Easy Targets – How Far To Hitchin
I stumbled upon a post on Facebook of an album that my good friend Russell Sinfield had recently mastered and the albums artwork drew in my attention straight away. I also noticed that the album was due to be released on the same day and it had a link to the artists website. Having clicked on the artists website I noticed that the new album had not arrived yet, but I decided to have a mooch through his website and I had noticed that he had already released his first album Easy Targets back in 2016.
Having glanced at the artwork for that debut album of his it suddenly dawned on me that I had been here before. It became even more evident that I had been there before when I clicked on the link to his Facebook page to which I had already “Liked” and his YouTube channel to which I had seen the videos before and noticed that I had clicked the “Like Thumbs Up” button already on them.
It can be very easy for me to lose track of somebody with all the music that comes out at a particular time. Facebook alone can be plastered with that much really GREAT! music that there is just no way you could buy and keep track of it all. For me to have liked something in the first place there must of been something about this chaps music I did like, so I decided to go back to his website and give some of the tracks from his album Easy Targets another listen. To be honest there was only 3 of the 12 tracks of the album that you could listen to all the way through on his music page. Upon giving those a blast, I was quite blown away and instantly knew this is one album I have got to have.
How Far to Hitchin is very much a one-man band project of Paul Dews and a project name he chose to go under. It’s quite strange name to choose though he was actually born in the market town of Hitchin, Hertfordshire, England. The name was inspired and comes from an English children’s television program called Gilbert’s Fridge that was broadcast back in 1988. These days he resides in Huddersfield and has for some time now, and he’s also a multi-instrumentalist and one very talented songwriter and musician.
He also has quite a talent in art too and I can tell you that his debut album Easy Targets is quite an AMAZING! album that gave me plenty to talk about. I also would say that it’s an album you need to get your ears around because this is quite a GEM! But before I get further into it and more about the man himself. Let’s take a look at the packaging and artwork as usual.
The Packaging & Artwork…
The CD comes sealed and wrapped in a reusable transparent cellophane sleeve and the CD is housed in a standard plastic Jewel Case which provides good protection and prevents the CD from getting marks and scratches. These days I do myself prefer cardboard Digipaks especially how they can give you the look of a miniature vinyl album and are more appealing. They are also more of the “In-Thing” I would say today in relation to the standard plastic Jewel Case.
I would also say that Paul Dews likes to have a hand in everything and I am pretty sure that he has made the CD himself rather than use a media manufacturing company which can be costly. Especially as many of them will only churn them out at a minimal quantity of around 200 or more in most cases.
It’s something I used to do myself in the past and it makes a lot more sense to do things this way too, especially as it’s not as if you are going to be selling them by the bucket load. I have seen many unknown artists in the past fork out the £300 – £400 to have them mass produced and made by such companies, only for the biggest majority of them to be left in the box and shoved in somewhere like their garage or basement.
To be honest it’s not that much cheaper to make them yourself especially with the cost of the ink and all the materials. But the advantage is that you can knock them out in much smaller quantities so that you are not left out of pocket and your CD’s are not cluttering up your own space sort of thing.
I remember back in the early 2000’s when I was knocking them out for some bands and even my own brother. It was still costing me £3.50 to make one CD. Mind you I was using quality double sided gloss paper to make the booklets and gloss labels to stick on the CD. I also forked out more money for the blank discs too, and only ever used Taiyo Yuden silver discs so that you could not see where the data was burned onto the disc. I dare say that it’s a lot cheaper to knock them out today though and many of those materials have come down in price rather than go up.
There are also a lot of cheaper ways of doing it than I did back then too, but I wanted something you could not tell the difference and looked every inch as good as what you brought from a record store. I think he’s done a very good job of it too.
The CD also comes with a 6-page booklet that contains all the production and linear notes as well as the lyrics and some artwork illustrations for every song on the album. All of which was done by Dews himself. There is certainly a fine ART to everything Paul Dews does, so let’s now take a look at the artwork.
Well no doubt it certainly helps when you can not only be creative in the art form of making your own music, but also being an artist with a very creative mind who can paint and draw comes in handy too. The word ART very much applies to the both sides of Paul Dews creativity and he’s got quite an exceptional very creative mind in both of these creative forms of ART. There is also no doubt that both his music and artwork can draw you in too, and even though it may have been his artwork that originally led me to him in the first place. I would also say that his music alone could also easily do that too.
Besides his music Dews also sells posters of his artwork on his website and it’s perhaps understandable when you have the vision to come up with something like this in the first place and can actually draw and paint it yourself. I noticed that the posters are also the same size of a vinyl album and no doubt the artwork for Easy Targets would pop out a lot more at you at that larger size.
The Album In Review…
Easy Targets by How Far to Hitchin was released on the 9th June 2016. The album comes with 12 tracks to which are all very well-crafted songs and it does not contain any instrumental tracks. It also comes with an overall playing time of 67 minutes, 34 seconds that may seem lengthy and is verging on to a double album’s worth of material. Though I certainly have no complaints here simply because this is one very well skilfully crafted and woven piece of fine ART! that has been so skilfully put together. It does not contain any gap fillers either and is highly addictive and will have you playing it over and over all day long.
