The third full-length offering from Former Cell Mates sees the Sunderland band revert back to a three-piece, ala 2005 debut “Hustle”. Since 2008’s sophomore effort, “Who’s Dead and What’s to Pay?” guitarist Greg Robson and (original) drummer Neil Bassett have departed. Bass player Dave Lyon has swapped four-strings for a drum stool, and Peter Roberts has filled the position vacated by Lyon. “Presented as a Work of Fiction” also sees Former Cell Mates releasing an album on a third different record label in the UK. After releases on Newest Industry (Hustle) and Household Name Records (Who’s Dead and What’s to Pay?), Presented… has been released by Bedfordshire-based punk stalwarts Boss Tuneage Records.
Former Cell Mates have not only revised their line-up and record label; the band’s sound has also been tweaked. The North Easterners have always displayed signs of Lucero-esque subtlety, for example ‘Sparkle’ and ‘Stolen Car Keys’ from their previous albums, however, the softer-side of Former Cell Mates has been brought to the fore on “Presented as a Work of Fiction”. The songs, for the most part, are slower and more relaxed – in fact, it would not be difficult to imagine all of the songs on Presented… to have been penned on an acoustic guitar. That is not to say Former Cell Mates do not still pack a punch. Songs five and six, ‘Violins’ and ‘American English’ may begin tenderly, but the chorus’ in both songs, still show the band know how to hit the distortion pedal and bellow out a gruff but melodic hook.
While the band’s sound has been adapted, what makes “Presented as a Work of Fiction” feel like a standard Former Cell Mates record, is singer/guitarist Davey Burdon‘s lyrics. Yet again, Burdon has constructed an opus which is in parts remorseful, revengeful and regretful; and amused, bemused and confused (and drunk), Burdon‘s naked honesty ties all of the songs together, ‘Right at Surrey Ridge’ hears him proclaim; “I cradled you like I would have cradled our baby had it lived” – a line which would make the eyes of the most stoic of individuals to experience dampness. The aforementioned ‘American English sees’ Burdon tipping his hat to Beat Poet, Allen Ginsberg, during the pre-chorus; “I saw the best minds of my generation lost on telephones and behind bars, in factories and nightclub brawls.” In ‘This City Kneels Before Me’; Burdon bitterly states; “She probably fell for a worthwhile companion…she probably fell for someone just like me.”
Former Cell Mates have, for the third time, released a solid full-length album and are slowly but surely becoming the most under-rated band in the UK. And look, a whole review without mentioning Leatherface…oh, wait a minute.