Hi, guys currently working on new album. There are 19 songs written for it, but they will be culled a little and the best ones will be used.
In 1858, four intrepid people decided they would build a rocket and be the first humans to land upon the moon. The crew were, Miss Ruby Snow, Sir Matthew Cogsmith, Sgt Mungo Stoker and The Red Gentleman.
They thought that fame would be just ahead of them and to this end they used only the finest English mahogany to build the rocket with and then coated it with twenty layers of varnish to ensure the safety of this magnificent project. Then they equipped it with the grandest steam engine that ever was made the north of England's premiere factories.
For provisions they brought on board a wide range of tea .For as any good explorer knows, when trouble raises its head the only solution for those times is a jolly good cup of tea.....and biscuits of course.
But alas soon after launching the rocket, it was discovered that there was a shortage of oxygen high in the Earths atmosphere that was not taken into account, and the engine stalled. The rocket tall and proud, slowly at first, came hurtling back to Earth and landed with an almighty crash amid the deep snows of the Antarctic.
There, the crew lay frozen for over 150 years. They were eventually discovered years later by a group of modern day scientists who were checking the effects of global warming on the Ice caps.
After being brought back to life and questioned about their travails, they were quietly taken to live in North Queensland, Australia. There they soon realized that they had no skills to live in this modern world. So they did the only thing they could to survive.
They became musicians and formed a band.
The Littmus Steampunk Band.
History of Richard Ryall. aka The Red Gentleman.
He was born on The Isle of Sheppey in Kent, England and now lives in North Queensland, Australia. He took up playing music in his mid forties, a rather late starter. It all began when he discovered an Irish band and one of them was playing a Bodhran. He thought to himself that this looked easy and seemingly it was. After a short period he realised that this was a dead end as no-one would book him to play 3 hours on the Bodhran. So moving on to something else he decided that the mandolin looked interesting. This was a pleasant surprise as his little fat fingers fitted the instrument perfectly. At this stage he wrote his very first song called " Barleycorn Wine ". A little bouncy ditty in the folk tradition. Joining up with some friends he formed the Irish band " The Syrup Of Figs" after hearing a recording by the late Ramblin Syd Rumpole who said, If music be the food of Gods then we are the Syrup Of Figs ( a good spoonful clears the old constipation problem). After getting bored playing cover songs etc. He bought on Acoustic Guitar and taught himself the basics using some of the fingering techniques he learnt from the mandolin. He has tried to do them properly but decided, bugger it. After writing some songs which he finds rather easy to do and doesn't comprehend why other people can't do it, he set off on his latest journey. Forming Littmus he wrote 5 albums which are now out of print as he decided they were just practising for better ones.
It was then that he discovered on the Internet " Steampunk ". His eyes lit up like the fireworks on Sydney Harbour Bridge on New Years Eve. This is what he was wanting all along in his songs. So immediatly he began work on the new project called " Littmus Steampunk Band " ( later changed to Littmus Steam Band as people thought he was a punk band that spits on people). Thirteen albums were quickly produced, two of which are compilations and he has not looked back ever since. Currently he has written somewhere between 350 and 400 songs. He hopes to record most of them eventually.
Review of De Kermis Album by Cap Nathaniel Tennyson Skirmish
WAXING ABOUT… De Kermis by LITTMUS STEAMPUNK BAND
Now, I have to declare Cap Nathaniel Tennyson Skirmishan interest in today’s review. As in one of bias. Because, for the first time, I have been involved in an album that I’m reviewing. It was with much honour that I was asked by Richard Ryall of LITTMUS STEAM BAND if I would like to write some lyrics for potential tracks on the new album, DE KERMIS. News of my award-winning songwriting must have reached Australia (for clarity, it was a folk award from BBC Radio Lincolnshire. In 2012. Second place. Still, it counts, doesn’t it?)