Paul Dews describes in his own words that his music has been described as original, slightly off beat and difficult to categorize. He also says that some people think that he’s a bit prog in the same way that bands such as Everything Everything, Elbow, Radiohead and Midlake have been described. But he also goes onto to say that he can be a bit of everything and come across like bands such as Massive Attack, Blur, Young Knives, XTC and John Grant. Whilst at the same time hopefully retaining his own unique identity, and he would describe his own music as Alternative Experimental Art Rock with a twist of NeoProg.
I personally think that the way Dews described his music is pretty much spot on and is a combination of all of that he stated on his website and I could even throw in artists such as Steve Wilson, Roger Waters and The Beatles onto that list and many others too.
Oddly enough just looking at all those artists his music could resemble, the only artist out of that lot I have in my record collection is the one I mentioned Roger Waters. All those other artists have never spoke to me enough for me to go out and buy any of their records. But I have heard the biggest majority of them and the album Easy Targets does cover a range of musical styles ranging from pop, synth pop to melancholic NeoProg.
I would not say that Paul Dews music is like Roger Waters or Pink Floyd for that matter either. But my main reason for mentioning him in the first place is the fact that Dews does throw in a lot of other effects into the pot such as splashes, crashes, feathers in hats, water drops, peacocks and purring cats. He even sticks the kettle on makes a nice cup of tea whilst he’s at it :)))))). Environmental things and such other effects are the same type of things that Waters will often throw into his music and the fact we also get quite a lot of explicit language also reminds me of Waters.
I think the other reason why Roger Waters also springs to my mind is his association with such an iconic album he made with Pink Floyd back in 1973. That album was of course Dark Side Of The Moon and even though the album Easy Targets sounds nothing like that album there is no doubt Dews has crafted this album out of solid material that is highly original and sounds totally fresh with all the elements he has used to make it. I would even go as far as to say that the album Easy Targets is in every way just as interesting and will have you hooked just like that iconic album Pink Floyd made back then. Paul Dews has no doubt created a masterpiece of an album and yet he is hardly known and does not sit on a pot of gold like Roger Waters and the other members of that band.
Pink Floyd certainly broke the mold when they made Dark Side of The Moon back in 1973 and Paul Dews has managed to do it 3 years ago back in 2016 with this album. Albums like this are very rare and hard to beat and come by, effectively they are like those amplifiers where the volume knob goes beyond 10 and goes up to 11 as seen in the Spinal Tap movie. It’s albums like this that are worth their weight in GOLD! and for the life of me I cannot believe he has not received just as much recognition for it.
Dews started work on the album Easy Targets back in 2011 and it was a long process in the making of it. He set up a studio in the basement of his house in Huddersfield and called it Studio One-Seven-Two. To be honest I thought the studio was named after the number of his house but through my research I discovered that it’s approximately 172 miles from his house in Huddersfield to his mother’s house in Hitchin where he grew up. So, I guess he does know how far is Hitchin :)))))).
Considering Dews made the album at his own home its quite a remarkable achievement especially without any other producer onboard either. No doubt many musicians make their own music in the same way including myself especially with how it’s much easier and less expensive to make your own album these days. It’s no wonder that so many are doing such a thing.
Dews is a very skilled multi-instrumentalist and quite a guitarist though he can also put his hands to the keys as well and he’s crafted some really GREAT! synth work for this album. If I am not mistaken the keyboard on that stand is a Yamaha PSR E303. I have one myself as a secondary keyboard. Being a multi-instrumentalist is also giving him the ability to add in a few other stringed instruments such as mandolin and ukulele which are utilized very well on some of the tracks on the album. He also plays flute and throws in the odd bit of percussion including household items, and he’s even a dab hand with a Kettle :))))).
He also played guitar in a progressive rock band in England in the 1980’s called 13th Hour. The band done a lot of gigs in the late 80’s in the south of England and became more of a pop band. In 1982 they recorded a single entitled ‘Stereo Smiles‘ and it reached number 7 in the Melody Maker independent charts. Like most bands they eventually broke up and Dews went off to study Art at Dartington College of Arts in Devon, South England. It was after he got his art degree that he moved to Huddersfield and wrote and played in another Progressive band called Chimera. After that ended, he decided to concentrate on writing his own solo material as a solo artist.
Easy Targets is actually the third solo album he’s written. Though the other couple of albums he wrote under different project names. The first album Belly Button he wrote under the name of Silly Automatic. His second album entitled Almost Everything was under the name of Potdog. Although he was happy enough with the songs he wrote in those earlier projects, he was never really happy enough with the recording to which were both recorded in the front room of his previous house on a combination of cassette porta studios and early digital workstations.
These days he uses Protools for recording and he uses EZ Drummer to do the drum programming. There is no doubt he’s achieving much better results too and he must have an extremely well clever head on his shoulders to be able to churn out something like this album that’s for sure. You can also see he must have a sense of humour with how he has also created a band line up out of his own name :)))))
Musicians & Credits…
All songs written by Paul Dews. Produced, Recorded, Mixed & Mastered by Paul Dews at Studio One-Seven-Two approximately 172 miles away from Hitchen. Cover Art, Design & Graphics by Paul Dews.
Paul Dews: Vocals.
EP Dulsaw: Guitars/Mandolin/Ukulele.
Wes Ladpu: Bass.
Saul Pewd: Keyboards & Midi Keyboard Programming
Ade W Puls: Percussion/Flute/Household Objects/Drum Programming.
Narration by written and performed by Chris Hannon (Track 1).
Narration by written and performed by Emma Gee (Track 2).
