A Dance Half To Death – The Second Hand Marching Band: reviews

Second Hand Marching Band - A Dance Half To DeathThe Second Hand Marching Band are a band of 22+ people from Scotland that play untraditional folk music. They are also members of another 20+ Scottish bands, such as Eagleowl, Q without U, Dananananaykroyd, The Just Joans, Lula Maes and How to Swim. They’ve garnered comparisons to Beirut and Sufjan Stevens but the band think their sound is more informed by Glasgow’s post-rock crew, bands such as Mogwai, with the songs building up in layers, albeit with acoustic instruments and not distorted guitars.

After listening to the EP a few times I think the band are spot on – there is layered feel to the sound on this EP that gives the band a post rock feel – albeit with a pop charm that definetely makes this a must hear release. This feel is underpinned by some gorgeous instrumentation with accordions, ukeleles, mandolins, brass, saxophones, clarinets, flutes and glockenspiels all evident on the EP. I’d say the best way to get a handle on the band is to listen to one of their songs as they’ve built a sound that is all their own.

Lostmusic – January 2009

Anyway first up is a CD by The Second Hand Marching Band called ‘A Dance To Half Death’ . Probably the easiest thing I’ve ever had to review. They are a Scottish folk collective. They come from Fife and they sound like a twee Scottish version of Beirut. Lots of parping horns, wheezing accordians and choraled vocals. It all has a very uplifting feel and I could imagine sloshing pints of beer around to this, singing along and making a fool of myself.

I love the name of the record label – Chaffinch Records. How delightful. In this day and age of misery, stabbings and poverty its nice to hear something that reminds me of the beautiful Scottish countryside and a much more innocent time.

I’ll give you more comparisons if you want? Vashti Bunyan, the Fence Collective, Lucky Luke, Beirut (again) the music from the Wickerman or a happy Matt Elliott.

Norman Records – 19 January 2009. SINGLE OF THE WEEK.

See, this is why we keep blathering on and doing this thing to death – because we know lurking somewhere out there is the next great, or at least potentially great, new band.

Presenting, then, The Second Hand Marching Band.

You’re intrigued already, we can tell. Based in Glasgow and formed in December 2007 to “play songs with many instruments that could be danced to” they number between 16 and 22, but don’t go thinking this is mere Polyphonic Spree gimmickry. Including members of many other bands, including Dananananaykroyd (drummer Paul Carlin), Eagleowl, Q Without U, The Just Joans and The Occasional Flickers (and, it suggests here, soon ex-Teenage Fanclub/Mogwai drummer Brendan O’Hare), their number includes mandolinists, ukeleleists, glockenspiel (two!), accordion, flute, clarinet, melodica and a three piece internal brass section, we’re dealing with sprawling folk of the Sufjan/Beirut end at heart, but with a cheerfully ramshackle chorality pitched somewhere between revivalist joy and huddling together for warmth and safety and an admitted post-rock influence in the way the layers of instruments slowly build and crescendo.

You’d imagine they’re something special live, although they’re only playing across Scotland at the moment. Fair enough, as despite the whole Balkan/Americana reference points it is ultimately a very Scottish sounding thing. They released a limited edition EP, A Dance To Half Death, last week, available from their Myspace and through Chaffinch Records. Watch them, because if we’re any judge – pause for readers to make faces and odd noises behind hands – they’re building up to something very interesting.

Sweeping The Nation – 20 January 2009

A mournful accordion propels a darkly romantic waltz, as boy-girl vocals sigh with solomn devotion, chuffing off two minutes in.

7/10 John Earls, Channel 4′s Planet Sound. 26 January 2009

Already gaining something of a novelty act reputation due to their sheer size – 23 members and counting? Only the Polyphonic Spree can better this, and whatever happened to them?

However, unlike that choir, all the members of the band are gainfully employed and not just singing or playing triangle. And moreover, the six tracks here are as fine as anything you’ll find at the horribly corporate Celtic Connections festival, or indeed on Radio 2. That’s to say, if they were stripped down to one man and a guitar then these tunes would still work as folk-pop classics. The title track isn’t the half of it either – in fact, there’s a slight weakness about this with a too-warbly vocal. But ‘Dance To Half Death’ is a tune that Vashti or James Yorkston would be proud of.

Similarly, ‘We Walk In The Room’ with its boy-girl vocals could be enough to reunite Richard and Linda Thompson, a song they’d be proud to have written. But it’s particularly Scots, even down to the warning “don’t go outside in the rain or snow” on ‘Don’t’. This lot could be going places – and I’m not just talking Glastonbury or Cambridge. Though they’ll need a big bus…

Calum Craig – Is This Music? January 2009