I Fight Lions : By Chance or DesignApril 4th 2019
If this website has a deep principle driving it, then it is rooted in constraint. Limiting yourself to the culture near to hand is enriching on three levels. First it means everything experienced has a direct context you can connect to. Second you can see the music and art without too much trouble (or expense). Finally, and specifically, in North West Wales you soon find the magic that exists in the Welsh language music scene.
For me, the last point is sparely illustrated in Huw Stephens' recent film, Anorac, when Abergele's Dau Cefn perform Moel Famau in a bus shelter - channelling and twisting half a century of Cymraeg contemporary music heritage into a few minutes of DIY poetic majesty, uninterrupted by Arriva.
Bangor's bilingual indie marvels I Fight Lions have, over three albums, also underlined the value that turns up if you limit your options to the distance you could cover in a long walk. With this, their latest LP, and in contrast to a recent jubilant run of releases, the band express their trademark joie de vivre in English; By Chance or Design comes out on the heels of last year's Be Sy'n Wir? and an acoustic EP, Diwedd Y Byd, a few months ago, both of which were Welsh language mini-masterpieces.
The album opens with Better Days, an expressive song about finding succour at home in a world of chaos. It sets the tone for the funked up stroll the rest of the album offers.
There are eight tracks, no filler. The radio-friendly Between the Lines has the foremost melodic lilt, Just Rock 'n' Roll a brilliant arch lyric (including 'Who needs soul when you've got solos?') over a bluesy garage work out - Terrorvision on green tea not tequila. Modern Day Gods is a waltzing, upbeat attack on social inequality, that smokes its cigarettes in a continental holder, and Sticks & Shields is the finest piece on the album, not least for its clever anti-war lyric, with atavistically armed police set against a peace march:
'There's violence in the air tonight, it's brewing up a storm
In the cold, we stand united, trying to keep each other warm
The truncheons give percussion, but their beat's not one of peace
It's a hard macabre march advancing down these crowded streets
And arm in arm, we sing our anthems; arm in arm we cry
That we have won this war already because love is on our side
Though we know that love has never won a war before
If we stand strong and tall, we may just have something worth standing for'
This is intelligent, complete music; made for festival stages, not for pubs. For the way the album lifts your mood to optimism, and suggests that there is hope, I Fight Lions sound like going out on a Friday night in 1996 felt - if you have no memories of that year, then the analogy may only offer a fuzzy logic, but take it as read there's no better feeling.
It says on the band's website they, 'write songs and perform them in public places; often for applause, seldom for money.' There are gigs at Pie Records, Rhos on Sea on Friday 26th April and then FOCUS Wales on May 16th as part of a tour to promote By Chance or Design. Go and see them, and buy a copy of the album before you do; think global, act local - if you are not part of the cure, then you are part of the disease.
I FIGHT LIONS I By Chance or Design
- Fri April 26th : Pie Records [Rhos on Sea]
- Sat May 4th : Y Pengwern [Llan Ffestiniog]
- Thu May 16th : Focus Wales [Wrexham]
- Sat May 18th : Clwb Pêl Droed Nantlle Vale
- Sat May 25th : Blaenau Ffestiniog
- Sat June 22nd : Tafwyl
- Sat July 13th : Gŵyl Arall