Review Summary: A powerful declaration of music and passion with the power to move mountains.
The Levellers had come along way by the time they released their second album. Formed out of the Brighton squat scene in Southern England in 1988, the band had released their debut album Weapon Called The Word on the Musidisc label. The album had some achingly great tracks like ‘Carry Me’, ‘World Freakshow’ and ‘England My Home’ but on the whole the album was a little rough and some of the material had the smell of filler about it. They soon parted ways with Musidisc and swiftly signed to China Records.
The first album release for China was Levelling The Land, which has gone on to be one of if not the most seminal album of the band’s career. Much like their debut it is a melting pot of pulsating punk, furious alt rock and melodic folk.
It kicks off with the anthemic ‘One Way’ which has usually been sited as the band’s quintessential song with its rousing chorus and driving melody. It is a number that has probably never left the band’s live set along with ‘Riverflow’ which is hands down one of the best folk punk songs ever written. A driving aural assault of pounding toms and bass flowing in and out of the Jon Sevink’s piercing violin.
The element that stands out most in comparison to the previous album is the inclusion of Simon Friend on guitar, mandolin and vocals on a few tracks. He had replaced Alan Miles who had become disenchanted with the way wages were dispersed in the band. Friend’s musicianship is certainly accomplished and unlike Miles his parts make the tracks and album sound far more rounded. He also brought two of his own songs to album the folky ballad of ‘Boatman’ and the power chord driven ‘Battle Of The Beanfield’
Throughout the album the music flows from light hearted folk ditties such as ‘Far From Home’ and ‘The Road’ to more aggressive punk tunes like ‘The Game’ and ‘Liberty’. The band have always had a political bent to their lyrics and this is easily reflected ‘In Another Man’s Cause’ the subject matter reflecting on the folly of war and effect of those who lose loved ones in conflicts. To ‘Battle Of The Beanfield’ which deals with an incident of police brutality inflicted on a group of travellers who had come for a free festival around Stonehenge in 1985. Surprisingly this mixture of music all flows steadily and offers the listener a rollercoaster of a listen that leaves you wanting more.
Overall Levelling The Land is a solid and forceful album that delivers classic track after classic track. Unsurprisingly all of the songs are still in rotation of in the bands live set. Although the production may sound a little dated the material heartedly makes up for this. I would recommend this album and seeing the band live.