The Album Tracks In Review…
In so many ways listening to the album Easy Targets is very much like listening to a concept album with how most of the tracks can run smoothly along and flow so well one after the other. No doubt a lot of thought as been put into how they are all placed on the album too. I would even say that it is a concept album in some respects and the easy targets are the all those things that can confront us throughout life at times and are things that can make us sad or even get our GOAT! up at times. Dews can quite often throw in some tongue and cheek mannerisms along this journey through life as well. Though thankfully no peacocks, cats or even his neighbors were harmed during the making of the album :))))).
To be honest with the many purely GREAT! songs there are on the album it could be like listening to a collection of songs that would make up a GREATEST HITS album. But what I would say is that you have to listen to the album from start to finish to get the full benefit and potential out of it. It’s not like a GREATEST HITS album where you could pick out an individual track to play on its own. There are a few you could pick out for sure, and “Helpless“. “Flowers from Burma” and “Shitbags” you could easily do that with. But the album will have a much greater effect on you by listening to it as an whole rather than playing individual tracks.
With the amount of truly FANTASTIC! songs over its 12 tracks it’s also so damn hard to pick a firm favourite, simply because they are all so darn good. To be honest I also think it would be very hard to pick a firm favourite track from Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon because that is also a very well-made album that consists of solid material all the way just like we have here on Easy Targets.
I keep mentioning that Pink Floyd album don’t I. That’s because it is very much an iconic album and a album I could place in one of the four comers of the universe. It takes something very special to hold one of the 4 spots in my universe with all the music I have listened to over the years. Most of the music I do like does come from that decade too and I still very much live in it at times regarding my taste in music. I would also say that it is very rare anything regarding prog rock music that never came out of that decade could ever really speak to me in the same light.
But oddly enough if you were to ask me what my favourite prog rock bands are, Pink Floyd would not even get in my top 5. To be honest they might not even make it in my top 10. But that does not stop any band or artist from making at least one prolific album that could stand up so TALL! that it could reach up into space and find its way on one of those 4 special spots. I am not saying that the album Easy Targets could find its way up there either, but there is something very special about this album and I could also see this as quite an iconic album in the way the music presents itself to you.
It’s certainly one of the most interesting and fascinating albums I have heard in god knows how long, and just like when Dark Side Of The Moon came out in 1973 it presented me with something I had never heard done in that way before, yet it immediately drew my attention towards it. It does not take you long to get into an album like Dark Side Of The Moon and I can quite easily say the same thing about Easy Targets.
Even though both albums sound nothing alike, there is a very special thing I see in these types of albums and very few have been made. That special thing is that in general I myself usually find that it’s albums you have to grow into by giving them a lot more spins that will have the longevity to stay with you for the rest of your life. It’s very rare that an album one can instantly like will stay with you.
A prime example of that would be my Genesis collection. Those earlier albums they made with Peter Gabriel took me way more than a lunch time to get into. As a matter fact even when I managed to get into the albums Trespass up to Selling England By The Pound it took me another decade to get into the last album Gabriel made with the band The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. I took an instant dislike to that album for some reason when it came out and it was not until the late 80’s that I decided to give it another spin. Even then it took me many more lunch times to get into it. But once I had it became my number 1 concept album and it still is till this day.
I still went onto buy all the albums that Genesis made right up to Calling All Stations in 1997 which was made after Phil Collins had left. I guess I was still hoping for the band to do more of the material I enjoyed about the band in the first place back in the early 70’s which is why I hung onto them for so long. I even went out and brought most the band members solo albums though the only 2 that appealed more to my taste were Steve Hackett and Peter Gabriel.
Today I could quite easily throw all the Genesis albums that came after their 1976 album Wind and Wuthering and all Phil Collins albums in the bin. Simply because they went onto make music that instantly hit you in the face that wore off in no time at all. I very much think the way those albums were recorded and the production standards never really helped either. Simply because today they sound completely outdated. There is just no way I could play any of those albums today and they are certainly not stayers that will go with me to my grave like those earlier albums of Genesis would.
I do not think I could ever get tired of playing those early Genesis albums just as much as I could never tire of playing Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of The Moon and some of their other albums they made back then too. Those albums are that special that I have brought them many times over and the 5.1 versions I have of them are my pride and joy. They deserve to put on pedestals and even though I have only just got hold of the album Easy Targets and have no way of knowing what it will say to me after 20 years if I am still here :)))))).
I can tell that there is something very special here though and in some ways I am having the same experience and relationship I had with Dark Side of The Moon back in 1973. and for anything today to do something that special it’s a rarity in itself. Oh, and by the way, the album Easy Targets does not even remotely sound like it came out of the 70’s either. This is what makes it even more special.
The other thing that is so very different with the material Dews wrote for Easy Targets is that even though he’s perhaps more of a predominant guitar player judging by his guitar collection and what very little he has spent on his keyboards. I would say that the biggest majority of tracks on the album are very much more keyboard orientated.
To be honest for any keyboard-oriented music to even speak to me you have got to be doing something very special. Especially when it boils down to songs and not the type of instrumental material that Jean Michael Jarre or Tangerine Dream would of done to which is also to my taste. But as for all that dribble I heard in the charts in the 80’s with artists like Howard Jones, Gary Numan and many others. I would not touch it with a barge pole LOL… If there is one decade, I detested for music it would most definitely be the 80’s and I literally hated it. “Like To Get To Know You Well” not bloody likely LOL.