‘De Kermis’ is the Dutch word for funfair, and the album was inspired by Richard’s visit to Amsterdam late last year, which leads us very neatly into the opening song, ‘Amsterdam’, the first single from the album. It’s a slice of life, casually observed from a coffee house, maybe, and a take on the underbelly of the city. The hidden side, if you will. American banjo emphasises the storytelling nature of the song and lends a late sixties air to proceedings. Fabulous start! ‘Kermis’ has an electro-swing vibe to it as it opens, shifting a gear to invite us into the circus, with searing strings as the song lists all the accompanying amusements to be found at the fair. “We all love you” intones the barker, with an underlying unease. “All you’ve ever wished for you is here so please enjoy, become a happy family, your sadness we’ll destroy.” The instrumental fade out suggests darker intentions… A sweeping violin and tinkling harp open ‘Make Us Laugh’ and this is the age old tale of the fool, the joker, the clown as the sad faced Pierrot, low on spirit behind that mask. He knows he’s not the man in the mirror. The track sways along with suitable melancholy, the vocal chasing the instrument, like the fool chasing his destiny. Next along is ‘Alice’ and a piano and brushed drum number with sax and trumpet feel to it. “Alice asks the questions off the wall, but the answers come from a mirror down the hall” we’re told, as Alice feels a little stranger every day; a little sadder, but getting better. The bright garish lure of the fair at night is too hard to resist, and Alice yearns to head for the lights. ‘No-one Rides The Ghost Train Anymore’ was the second of the two songs for which I submitted lyrics, and I must say Richard has done it proud; it has a suitably eerie edge to it, and his voice sends chills. The guitar work is fantastic, and the haunted piano a masterstroke. There’s a wonderfully menacing instrumental section before the chorus kicks back in again, and I could genuinely not be more chuffed to hear what he’s done with, and for, my words. On to ‘Tunnel Of Love’ now, and the story of young love played out to a sturdy backbeat. The young man is called up, and away to the war, and before long a fateful missive is delivered to his never-to-be. Cornelia is destined to evermore visit the Tunnel of Love alone. ‘Tin Can Man’ begins with a ran-tan beat, evoking the tin can sounds that are used in the cup and ball trick. Musically it put me in mind of a favourite band of mine called The Triffids, particularly their ‘Black Swan’ album. The ran-tan-cans beat throughout the track, backed by beautiful guitar sounds. We’re off to visit the ‘Fortune Teller’ next, as a Neil Young guitar strum sweeps in from who knows where. Vocal effects are very much the thing on this one, with a variety of styles, and lushly plucked strings are in abundance. It’ll stay with you long after it’s finished. ‘The Water in The Creek’ has more than a touch of Americana to it. It seems to serve as a break in proceedings, it’s very contemplative and has a steady pattern to it, with exemplary musicality. The lyrics for this next song came to me one afternoon, and I couldn’t have come up with a tune that sounds more like it could be one of mine! ‘Find The Lady’ is the story of a card trick sleight of hand that appears to pay out, but only ever pays the stooge who’s in on it. Yes, the funfair is unfair. I love the whistling section, you really can’t beat a song with a good whistle to it in my opinion. And the repeated use of ‘nothing’ (which Richard has added) are a nihilistic perfection. The last but one song is called ‘I’m Watching You’, a fast-paced rocking track with a buzzsaw sound, a repeated chant of the title, and some very cool instrumentation (incidentally, all instruments are played by Richard Ryall, and all the music written by him. Barring the aforementioned two songs, all lyrics are also his.) This one is a sure contender for follow-up single. And so we reach the end with ‘Not Needed Anymore’ and a piano-led number. It’s a fitting end to our journey; a resting place - an end, and yet a beginning.
All in all ‘De Kermis’ is a remarkable album. That is, it’s another remarkable album from Littmus Steam Band, for I’ve yet to hear anything from Richard’s offerings that sound like any of the previous, yet still sound irrefutably like Littmus Steam Band. And that’s quite something. Roll up, roll up, and download ‘De Kermis’ today.
