In A Middle English Town
Following 2020’s debut EP ‘Redevelopment’ and 2021’s double whammy single releases of ‘Modern Yuppies’ and ‘White Shirt/Clean Shirt’, Home Counties have returned with another slice of eccentric indie-pop, intertwined with scathing observations on English life and all of its misguided particularities. ‘In A Middle English Town’ is where the five piece have pushed themselves both sonically and thematically; embracing their further furrows into electronic trickery on the former, while doubling down on all things idiosyncratic and frustrating with the UK, both past and present, on the latter.
Across 4 tracks, Home Counties squirm, writhe and wiggle their way through undulating soundscapes that take in the quirkier aspects of indie, electronica, pop and post-punk, where largely the energy and playfulness is pushed to the max. Starting as they mean to go on ‘Back to the 70s’ boings and bobs with angular textures as vocalist/guitarist Will Harrison skips from spoken-word and a sung delivery between the verses and chorus. The EP’s opener is a tongue-in-cheek response to the archetypal British view of “things being better in my day”, as seemingly people have a distorted, nostalgic view of the 1970s as being a utopian time. Let’s be honest with an inept Conservative government, high inflation, widespread racism and boarded up high streets, there’s not a lot of difference between now and then. This is typified by Harrison jovially tossing out “go on and hit me with tax/in double figures” and “how will the country collapse/if it’s already in pieces”. With synths and the quirki-dar (it’s a thing!) dialled up a notch, ‘The Home Counties’ tells the story of a non-descript couple plodding through soulless modernity. It’s the classic case of keeping up appearances as Harrison takes up the role of narrator “the cracked foundations show/after they’re forced to sell the second home/they know the neighbours know”. All the while burbling synths, jerky guitars and layered percussion add an eccentric juxtaposed layer to a humdrum existence.
A frantic energy envelopes ‘Ad Gammon’, as a dancey, awkwardness is powered by weird sci-fi noises and Harrison’s strained vocals while he belts out “we don’t need your drones/we police ourselves” (something the vocalist overheard while in Ashbourne, Derbyshire; a town in the UK known for its annual no-rules football match that turns it’s rather average streets into a scrum of bodies every year). It’s another fine example of small-town English peculiarities. Closing off ‘In A Middle English Town’ is ‘Village Spirit’, probably the calmest song on the EP but no less weird when it comes to its toy town digital squelches and it’s commentary on insular goings on out in the sticks. “Making a scene/on the village green/is a drunk, proud and angry/community” trills Harrison, seemingly poking fun at Daily Mail readers who are more than likely outraged at everything. According to Harrison, redemption isn’t going to be visiting their white picket fences and summer fetes anytime soon though “village spirit has no limits/god is virtue/church won’t save you”.
Take it from someone who’s lived in the UK all of their life ‘In A Middle English Town’ perfectly encapsulates all that’s weird, wonderful and unspeakably frustrating about this strange little island.
Pre-order: In A Middle English Town by Home Counties HERE