Anyone who arrived to Orange Goblin’s last round of UK gigs early enough would have been very fortunate to witness the very strange and bizarre musical ramblings of The Earls of Mars, who helpfully describe their music as ‘martian folklore’. What that means is anybody’s guess but now that a full studio album has finally landed we can all try to make sense of The Earls’ eccentric music and what martian folklore actually is.
Beginning with the rumbling intro of ‘Poor Whores Petition’, the first thing to hit you like a sucker punch are singer/pianist Harry Armstrong’s vocals, which sound like Serj Tankian if he were pretending to be an Englishman. It’s a short and relatively straightforward opener but the vocal hook of Armstrong shouting:-
“Stop Calling Me Whore!”
is irresistible. If you care to join in (which you will if you’re on the same wavelength as the band) then just be careful where you shout it, as some folks may not take kindly to you singing along.
But second track ‘The Swinger’ is where the band really take off. Starting off with a lounge jazz bass-line (bass player Si McCarthy uses an electronic stand-up bass) the song swells into a full-on bluesy/proggy/jazzy/metal masterpiece that almost warrants for the listener to start smoking and drinking to create a smoky bar atmosphere as Harry Armstrong whispers, hollers and whines his way through to the exhausting climax. It’s an odd song but a totally rewarding one and one that brings together the bulk of the band’s influences in one delicious musical brew.
To be honest, a track-by-track rundown won’t do this album justice as “The Earls of Mars” is an album that needs to be heard to be appreciated. Just telling you about the various twists and turns that the band take doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of how wonderful it all sounds when put together, but try to imagine, if you will, a supergroup composed of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Hawkwind, System of a Down, Cathedral and Louis Armstrong and you might be getting the idea. And during the mellow ‘Otto the Magnificent’ that Louis Armstrong influence really comes out, but you have to hear it to believe it.
Despite all of those influences, though, “The Earls of Mars” is probably the most original thing you’ll hear all year. At their heart, the band are a 70’s-influenced rock band bringing together jazz, prog, space rock, doom and blues and forming it into a barking mad noise that you’ll either get or you won’t. If you don’t get it then close the door on your way out of the spaceship, as those of us who want to stay are off on a fantastical journey to who-knows-where, with The Earls of Mars steering the ship. Enjoy the trip, ladies and gentlemen, as it’s going to be a fun ride.