Chiming with the wave of scandals that have rocked the UK in recent weeks, from Hancock’s Whatsapp messages to Boris’ botched honours list, despite being written at the height of the Covid outbreak the themes at play in “Greed” couldn’t be more apposite to the here and now…
An anti-capitalist tirade that also touches on the innumerable Government scandals and crack-pot conspiracies we were subjected to during the pandemic; this latest cut from the alias of Billy Rowan is a blend of ambitious hip-hop infused stylistics with darkly satirical lyrics. Drifting on a bed of ska-infused basslines, reggae-fied rhythms, and bursts of bright brassy sections, you’ll find some of Rowan’s most arch and politically damning lyrics to date. Listen out for some Spitting Image-esque Boris Johnson impersonations too.
Speaking about “Greed”, Rowan says:
“During Covid I wrote “Greed”, in response both to the Government’s abysmal and borderline corrupt handling of the pandemic, and to the collective insanity that took over my social feeds when half the world discovered conspiracy theories for the first time…. I’ve also tried to experiment with new sounds and genres, taking my songwriting and producing in new directions. This is pretty evident in “Greed”, which is probably my favourite track on the new album, purely because of the sheer dirtiness of the drop after the chorus! It’s a really lazy swung hip hop track about covid, conspiracies and corruption, but still with that acoustic reggae flavour that makes it recognisably my style.”
The single swiftly follows the recent single “Hey Boy”, with both tracks due to appear on The Undercover Hippy’s much anticipated new album ‘Poor Little England’ (out 7 April 2023). A musician back on a mission, the record will be the first from the project since 2017’s ‘Truth & Fiction’ and is primed to be a deeply political album that will document the chaos and hysteria that have defined the interim years.
From the downbeat diaries of “Not Paying Attention”, a song written back in the barmy days of 2018 when Trump was dominating the headlines, through to The Specials-esque two-tone of “Fool Britannia” which captures the rabid pandemonium that consumed the UK on the eve of its exit from the EU in 2019, and on to the socially distanced satires of 2020-21 like “Greed” (which points the finger at those who profited from the pandemic) and “Not My Place” (which lampoons the government’s feeble efforts to get the public shopping again after lockdown was initially lifted); ‘Poor Little England’ captures the political s**tshow the British public have endured these past few years with a sparky lyrical wit and wry sense of humour.
On a more personal level, songs like the affecting “Breathe” and the deceptively bubbly previous release “Hey Boy” offer a sincere and relatable side to the album, with Billy addressing the mental health struggles many faced during that troubled period and opening-up about his own personal battles. Elsewhere, tracks of zanier nature like the tie-dye tipped “Hippy Dude”, or the rippling reggae-driven rumble of “TheseDays” (a song that finds Rowan comically bemoaning the sun setting on his partying days) offer sunny counterpoints throughout.
Opting for a deliberately back to basics approach, across ‘Poor Little England’ longtime listeners will notably detect the kind of signature flavours that made his 2014 breakthrough album ‘Monkey Suit’, snap, crackle and pop. Taking the opportunity to reconnect with some of the acoustic elements that made that former record such a fan favourite, the new album also finds The Undercover Hippy experimenting with a warm array of sounds that lean from reggae to ska, dancehall to dub, hip hop to pop. Featuring acoustic guitar, fiddle, and even a full string section (on tracks like “Breathe” and “HeyBoy“), ‘Poor Little England’ also sees the return of comrades of old like Andreas Millns (on organ/piano); a man who proved so pivotal to the development of The Undercover Hippy’s classic sound these past fifteen years.
Beaming with light and rhythmic melodies that never cease to shine and time-travelling lyrics that will twist your mind; turn off the news and turn up the tunes, the new record from The Undercover Hippy is one that deserves your full attention. ‘Poor Little England’ by The Undercover Hippy is out 7 April 2023, via Uncivil Records.
An established favourite on the festival and live circuit already, fans can rejoice that The Undercover Hippy will be touring the new album with an extensive UK tour throughout the Spring. Planning a series of shows unlike any he has undertaken before, The Undercover Hippy live sound will be beefed-up with the assistance of the Leeds based latin-dub-ska outfit State Of Satta, who will providing horns for the headline set, plus providing a supporting set of their own material for the whole run.
Kicking off in Oxford on 23 March, the 19-date run will take in shows across England + Wales, before winding up in Plymouth on 16 April, with a special album launch party planned aboard the Thekla in Bristol midway through (5 April). Dates are listed as follows:
THE UNDERCOVER HIPPY – UK TOUR 2023
2023-03-23 Oxford The Bullingdon
2023-03-24 Norwich The Waterfront
2023-03-25 Manchester Gullivers
2023-03-26 – Leeds, The Lending Room
2023-03-29 London Hootananny Brixton
2023-03-30 Ramsgate Ramsgate Music Hall
2023-03-31 Guildford The Star
2023-04-01 Stroud Sub Rooms
2023-04-02 Salisbury Brown Street
2023-04-05 Bristol The Thekla
2023-04-06 Aberystwyth Arts Centre
2023-04-07 Shrewsbury Albert’s Shed
2023-04-08 Sheffield The Greystones
2023-04-09 Nottingham The Bodega
2023-04-12 Totnes Barrelhouse
2023-04-13 Bideford Palladium Club
2023-04-14 Falmouth The Cornish Bank
2023-04-15 Glastonbury Red Brick Building
2023-04-16 Plymouth The Junction