Though there are also a couple of tracks on this album that do in many ways hark back to that 80’s retro and new wave era. But thankfully some of the other elements that Dews has thrown in such as the percussion in particular prevent them from completely sounding like they came out of that decade. No doubt the fact that we have not got some of the sloppy “Lovey Dovey” lyrics and dribble that many of those artists came out with in the 80’s as well, which also is what makes it much different. If anything, I would say that the album Easy Targets very much sounds like an album from the 90’s and that is very much the decade that it sounds like it came out of.
I would also say that the album Easy Targets will appeal to a lot more than prog rockers just like Pink Floyd’s music will reach out to a hell of a lot more people and is very more widely popular. The ART! is in the composition and this is a piece of well-crafted fine ART! in every sense of the word. The only logical reason I can see why an album like this is not sitting at home in your record collection, is really down to the fact that Paul Dews does not have the many hundreds upon thousands of pounds like those major record labels have to promote the album. It’s also most likely down to the fact that he does not take his music out on the road and play live gigs to even try and gather up a following.
There is no doubt that any musician will get a lot of pleasure out of sitting in their own houses in their own home-made studios creating their own music. They will spend hours upon hours doing such a thing too. But for 99.9% of those who do such a thing and make their own albums in this way, and are not willing to go out and put themselves about a bit more by playing live. They will be dead lucky if hardly any of their albums make it any further than their own front door.
I am not saying that Dews has not tried to go out of his way to try and promote his own music, and it’s even appeared on BBC Radio. But just how many people even bother with radio these days. It’s getting to the point where even the younger generation are no longer even watching TV, never mind tuning into the radio, and for most of the younger generation these days its streaming sites like YouTube that has become their TV.
These days you have to be doing something very unique to get noticed. The 2 Cellos are a perfect example. But I honestly believe that Dews has already made something quite unique but he’s not put himself out enough for it to get noticed. To be honest if I had a quarter of an inch of this man’s talent, I would be out in pubs playing live right now even if I was on my own. At least that way you could put your albums out to more people, even if they were of you playing the part of a whole band. But I am sure many out there would appreciate this guy’s skills on the guitar enough to even buy his albums no matter if they were of solo pieces or if they came with more bells and whistles so to speak.
But of course, that’s easier said than done and there are many just as skilful musicians out there who have not got the nerve to put themselves in front of a live audience and can get stage fright. Genesis first guitarist Anthony Phillips is a prime example of that and that is why he chose to leave the band in the first place. I know that Dews has played live in a band back in the 80’s and I know from my own experience that playing in a band in front of an audience is a lot easier than playing to an audience on your own.
Through my own research the only live videos I could find of him, was of him playing in front of a camera in his own studio. Come to think of it, that is the only way I have seen Anthony Phillips play live lately too, and he was in a studio in a radio station playing some of his own solo pieces on the guitar. It was a case of “No Audience Required” and he never had Phil’s jacket on either :)))))).
Dews only ever posted couple of live videos on his Facebook wall a good while back and they were not on his YouTube channel. I was that well impressed by them that I got in touch with him and asked him if he did not mind me using them for my review. To save him the trouble of uploading them to his own YouTube channel I told him I could simply nick them from his Facebook wall and upload them unlisted to my own YouTube channel to which I have done.
The video I chose to show here has nothing to do with his own music and is nothing like what you will hear on the album Easy Targets. It’s quite a complex guitar solo that Steve Hackett wrote and originally played live during the encores at the first ever Womad Festival at Milton Keynes which was set up by Peter Gabriel back in 1982.
To be perfectly honest if I heard this piece on the radio and could not see who was playing it. I would swear blind it was Steve Hackett. That’s how well Dews has so precisely executed the piece. I like his sense of humour at the end too when he shows you the real ending, and no doubt that was a very extremely hard piece to play without fluffing it up at some point along the way.
But there is a lot more to this man’s talent with what you will hear on the album Easy Targets and the guitar is not the only instrument he can execute with fine precision. He plays bass like a proper bass guitarist, which is something many guitarists cannot do at all. His keyboard work is well TASTY too though he has programmed some of it, but I dare say he can play a bit too. Oh! and I almost forgot! He also has a GREAT! voice so now let’s get right back on track and get on with the review of the 12 individuals tracks on the album and take a deeper look into it.
Track 1. Resistance Is Futile.
The opening track of the album feels like it has a sense of purpose with its opening spoken words and is as if they are portraying the story or journey that is about to unfold upon us. The opening strings you hear right at the start remind a bit of the intro to Elton John’s “Sixty Years On” and the opening words also spring to mind how the Moody Blues opened up their 1969 album On The Threshold Of A Dream. Musically the song is structured from the bass line and everything else is built up around it.
Lyrically the words are pertaining to how sometimes we can get in a rut and not want to do anything at all or even care any more. Sometimes we need a stick of dynamite up our ARSE! to get off our BUTT! and go out and do something. I guess those who get into that situation the resistance to do anything about it can be useless with the hold it has on them especially where drugs are concerned and it can very much be their entire world. I am sure we have all been there at some point in our lives.
