delicate piano motif that reflects like glints of sunshine on sand. The second line “I’ll be the branches, while you be the breeze / bend and shape me any way you please” seems to come from a distance, muted amid the reverberant bass almost as if being heard from underwater.

The album takes a slightly more aggressive tone after this point, with a brief but intense psych rock jaunt in ‘The Trip’ and an instrumental journey into Latin territory with the serpentine rhythm of ‘El Cabrera’. ‘Blue’, appropriately enough, is a lyrically simplistic experiment with blues stylings, while ‘Something to Remember’ dips back into the psychedelic haze with melancholic poetry and moody vocal harmonies to suit.  ‘Mr Glasshalfempty’ and ‘The Gun’ might best be described as character pieces, the former both darkly ominous and sarcastically upbeat, while the latter takes on a tongue-in-cheek march tempo and heavy brass orchestration in describing the life of a hired hitman.

In one of several vocal appearances by band members other than Reverend Jon, Laura McClure takes the lead vocal on the dramatic ‘My Mirror’. Her drawn out vocal lines stretch over a chugging rhythm that eventually loses momentum and fades out to ambient, distorted sound. The minor key harmonies and bowed strings keep the acoustic ballad ‘Last to Know’ from being completely out in left field, between ‘My Mirror’ and the slow, hypnotic tempo of ‘Lay Me Down’, which also fades away after a lengthy instrumental coda.

None of the songs on ‘Mirrors’ are overly prolonged or self-indulgent, which probably indicates the newfound freedom and independence of the album’s recording process. Its 14 tracks fit into a concise 35 minutes, which allows each just enough time to make a strong impact before moving on to the next. With this set of decidedly rock-oriented songs, Reverend and the Makers have once again, in a swift and decisive motion, upended their own image and emerged with something entirely new.


Reverend and the Makers’ fifth LP ‘Mirrors’ is out now on Cooking Vinyl. Film clips to accompany the album can be found on the band’s YouTube channel.  Reverend and the Makers will play a run of live dates in the UK this November and December; you can find all the details here. Past coverage on Reverend and the Makers here on TGTF is this way.

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