Tensheds – The Dandy Punk Prince
CD / DL
8.5 / 10
Review by Liz Keating.
‘The Dandy Punk Prince’ is the third album from the classically trained Matt Millership, otherwise known as Tensheds. Recorded almost entirely on a 180-year-old grand piano, with the addition of drums and a bit of harmonica, this is a genre-defying adventure through the mind of Tensheds. Here is a man who likes to colour outside the lines. In fact, he makes a point of it.
‘The Dandy Punk Prince’ opens with ‘Shooting Myself’, all theatrical mesmerising piano work and ominous toms. At first almost a whisper, Tensheds’ voice soon stretches and unfurls itself into a rasping powerhouse laden with misery. ‘You can almost see the scars where I cut a hole in my chest / tried to let my body breathe, exorcise the demons at rest / cos they’re eating me from in my soul when your face shows no interest’ he laments. It’s a curiously downbeat choice for an opener but it certainly grabs the attention and is merely a hint at the varied capabilities of Tensheds. Further evidence of his classical leanings is heard later on in the beautiful ‘Fabric of Time’.
‘Sexshaker’ includes a prominent harmonica cleverly manipulated to sound like an electric guitar. While it lends an anarchic, brawling feel to proceedings, it does begin to grate slightly towards the end. The patient thrumming of the bass is unleashed into a great walking bassline during the chorus and thereafter allowed to wander freely towards the end of the song, further adding to the chaos. Performed live, surely this is the kind of song to tempt even the most downcast gig-goer into the beer-soaked masses at the front.
The single ‘Milktrain’ is mired in bluesy feeling with the leaden pounding beat of the drums and piano lending a sense of reticence to Tensheds’ otherwise apparent eagerness to ‘start a new life in freedom town’. The delicate piano interlude reinforces this feeling, giving extra layers of melancholy to the song. ‘Doghouse’, however, is the highlight of the album – fun, full of confidence and swagger. All the themes for a ‘classic blues song’ checklist are present and correct here – beer, women, a jailhouse, railroads, fights and even a three-stringed guitar. It builds momentum into a rioting crescendo, all cascading piano and crisp ride cymbal. The verse of this song was stuck in my head for a very long time, and it made me happy.
Immediately following on from this is the delicious lulling groove of ‘Powder Blue Leather Pinned Mohair Noose’. The noise and energy of the song repeatedly surge and then fall away again as Tensheds performs an incredible rambling world-weary monologue rife with dark and almost dystopian imagery. ‘Enjoy it while you’re sleeping’ he warns. As the song fades out you might wonder if he’s out there somewhere still talking.
Penultimate song ‘Exile’ has the kind of epic sound you might expect of an album closer, a ballad gathering layers of pace and hope throughout, with Tensheds’ voice starting to soar towards the end. Album-closing duties fall, then, to ‘Ice Cream Jesus’ with Tensheds sounding fragile and vulnerable. The depth of the lyrics and the sincerity of their delivery found me in quite an introspective mood, reflecting on the sheer quality and variety of material on this album. Tensheds is certainly a unique talent and, while his music resides in a very definite niche, it is one that will surely expand given the melting pot of genres and creative genius bubbling away inside.