“Resistance Is Futile” is the longest track on the album and weighs in at around 8.5 minutes, it also features the English actor Chris Hannon who wrote the words he’s narrating on this piece. Hannon has appeared in many TV shows and TV movies and is more noted for his roles in The Forsyte Saga, Lunch Monkeys and he’s even featured in 12 episodes of Coronation Street between 2007/08. He’s a good friend of Dews and I am not sure how they met in the first place but through my research I did find out that Dews did take part in a live art theatre piece back in 2011 in which he played the character role of someone who was trying to give up cigarettes and miserably failing.
He also wrote this song to accompany him in that performance back then though he never had any intention of using it for anything else. But afterwards the song grew on him enough for him to further reshape and develop it, and the version here is the end result of it all.
It’s a super way to start the album and the song is very well built up and builds its way up very well to unleash its more powerful chorus. The bass, drums, percussion and vocals are the driving force and the narration and synths work a TREAT! too. There is certainly enough going on here to draw you in or even get you HOOKED! and I suppose you could say that the opening track of the album is quite an ADDICTIVE! starter. It’s also very much a contender for the the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!.
Track 2. Our Friend Is In The Meadow.
As much as this next song sounds so wonderfully pleasant, it takes in the sadness of loss within its lyrical content and it is without doubt so BEAUTIFULLY! portrayed and done in a mellow melancholic and meaningful way. Our friend or friends who are in the meadow is more than likely pertaining to those who fought out in the battlefields and meadows and died on them. It could also relate to all those we have lost in that we get through the loss but never get over it, and with how we hold onto to their possessions and of course those treasured memories of them are never forgotten.
I have no idea where the opening TV or Radio comedy sketch that is used on the intro comes from, but it does sound familiar and blends in perfectly with the ukulele and mandolin to which Dews has so very well plucked out the basis of the song’s main melody in two counterparts. The way he has worked in all the other instrumentation of percussion, bass, keyboard vibes and orchestration all adds very well to the well-crafted arrangement. He even throws in a cuckoo whistle which works wonders too.
The orchestration really helps lift the chorus too as it transcends itself wonderfully along and his voice deliverers these really GREAT! lyrics BEAUTIFULLY! During the break section at around the 3:06 mark Dews works in a rather nice bit of guitar using his ebow on it for the lovely effect. We also get the sounds of the birds and nature bustling and whistling away with the cuckoo whistle whilst Emma Gee recites her own poem and it sits in perfectly with it all, and she has done such a BEAUTIFUL! job of it. For those wondering who Emma is, it’s actually Paul’s partner.
In some ways with how “Our Friend Is In The Meadow” flows so well along with its touch of melancholy. I can even get a Roger Waters feel from a song like this, especially from some of the songs he wrote and played himself back in the early days featured on albums such as Pink Floyd’s 1969 double album Ummagumma and on the collaborative album Music From The Body he did with Ron Geesin in 1970. It really is an excellent track on the album and is very much one of the many contenders along this album that is in contention to win the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!
Track 3. Gladhander.
There is a bit of a battle going on with the albums 3rd track on the album and “Gladhander” is very much one of the more synth driven tracks on the album. Musically it’s driven along by a heavy distorted bass line, a sequencer, synths and a bit of distorted guitar. Though the use of a rock drum kit and the orchestrated synth work that also comes into play give it the power to rock out a bit more and also add a touch of drama to it. I suppose in some ways the music gives you the impression that the Gladhander in this adventure is more of a hero rather than the smarmy conniving snake he is. Although the lyrics certainly portray exactly what he is in this modern-day battle for sure.
Just like how the Gladhander is portrayed like a snake in the picture above, there are certainly many of them in the music business and in general such a person can try and get too close and be over friendly in an irritating way. No doubt they are a wolfs in sheep’s clothing and they never have any intention of keeping the bargains they will offer you and are only out for what they can get out of you. It’s another GREAT! song and there are quite a few songs on the album were Paul Dews voice can remind me of David Bowie at times, and they do a bit in the verses on this one.
Track 4. The Peacocks Of Birkby.
There is no doubt that Dews voice and approach to the more melancholic ballad side of things really suit his voice very well. He has that magical way of working both vocally and musically on these types of songs, and the ‘The Peacocks Of Birkby” is another GORGEOUS! song just like we got on the 2nd track of the album “Our Friend Is In The Meadow“. It’s these types of songs that both Roger Waters and David Gilmour done quite well with Pink Floyd before they made The Dark Side Of The Moon back in 1973. Come to think of it, Waters did them better than Gilmour and he had just as good as a voice as Gilmour back in those early days too. Later on, his voice developed into more of a speaking voice.
Though no doubt back in the late 60’s and early 70’s there was plenty of GREAT! bands and artists doing all that GORGEOUS! melancholic stuff. I still love all of that stuff today and music does not have to ROCK OUT! to ROCK! my boat so to speak either. I think one of the most of extraordinary things about this particular song is how Dews has the vision to turn something that makes his blood boil into something so beautiful. The idea for the lyrical content of the song came from where he lives, which is in a district called Birkby in Huddersfield.
The very thing that does make his blood boil is fly tipping, and I must admit it is a common thing everywhere in England where some people have no respect for the environment and dump any old rubbish on the streets to save them the time and money it cost to dispose of their household rubbish through the proper channels. It’s mainly the bigger household items such as fridges, cookers, carpets, beds, mattresses and sorts. Though once people start dumping those type of items in the street you will often find that other people will dump their regular household rubbish there too instead of putting it in their wheelie bins and leaving to for the dustman to pick up.