Review of "RED" album
WAXING ABOUT… RED by LITTMUS STEAM BAND ............Review by Capt Nathaniel Tennyson Skirmish
I’m always delighted when a new Littmus Steampunk Band (now Littmus Steam Band) album arrives at my door, and quickly chasing April’s ‘Burlesque’ down the street comes the new album, RED. Main man Richard Ryall calls it “an album of part Steampunk themes as well as a bit of commercial Pop” so let’s dive in and see where it takes us.
First track ‘Follow Me’ kicks down the door right away with a big drumbeat and an all almost rockabilly guitar line as the Red Gentleman implores us to accept his near pied-piper status, and we willingly oblige. We’ve got screaming, screeching brass tones and searing strings aplenty, and we’re ready to bop ‘til we drop, in what’s a great opener to the album, and if you’re a Litmmus virgin, a great introduction. Lovely strummed ending solidifies the Gene Vincent-esque feel. ‘A Fine Time For Me’ is up next, with an eighties ska trumpet starting proceedings, repeating a real louche drawl betwixt the verses which are backed with string sounds. Richard’s voice develops a bit of a Tom Waits type growl in places, adding a little air of appropriate menace. And so we’re on to ‘Jimmy The Weazel’, a ran-tan march through old England’s shady lanes with shady characters. Gypsy violin dances with the pots and pans percussion, and a discordant synth sound joins in just for the hell of it. Marvellous. ‘The Great Unknown’ has shades of The Beatles to it (yes, that’s right, I went there). I could picture a video to this one featuring Blue Meanies even. It’s a swaying carouse of a story; soft-brushed drums and piano vying with lush strings. Time to get a little seasonal now with ‘The Day After Christmas Day’ as the clock tocks quickly on, alcohol fumes wafting throughout the twenty-fifth as the comatose victim has fallen before and not risen until after. It’s a cautionary tale in support of temperance, which is not as popular as it used to be (if indeed it ever was)! The next track up is called ‘The Brass Harpies Love Gin’, so maybe the notion of temperance has fallen by the wayside! The insistent notes of a piano strike out and we sway boozily and sing along to the glory of gin “Gin, gin, where does it begin, oh hey there lord, don’t make it a sin”. Indeed. I’ll drink to that. ‘I Cannot Remember’ (that’s probably the gin) starts with a good steady beat and heady strum, and gets really rocking along, a full and proper pop song like they used to be, back in the day. It has a bit of an eighties vibe to it, always a good thing as far as I’m concerned, and would sound perfectly at home blasting on the radio, cruising down dusty roads, like promo videos did back then. Next we have ‘The Fall’, a slight return to the ran-tan sound, with drums Mo Tucker style, beaten into submission. It’s a heavy-set ballad, really, all pomp and power, grandiose guignol for the here and now. “Here comes the fall … look at the sky, it’s unravelling” it cries, as those drums match the further tocking clock while piano notes dance in and out. ‘Brass Harpies Are Swinging’ is a fast-paced electro-swing with a deliriously danceable brass theme, so hep it hurts, and absotively posilutely cooking with gas. Clocking in at a far too short three minutes, but then again any longer and that rug would have been much more literally cut. So onto the penultimate track, ‘The Silence Of The Women’, a treatise on suffrage and shattering glass ceilings; powerful words backed by a thumping great score. And then we’re reaching the end of the journey, with ‘There Were Times’. Overlapping overdubbed choruses lift the verses nicely, crafting a fine work hewn from the rarest rock. A lovely little middle-eight darts in very unexpectedly and then is gone, and we’re chugging through again to an explosive end. Wow. You can never second-guess what an album by Littmus Steam Band is going to sound like, and while it does always have a distinctive feel, it’s certainly not to a pattern. Expect the unexpected. Accept you’ll be delighted.
