Goodbye To The Rank and File [Review]

Goodbye To The Rank And File - Casey Neill & The Norway Rats

It should be noted first off that I’m writing this review almost a month since I first heard this record. In this case, I think that’s a very good thing. It should also be noted, that this was the first record that I’d been really excited about for a long time. That said, it’s probably not surprising that when I first heard it, I was a bit disappointed. It wasn’t bad, but it didn’t have the raging Earth First! protest songs of his early work, or the more subtle bluegrass influences of the Casey Neill Trio era. But I persisted, because I really wanted to like it, and now I’m glad I did.

It’s now one of my favourite records of this year so far. Beautifully crafted folk/rock songs of letting go, leaving, and looking back. Part of me does miss the political aspect to his earlier work, but at the same time, I’m glad he hasn’t just rewrote Dancing On The Ruins Of Multinational Corporations for the past 15(?) years. The different progressions and phases, and ability to reinvent himself without forgetting his roots is one of the things that makes Neill such an incredible artist.  From his words on ‘Guttered’: “Me I still cling to the things that once fueled us/ In on The Kill Taker, Cometbus & Unrest” it’s obvious that Neill isn’t afraid to wear his influences on his sleeve. Which brings us neatly on to another song off the record, ‘She Floated Away’. Covers are never easy, and I really wasn’t expecting to be impressed by this, simply because the Husker Du version is one of my favourite songs ever. However, this version pays tribute, while still changing it enough to be interesting. I’ve always thought the Husker version sounded like a folk song, so in some ways I think it could have been taken further, but still definitely a nice addition to the record.

As it is now, there’s only two songs that my opinion hasn’t really changed on since I first heard the record, ‘Radio Montana’ and ‘When I Came To You’. ‘Radio Montana’ is a new version of a song on the earlier Casey Neill record, ‘Memory Against Forgetting’. To put it simply, I just don’t think it’s as good, it overcomplicates it and doesn’t leave as much room for his voice to shine. ‘When I Came To You’, just really doesn’t do it for me. I’m not sure the duel Casey Neill/Little Sue (I think) vocals quite work together, and it just doesn’t feel as emotionally deep as the rest of the record, but that might just be me.

However, this is easily outweighed by the splendours of ‘Ouroboros’, ‘Idyll’, and my personal favourite, ‘When The World Was Young’. The nostalgic tone is perfect, with lyrics such as “What ever happened to those who swore they’d never stray?/There’s an undercurrent of dirt and stain no shine can wash away…”. I could basically quote that whole song, but it doesn’t mean anything without Neill’s rich voice, or the excellent backing of the Norway Rats.

So yeah, since this record came out just under a month ago, I’ve listened to it while bunking my last ever day of school, waiting for nightbuses in the rain, cycling home as the sun rose, and, yeah, basically non-stop. Perfect soundtrack to all of the above, and more! It takes a few listens, but I promise this is an album well worth persisting with. It’s available now, from In Music We Trust Records and various other places!


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