Just around the corner from his house live a family who keep chickens, Guinea Fowl and a pair of Peacocks, and occasionally the Peacocks escape and can be seen majestically strolling around the neighbourhood. He was particularly struck by the strange juxtaposition when he came across these beautiful creatures as they made their way through some discarded mattresses, bags of rubbish and bits of old carpet. It was one of those days when he really wished he lived somewhere else. In the song he also mentions that he wishes he could be like the Peacocks, and I suppose it’s his way of avoiding all the mess that people leave behind and how they cannot see it as we do sort of thing.
Dews throws quite a lot into this song besides his GREAT! job on the vocals and lyrics which also makes it most intriguing and interesting. For example, on the intro you will hear something that sounds like a stapler, a bell, a cat purring away in content, the man himself making a cup of tea and what I can only presume is a Peacock squawking away. Unless he also has monkeys swinging around the trees in his neighbourhood too :)))))) I am pretty sure these are all sounds that Dews has very much recorded himself and his cat Natty is no doubt content too.
Then we get this sequencer fading its way in, it reminds of the sequence that was used on “Tribal Statistics” which was the opening track of the 1983 album Somewhere In Afrika by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. Though that sequence does run a bit faster than what we have here. I did ask Paul if he was influenced by their album and if also the tea making idea was influenced from the 1974 album Warchild by Jetrho Tull. Though he assured me he had not heard either of those albums.
After the initial intro to which he also plays a nice melody on the flute towards the end of it, we get this clanging percussion coupled with the acoustic guitar that leads us into the main section of the song and allows him to come in with the vocals. The clanging percussion in particular gives it a Steve Hackett vibe and feel and I am not sure what he’s banging away on, but it sounds a bit like a Koto or the actual strings inside a piano. But it’s most likely something more metallic.
Many of the sounds in the intro including the rather sweet melody on the flute reoccur throughout the piece, and along the build we also get some more really GREAT! stringed orchestration and a lovely bit of bass too. I love the way the song falls out at the end too and this really has to be another contender to win the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!
Track 5. Collateral.
This next track picks the album up the pace a bit more and bangs its way in on the kick drum. The title refers to collateral damage and is primarily a song about man’s inhumanity to man and the foolishness of war is how Dews describes it himself. The inspiration for it came from all the news reports we often get of wars that take place in other countries, and how they always show you the latest bombing raids.
No doubt there are many innocent human beings that get blown to bits in these situations and I love how Dews has gone about the lyrics on this song and how it even betrays how humans can be so inhumane at times to see such as a thing as war being a cool thing.
Musically this song features plenty of guitars including slide, bass, bass pedals, synths along with its thumping percussion and drums. It does sound like something bands like Duran Duran and Depeche Mode would have done and is more like a classic pop song. Though not so much from the 80’s and I also think it’s much better than anything both of those bands could write to be honest.
It’s another really GREAT! song that drives along very well and lifts up very well with its chorus and is like a contrast of dark and light. It’s got quite a pumping bass line too and a touch of a continental flavour with the piano sound in particular which reminds of the type of piano you would hear in bands like Abba and on the theme music to the TV Series the Persuaders. The slide guitar in the solo gives it a touch of the east and you will hear it all in the video above.
Track 6. Push.
Another lively song that could be seen a pop song, though even with how it’s more keyboard orientated with its sequencer, synths and pads, the guitars and the vocals give it more of a cutting edge to rock it out more so it’s not so much like a song that would hark back to the 80’s.
The opening lyrics has me in hysterics and it makes me laugh every time I hear it. Dews has a really good way of doing vocal harmonies and double take vocals to support himself, and there are times in this song where he reminds me a bit like Suggs the singer out of Madness with his expression.
“Push” is the shortest track on the album and weighs in 20 seconds less than the previous track at 4 minutes, 5 seconds. The lyrical content is very much about what the title suggests and are about pushing oneself over the edge or too far that you fall back into yourself sort of thing. It’s another really GREAT! song and Dews can write just as well interesting pop songs as he can with any other genre and the way the tracks have been so well placed on the album, it’s tracks like this that can not only help in picking the album up a bit more, but give you that bit more excitement in how they immediately grab you.
Track 7. Grief Mining.
The album tones itself down with a darker mood for this next track. The subject matter of the lyrics pertains to those spiritual mediums who claim they have the gift to get in touch with those who have passed away to the other side so to speak, and how they make money from desperate grievers who feel the need to try and get in touch with their lost loved ones.
It’s a song that gradually builds itself along at a very slow pace and weaves its way along to its more powerful ending. It also has a bit of a Peter Gabriel feel to it in particular with the bass, keyboards and percussion, though vocally Dews does sound a bit more like David Bowie here in parts again, and a vocoder like effect has been applied to his voice.
The saw-like synth and keyboard orchestration provide the haunting drama of it all. There are some really good transitional changes towards the end which allows the song to open up for its more powerful ending where he brings in the drums and guitars to rock it up and belt it out. It’s another excellent piece of work and GREAT! album track and very much another contender for the albums TOP SPOT AWARD!.
Track 8. Helpless.
As I mentioned earlier regarding how it was so damn hard to pick a personal favourite track with all the quality written material there is upon the album Easy Targets. But I think everything about this song is so damn perfect with how well Dews has not just done the arrangement, but everything about how it builds up and how it flows along. Yet like many songs its quite simple with how it was basically structured with its chord arrangement and how it was written on the guitar.