Review " Grand Hotel "
Cap Nathaniel Tennyson Skirmish
WAXING ABOUT… GRAND HOTEL by LITTMUS STEAMPUNK BAND
Come on in, my friends - you’re just in time to catch another edition of WAXING ABOUT… where this week we shall be enjoying the aural delights of GRAND HOTEL by Littmus Steampunk Band. So settle in, pour yourself a nice cold gin, and listen in to Townsville, Queensland’s finest. This “band of castoffs, let go from around the world” as they put it, started life as a folk group; that much is evident from the phrasing of the songs and the gently refined musical styles herein. And that’s not to say that they can’t rock, because, boy, they can rock! The line-up of the group has changed over the course of their history (nine albums and two best-of compilations,) but the anchor is singer and songwriter Richard Ryall, who plays guitar, mandolin and synth in the band. I’m lucky enough to be in possession of six of their albums, and when I tell you that this one, the earliest I have, is from 2016, you can see how prolific they are. Furthermore, the quality and consistency does not drop across the spread, which is far from the norm for even most well established chart bands. Proceedings kick off with ‘The Grand Guignol Hotel’ where a spoken word intro is followed swiftly by Ryall’s mellifluous vocals. A suitably spooky tone is given to the song by the chorus of ethereal ‘ooh-oohs’ and echoed vocals, and the musicianship is exemplary. ‘We Launched Our Rocket,’ for which you may have seen the video on these very pages, is hot on the heels. A languorous build up worthy of Tom Waits lasts for over a minute before the rocket blasts off, and from there we’re bopping all the way to the stars in the steam-powered vessel. Next up is ‘Gaslight Man,’ which I’m reliably informed they now perform live in a reggae style, and I can totally see how that would work; it has an offbeat not dissimilar to Marley’s ‘Three Little Birds.’ One to sway to, and a lovely little tale in a glorious song. We get a bit mystical now with ‘Silver Occulus,’ as acoustic guitar leads us into an introduction by a cod cockney barker, extolling the virtues of a wondrous device. But beware, it’s a scam! That gadget is decidedly iffy! The song is in waltz time, with a military drum pattern as it closes suggesting the infantry are marching towards this dodgy trader to close the scoundrel down. Magnificent stuff. ‘Harbottle Grimstone’ has a late eighties flavour reminiscent of The Lightning Seeds or The Lilac Time, with a wonderful brass and mandolin motif. The song is told from the perspective of Harbottle’s family, as they wait for the errant explorer to return from afar and tell tales of his travels, derring-do and deeds. A poignant little tale next, and I’m reminded of both Pinocchio and the android figure in the film ‘Hugo’ with ‘When I Was A Boy.’ It’s a very short track with a clever ending as the boy breaks down. ‘When We Dream Of Steam’ has steam engine effects, and pines for an age that might not have existed quite as we’d imagined … or did it? Or indeed will it? Steampunk is yesterday’s future today. A thing of the past to look forward to. The track builds to a suitably confused/confusing crescending. Marvellous. The story of a fearsome giant octopus from the deep is told next in ‘Ronnoc / Ten Thousand Feet Below,’ an evocatively charged number with a nautical theme, and a taste of shanty band. We’re lead straight into ‘Have You Ever Been To War?’ after our encounter with the octopus, as marching drums head out into a smoggy battlefield. You can almost taste the cordite fumes as the sunlight peers tentatively over the horizon and highlights the devastation left by marauding pirates. ‘The Watchmaker’ is the story of a talented young horologist, with fitting chiming bells throughout, and concerns the exploits of Matthew, the titular artist, who creates a timepiece of golden cogs to impress his employer, who then berates him for using such an expensive metal, too soft a metal to keep time accurately. The cruel master dies in circumstances unknown, and Matthew inherits the shop he was promised but never dared to own. Did Matthew have a hand in his master’s demise? We may never know. A real singalong crowd pleaser closes the album. ‘Say Goodbye To Steampunk (I Don’t Think So)’ reminded me of the old graffito “Punk’s not dead” (which was sometimes added to with “it just smells funny” written beneath it on the wall.) Steampunk might be a thing of the past, but Littmus Steampunk Band will do their damnedest to ensure it has a bright future. The next chapter is already being written … so keep watching this space!
