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Alex Highton

Nobody Knows Anything

Gare du Nord Records

Released: 13th October 2014 | 13 track alt country album

It's not the second album that's difficult. Melodies, harmonies and words all come embarrassingly easy to a born songwriter like Alex Highton. It's the life that happens in-between the songwriting and the recording that's the hard bit.

Don't get this wrong, Alex knows that he deserves little pity for leading a wonderful life with his wife and children out there in Woodditton, Cambridgeshire. However, having got the observational stuff off his chest so gloriously on his debut Woodditton Wives Club two years ago, on this follow-up he now turns on himself.

The results can be seriously discomforting, albeit in a highly melodic way. It's Alex Highton after all, though these days his ever-evolving craft as a writer approaches Steely Dan levels of effortless complexity and Paddy McAloon-like supersmart nonchalance (witness It Falls Together, the bonkers Panic, the epic Mephisto or Sunlight Burns Your Skin for sheer unhinged musicality) as well as a newfound taste for sharp-edged lyrical brutality. For the sake of one more comparison, the achievement of a devastating statement like I Only Asked You to Try followed by a heavy-weight of a song such as Somebody Must Know Something, elegantly arriving at its conclusion that God is dead or he's left, that's the only explanation, must surely rank as Highton's big Randy Newman moment.

It's me trying to work out the point of it all really, to which the answer is I haven't got a clue and nobody has, he says, That Richard Dawkins advert that they had on the side on the London buses 'There is probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.' is probably were it's at, I sort of quote this in the chorus to a song called Fear. The title Nobody Knows Anything is a famous quote about people in Hollywood trying to make hit movies that I stole from William Goldman, a big hero of mine that I forgot to thank in the credits. All the songs are me trying to conquer my own existential crisis, I suppose, and I get pissed off with the certainties presented to me by religions and politicians. In fact I did record it with the loose idea that these songs were the thoughts running through someone's head just before they die. It's certainly structured in that way.

So there is a structure after all. To anyone outside Alex Highton's head it would sound more like a brilliant explosion of original thoughts, ideas and instinctive expression.

What sets Nobody Knows Anything apart from its folky predecessor at the very first listen is the extended cast of players joining Highton in his sometimes almost jazzy, avant-whatever, then sometimes stripped-back arrangements. Next to his long-time cohorts double-bass-player Jonny Bridgwood (Morrissey, Kathryn Williams, The Leisure Society etc.) and drummer Howard Monk (Billy Mahonie, The Clientele etc.), producer David Bear Dobson, Laura J Martin, Bonnie Dobson, Jonathan Tall Tree Six Foot Man Czerwik, Nancy Wallace (of The Memory Band and The Owl Service) and Robert Rotifer (of Rotifer) all make appearances, as do my wife, my kids, the dentist who lives next door and loads of others.

It's still the village life, then, but equipped with a magical wardrobe that opens to a wondrous world of sounds and dreams.

"World class"
The Guardian, Album review
"Restores your faith in the genre"
Tom Robinson, BBC 6Music
"Laid back but infectious song-craft"
Time Out, Album Review
"A collection of wonderful, timeless pop songs."
Lust For Life, Album Review
"The qualification ‘world class’ proves to be right. Also the second album is filled with quality music gracefully going into the ears."
OOR Magazine, Album Review
"Each time you listen, you’re being sucked into this wondrous world more deeply. Fascinating album."
Jazzism Magazine, Album Review
"His second album is just as fine. Easy to listen to and beautifully arranged."
Heaven Magazine, Album Review
"....striking experimentation and heartfelt lyrics....He certainly hasn’t lost any of his edge over the years, instead consistently reinventing his music and experimenting with sound. Alex may claim that Nobody Knows Anything but I’m certain this is a great album."
Spiral Earth, Album Review
"Original, distinctive, liable to drive you mad. Great stuff."
Honey & Bile, Track of the day
"Surely one of the best albums of the year *****"
Ctrl Alt Country, Album Review