One of the many things that crushed me about the closure of The Full Moon was that it suddenly became unlikely that I would ever play a set straight after Mike Dennis again. Luckily, we’re re-opening soon, and he’ll undoubtedly be back with his violin, cajon and loop pedal before too long. He’s the only artist to be given a monthly residency, which often coincided with my own gigs, and I just never get bored of watching him. Having developed a pretty serious work ethic, he’s pumping out a new top quality EP, ‘Junction 19’, and with it he has a new found sense of rage. The Cardiff debut performance will be at Gwdihw on 5th May, and the EP is available to pre-order at mikedennis.bandcamp.com.
The EP kicks off with a gorgeous tribute to Bristol. The tone of the multitracked violins feels like the first morning of the weekend. Lyrically, it makes me totally envious of Bristol, where they put a high emphasis on nurturing artistic talent. In Cardiff, we really have to fight for it. I felt totally humbled at the end of the track, when he slotted in a little tribute to The Moon, but as we well know, it’s not the end. Track 2 is a ‘reloaded’ version of crowd favourite ‘Men With Guns’ with added tabla and violin flourishes giving an arabic flavour. It’s a clever jab at Daily Mail preconceptions about who we should feel threatened by, and it serves to give an already brilliant tune a real cocky protest swagger.
The familiar warblings of Junior Bill’s Rob Nicholls float throughout UnDo, which is reminiscent of the most poignant moments on Mike’s full-length from last year. It’s a fantastically fully orchestrated vision, not that far away from recent Bonobo. On ‘OK. KO’ Mike rants about basically everything that’s wrong with 2017. Austerity, Trump, immigration, weed laws, it’s a lot to cram into 3 minutes, but he blasts through topics with a lyrical bounce that’s impossible not to get on board with, using his voice percussively like the best of them.
‘Things’, is an anti-consumerist odyssey, which may well have the most convincing flow I’ve heard him spit. I can’t wait to hear it live through a decent sound system, big blocks of sound punching through each bar as he rattles off a big list of shit we don’t need. ‘Learned How To Be’ will remind you what it’s like to be a dweeby teenager with dreams of proving the cool kids wrong. In school, I knew the only way to really get my own back would be to get good at something. Mike clearly felt the same way, and is passing that on to his pupils. Or not, they’re only 7 years old. It’s a reflective, more personal balance to the list of ills on the track before.
Mike can be killingly funny when he wants in order to get an audience on his side, but this EP is much more focussed on the people who are already listening. Whilst ‘Cries & Smiles’ was deeply personal, with references to his childhood and family, ‘Junction 19’ is an altogether more angry affair, with topics we can all relate to. Along with all our peers at the moment, he’s pissed off about a lot of things. If ever there were a time to get angry, this is it, and it’s exciting to see this new found rage from one of the nicest and most humble performers that I’m a fan of.