You can find the album at the link below:
Review of "Burlesque"
Cap Nathaniel Tennyson Skirmish
WAXING ABOUT… BURLESQUE by LITTMUS STEAM BAND
Today for WAXING ABOUT… I’m taking a return trip to a favourite band of mine. Previously they were called Littmus Steampunk Band, and while their style and ethic haven’t changed, they’ve dropped the ‘punk’ part to become simply LITTMUS STEAM BAND. This is apparently to stop puzzled looks and repeated explanations of what Steampunk is to their fellow Australian citizens! Led by Richard Ryall, aka The Red Gentleman, the band have a somewhat drifting and casual line-up, and for today’s review of their 2022 release BURLESQUE that line up is simply Richard on guitar, keyboards, samples, loops and vocals and with the addition of Meighan Williams, also on vocals, on tracks three and four.
BURLESQUE is a narrative, or concept, album, and follows the story of Natasha, a Burlesque Dancer from East Germany on the nineteen eighties, after the borders and the Berlin wall come down. From here she moves to London, and with the help of a ne’er-do-well manager, attempts to make it big in a new city. The scene is set. Enter ‘Natasha’. Fiddle and brass dive right in and give a sound fittingly somewhere between gypsy and oompah band as the sweet vocal tones of Mr. Ryall blend mellifluously and introduce us to the girl who just wants to dance. This short track nicely sets out the stall for the tale to be told as ‘Boris The Sleep’ arrives, a well-crafted piece with a gruffer vocal for Boris, and a sense of twirling through dingy streets, always aware, as jangling bells cascade and tumble all over the auction. Twanging bass lines open ‘I’m So Excited (London Town)’ and the wonderful vibrato of Meighan as Natasha draws you in to the start of her story in a new town. ‘Look At Me’ continues in Natasha’s voice as she beckons us to join her. Skimming and skirting the streets and the issues as she cajoles, cavorts, carouses and exhorts us to get carried along or carried away; our ears are ringing, is that an exultation of angelic voices or the calls of sirens we almost think we can hear? And so we’re on to ‘He Said Dance’ with the opener of lush strings, and Richard as narrator, watching Natasha dance and spin under the command of Boris, as it becomes clear that maybe our little Natasha is no longer living her own life. Will she become a puppet? A plaything? An automaton? ‘Stay (Sam’s Story)’ has a laid-back two-tone feel to it with lusciously lazy trumpets and an off-beat The Specials would kill for. Sam implores Natasha to stay, though he knows she’s fading, falling and failing, but he’s a constant, and maybe he’s come to know her better than she knows herself. A mockney cockney doorman at the dive, sorry, Burlesque revue where Natasha dances is calling out to the punters, touting for business for the club now in ‘Entertaining Ladies’ and we’re down in old Soho, or somewhere maybe off-Soho. Tatty banjo abounds! Oi-Oi! ‘I Don’t Believe You Anymore’ is a lush ballad that could grace the charts of any given year from the heyday of Scott Walker to the here and now of Elbow, each of whose form it resembles in some way. It contrasts completely with the dance feel of ‘For A Time’ which blends modern club with a sixties swing, as the story moves on and our heroine is existing rather than living, a grubby little life, seemingly destitute or on the verge of. Electro next, and industrial feel, as we head into ‘Goodbye’ where after verse and chorus it leads us into a post-grunge burst in keeping with a tragic demise. ‘It’s A Red Light’ starts with a full-on swing band feel and a vocal to match, with a catchy chorus which belies the overall seediness to the lyric, and an almost stride piano motif. Magnificent stuff. Whispering shimmering eighties-style keyboards sweep across the atmosphere now, as a plaintive vocal intones ‘She Can’t Dance Tonight’ and Natasha slips further away from being the dancer she dreamed she’d be, for the city has not been kind to her. It’s used her, and abandoned her. She ain’t clean, but she’s all washed up. A tragic tale indeed. But time marches on, and somehow there’s someone to pick up the pieces in ‘Your Hands In Mine’. This track has a gospel-like exuberance, a hope to it, and a great chant-worthy chorus to reinforce that all may not be doom and despair. It’s a short piece which leads to the denouement that is ‘Give Her Peace’ and it’s a rip-roaring stomper of a song with our narrator summing up the saga of Natasha’s trials and tribulations in burlesque and human bondage.