Listening to the unplugged version with just his voice and guitar you can still hear how good this song really is, and there is no doubt that many people would spot how good this song was a mile off with how he can perform and put it all across.
But with all the other elements he’s thrown in the pot on this studio version and how it’s so skilfully arranged, you will soon hear how everything about this song Reeks of Perfection. The arrangement is purely STUNNING! and so many magical influences just pop right out of the woods every time I hear it.
In this song I hear David Bowie’s “Space Oddity“. The Moody Blues “Nights In White Satin” and Crosby, Stills and Nash harmonies. Yet it’s all highly original material and his own. It’s one of the most BEAUTIFUL! songs on the planet, even if the lyrical content is touching on the sadness of how a loving relationship can be broken down by depression and mental ill health leaving us in a helpless situation.
Dews describes the word “Helpless” in every sense of the word with his GREAT! lyrics in this song, everything he has embellished around the acoustic guitar and his voice is purely magical and caresses the song with LOVE! The orchestration, bells, bass lines, synths, piano, drums and the GORGEOUS! flute solo in the break all contribute to lift this song up with JOY! and get us through the pain of it all. It is without doubt very hard to pick a firm favourite track on this album, but this song touched my heart enough for it to merit the albums TOP SPOT AWARD.
Track 9. Flowers From Burma.
This is perhaps the song on the album that potentially sounds something more like a throwback to the 80’s with its retro synth style and new wave feel. Even the bottle like clanging percussion cannot really prevent it from sounding like something that came from that decade either.
The other thing this song does have in common is that you can see its hit potential straight off the bat and in reality, I could see this song along with “Collateral“. “Push” and “Shitbags” being pop chart hits. Though no doubt a couple of them may very well have been banned from being aired on the radio due to the explicit language. Though this song is not explicit like the other 3 I mentioned. It’s most likely why it got played on the radio too.
But what saves me from disliking a song like this is once again the lyrical content and there is an irony to them. they are also quite humorous with how he ridicules war. But musically this song is very much like all those synth orientated songs that came out in the 80’s. Though it does have quite a jolly bouncy feel to it all and in some respects even though it’s more keyboard orientated, the fun side of it can make it feel a bit more like what bands like Men At Work and many others and it really is another GREAT! piece of work and well worked out song.
Track 10. Shitbags.
I have to confess this is the most hilarious track on the album and has me in STITCHES! every time I hear it. I cannot stop singing it either it’s that addictive and funny. I personally think a song like this would not have a problem smashing into the top 30 of the UK’s single charts just like Pink Floyd’s single release of “Not Now John” from their 1983 album The Final Cut. Though just like that song it would also be banned from radio air play without a doubt :)))))).
“Shitbags” is very much more of a ROCKER! of a song and tackles those niggly annoying things that can cause a rift or even a war between neighbours with the subject matter here. Oddly enough it was only last year I seen a couple of series appear on the television about how neighbours can be at loggerheads with one another, even up to the point of them wanting to literally kill one another. This would be the perfect song for those series to use for their main theme, especially how some of the irritating habits they have done can force one to think that even the fact that their neighbours habits of existing and breathing can get on their TITS! so to speak :)))))).
I have no idea if Dews got the idea for the lyrical content from such TV programs or a real-life crisis. I do know that he is currently in the process of moving house again and he’s off to the Orkney Isles off the coast of Scotland which is even a lot further away from Hitchin. But whatever inspired him to write the song, there is no doubt he has done an all-round solid job on both the music and lyrics.
In a way a song like this can also be a sort of anthem and such songs I could of easily of BLASTED OUT! and annoyed the neighbours by doing such a thing back in my more careless free youthful days. One of those songs I remember doing such a thing with would have been Saxon’s “Play it Loud” from their Denim and Leather album back in 1981. Though that was a song about playing your music loud to give your neighbours hell rather than neighbours who throw cigarette butts in your garden and attack your privet hedge and have no respect for your property.
Though no doubt I have had neighbours that I have not got on with in the past, but basically, I was the nuisance and not them. These days I do have a lot more respect for my neighbours and the only way I could BLAST! this song out is in my Cans and not through the speakers. But even then, I cannot help singing along to the chorus and my wife very much reminds me that I had better not play that through the speakers LOL. “Shitbags” is another contender for the TOP SPOT on the album and I just LOVE IT!…
Track 11. Sick Little Monsters.
Another excellent album track and the lyrical content here is about those who get some form of entertainment out of watching someone else die. I suppose in a way this could apply to those who like to watch snuff videos that can be found on the internet or other things in the media such as war for example. Basically, it’s criticizing those who get a kick out of the sadistic things that go on in this cruel world and makes a plea for them to do something about it and reach out and help.
Whoever the sick little monsters are in question here that Dews is describing those words he recites over a few times at the end of song having buried deeply into my mind for me to want to sing them, and quite often I will utter the words “you sick little monsters” at some of those bastards in power when I glance at the news.
Once again this is a very well-constructed and built up piece of work with a wonderful arrangement that features some GREAT! synth work and the lead break on the synth in particular is very much like Pink Floyd’s “Welcome To The Machine” that can be found on their 1975 album Wish You Were Here. The song itself has both a Roger Waters and David Bowie feel about it, and the percussion can remind me of Peter Gabriel. I love how the acoustic guitar sheds some light into the darkness here when it comes in around the 1:10 mark. and once again there is some lovely orchestration in the piece.
