Hardwicke Circus - Fly The Flag (2023)
The Hardwickes are a top notch, rock and roll quintet with a vintage sound and modern passions. Fly the Flag is their second studio record and it arrives after a live LP they recorded in an English prison.
The 80s have always been a decade I've dumped on - and these guys sound like that's where most of their influences come from - but they don't rely on synths and drum machines as their modus operandi. Yes, electronic keyboards are part of the mix, but this outfit isn't Depeche Mode. They use modern technology the way it should be used - as another instrument in the band - not instead of the band.
Fly The Flag is loaded with eleven original rock and roll songs - plus one cover - and it's all played very well.
Hardwicke Circus are brothers Jonny Foster (lead vocals and guitars), Tom Foster (drums and vocals), Joe Hurst (bass, sax and vocals), Jack Pearce (saxophones and vocals) and Lewis Bewley-Taylor contributes his vast array of keyboards and a few other interesting instruments. He plays grand piano, accordion, trumpet, theremin, Hammond organ, Oberheim synthesizer, Moog, clavinet and Wurlitzer. The Foster brothers are the primary composers but everyone lends their talents to the end results.
The album was produced by veteran Dave Robinson which may explain Hardwicke's throwback sound. The highly regarded executive became legendary as the co-founder of Stiff Records where he signed a big roster of artists including The Damned, the late Kirsty MacColl, Tracey Ullman and Celtic folk-punkers, The Pogues. Robinson also managed other stars that he eventually signed to Stiff: Elvis Costello, Ian Drury, and former Rockpile bandmates Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe. He also produced Lowe's first band, the 70s, English pub-rockers, Brinsley Schwarz. Earlier, Robinson was a roadie for Jimi Hendrix.
Hardwicke's subject matter ranges from that old tried and true pop music subject of romantic relationships to serious social concerns. It can be said that the Fosters write unique songs.
On "Rejection Is Better Than Regret" Jonny Foster sings "Rejection is better than regret my love, I guess that's why you're my ex, You're so sweet and lovely though, But I don't like the way you look with him." It's not your ordinary love song.
"Can You Hear Me Now" is about refugees trying to escape the Taliban. I was there at the graveyard of the empire In the province of Helmand, Crossing the Kuh-e Bandaka From the grip of the Taliban, Down the deserts dusty highway, Lonesome on the trail, 3000 miles and a lonely prayer." Heavy thoughts indeed, but still musical.
The Hardwickes can also party hardy, just like the best of those old pub-rockers. The set closes with "No More Doggin'" - an old blues tune originally released by Roscoe Gordon in 1952. It's a celebratory song extraordinaire that should provide a hot time at any live gig.
You know this group has to be good because they've been championed by the likes of Paul McCartney, who helped them secure a spot in last year's Glastonbury festival.
I like Hardwicke Circus a lot and you should too.