The song tale spins into the final track on the album and is another song that is another contender for the albums TOP SPOT!
Track 12. Secateurs.
The final track on the album was inspired from Dews visiting his parent’s house in Hitchin on a warm sunny spring day to which he was doing a spot of gardening with his father. The sound of them both clipping away the dead foliage inspired the rhythm and he describes all the fond memories of what he got to see on that beautiful day in the lyrical content here.
Musically the song starts off and flows along in a dreamy mellow melancholy style with the dreamy scape and acoustic guitar he’s used to support his voice portraying the day’s events. It gradually build its way along and introduces a few other little nuances along the way a few vocal doobie doobie doo’s. The flute enters into the equation wonderfully and it picks up nicely around the 4;26 mark where the drums swings into action and is accompanied by some really excellent bass work and a touch of orchestration on the keys adds well to it all to drive it home very well indeed.
It’s another really GREAT! track and has a bit of Pink Floyd feel to it. It also rounds off the album wonderfully and puts to end one truly MAGNIFICENT! album.
To sum up the album Easy Targets by How Far To Hitchin. There is no doubt in my mind that Paul Dews has created a very special body of work with all the material he has written for this album. He has somehow managed to craft out a very unique and very special album that will be very hard even for himself to beat. To be honest I doubt if he could ever come up with another album like this even if he tried for the rest of his life.
But then again even from listening to some of the songs he wrote before or around the same time he was working on this album. It’s easy to see that he is such a GREAT! songwriter and a guy who has a GIFT! and the right skills to weave out MAGIC! Both his songwriting and arranging skills are without doubt works of ART. Everything about Paul Dews is a work of ART including his album covers. The album Easy Targets is a form of ART ROCK and even though the album does have a few pop songs along the way, the ART! is how they have been placed on the album.
I do feel to get the best out of an album like this you will have to play it from start to finish. I also feel that the album was designed to be listened to in its entirety too, and that’s how an album like this can effectively work so very well even with the odd pop song on it. It’s very much like a concept album and to get the full benefit out this album you will have to treat it like one and play it through its entirety to reap the full benefit and pleasure an album like this can present to you.
For example out of the 3 of the 4 songs I consider on the album to be pop songs “Collateral“. “Push” and the “Flowers From Burma“. Would not have enticed me to buy this album at all, whereas “Shitbags” would have certainly made me investigate the album more regarding the 4 pops songs there is on the album. I am not saying that they are bad songs either, but they are very much the sort of keyboard orientated songs that would speak very little to me if I was to hear them individually on the radio on their own.
When listening to the whole album they speak to me much more and I can appreciate them more with how they work with the rest of the tracks on the album. They are also tracks I would not skip either, simply because every track fits so well together and it’s as if the album is a 12 piece jigsaw puzzle where all the pieces fit perfectly together to make it up. It is without doubt a very special unique album and one that I have not come across in donkeys of years. Everything I have stated in my review here is exactly how I see the album Easy Targets.
My personal highlights from the album are as follows: “Helpless“. “Our Friend Is In The Meadow”. ‘The Peacocks Of Birkby“. “Grief Mining“. “Sick Little Monsters“. “Shitbags” and “Resistance Is Futile“.
In conclusion I would say that the album Easy Targets by How Far To Hitchin is an album that has the ability to draw you in just like Pink Floyd’s iconic album The Dark Side Of The Moon can easily do. I would not say that the album Easy Targets is prog rock to which Floyd’s album certainly is more attached to that genre. But Pink Floyd are not all about prog rock and that is why their music appeals to a much wider audience and why they are far more successful than most prog rock bands. You are not going to get soaring atmospheric guitar solos like David Gilmour which is what makes that band stand out a mile either.
In many ways the album Easy Targets is deprived of guitar solos if anything. It’s an album that does not need guitar solos to reach out and grab you to warm and draw you to it. It works itself upon you in its own unique way and even though you will hear many influences from many other artists along its path. They are not necessary artists who are associated with prog rock.
I do hear some Roger Waters and Pink Floyd in small parts. I even hear the odd glimmer of percussion you would find on both Peter Gabriel’s and Steve Hackett’s albums. You may even get a slight touch of The Moody Blues. But you will also hear artists who are not really associated with prog rock at all such as David Bowie. Radiohead and many others.
But what you will hear more than anything is Paul Dews. Simply because the way he has gone about everything is so different just like Pink Floyd went about things differently when they made that iconic album Dark Side Of The Moon and that is what makes this album so special and unique in his own rights and even more so original. This is an album that simply has to be HEARD! and is quite a GEM!
You can listen to the album for free on Spotify here : https://open.spotify.com/playlist/71rpRIp2iKyN0T7CCFAd2f#_=_
Alternatively you can purchase the album in the form of a Digital Download for £7 or on CD for £10 from the official website here: http://www.howfartohitchin.com/store
I Am Sitting In The Dark, But I’m Not Hiding From You…
The album track listing is as follows:
01. Resistance Is Futile. 8:31.
02. Our Friend Is In The Meadow. 6:09.
03. Gladhander. 5:40.
04. The Peacocks Of Birkby. 5:15.
05. Collateral. 4:25.
06. Push. 4:05.
07. Grief Mining. 5:11.
08. Helpless. 6:54.
09. Flowers From Burma. 4:48.
10. Shitbags. 4:44.
11. Sick Little Monsters. 5:45.
12. Secateurs. 6:08.