It’s an album that will bear repeated listens, and like all output from LSB will never disappoint. I’ve heard at least seven of their albums now, and have yet to hear a track that’s anywhere close to being even slightly below par. Invest some time and get to know the Littmus Steam Band. In the words of that club doorman: “Won’t you take some time and enter – it’ll be a laugh.”
BURLESQUE is available to download now from the new website (where you can also find lyrics as well as lots more albums)
WAXING ABOUT… WELCOME by LITTMUS STEAMPUNK BAND
Richard Ryall’s Littmus Steam Band (as they are now named) have released a series of beguiling and wonderful albums, and this offering from 2020 is one of my favourites. The title WELCOME might suggest this is their debut, but far from it. It’s more a suggestion of ‘Hey there, come on in, welcome to our world. Have a drink and just kick back awhile.’ For this album Richard takes on lead vocal duties and plays guitars, mandolin, keyboards and tin whistle, ably supported by Keith Rowntree on bass for one track, with Chris Reiterer and Shirani Williams on backing vocals. Additional musicians are Jason Curtis on Flugelbone, Susan Zealey on Violin, and Paul Morrison on bass.
So, what’s on offer? The first track is ‘Playing With The Crazies’, and instantly we’re drawn in to the beautiful madness surely to ensue. “Here I am and I’m playing with the crazies, but I don’t seem to fit in well” chimes the chorus over an urgent drumbeat, as our protagonist languishes in the asylum of the mind. It’s a great opener, and the shape of things to come. We continue with ‘Somewhere Near The Truth’ and a tale of a poor soul thrown to the ravages of London slum life and Newgate jail (before being transported to the colonies) in a time that was so heavily cruel to such unfortunates. Richard evokes his inner Dickensian cockney miscreant on the vocals, as sad violin zings away in the background, and piano raindrops fall like cold poison. ‘Old Grey Factory’ opens with something reminiscent of an old-world spiritual song. Brass marches lazily, boozily in, swaying like a leviathan of human greyness. “Take me down to the old grey factory, my body’s gone but I’m free to roam” the wretch moans, like Marley’s ghost. Fantastically atmospheric, mournful yet hopeful. Tom tom drumbeats and strummed acoustic guitar now for ‘Ships In’. Airship engines buzz on a dark and stormy night; “I see no ships a-coming” warns the backing vocal, a portentous earworm. The craft is brought to a tragic end in the Yorkshire Dales, as fifteen of the twenty-strong crew perish. Maybe this track was inspired by one of the ‘R’ class airship disasters of the early twentieth century? It’s a beautifully crafted song, full of heavy atmosphere. No clues needed from whence this next song takes inspiration. ‘The Centre Of The Earth’ starts in waltz time and the vocal sways in telling the story of the initial expedition of this giant machine. A real proper steampunk theme with fine Vernian credentials, this. There’s a sense of foreboding in the instrumental passages, of depths, constricting and contorting, which closes with an eerie fadeout. Blimey, who’s in need of a cuppa? Time to ‘Bitch That Pot’ then, an old phrase for pouring tea which is surely in need of re-introducing. It’s a jazzy little number that put me in mind of ‘The Lovecats’ in places, and really swings along. We’re back in old London town now, with a military drum pattern to ‘1884’, a century-early take on Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984. It’s a clever way of transposing the theme to Victorian England, and musically rather inventive. ‘An Ageing Robot Arsonist’ keeps us London bound, back in time slightly to 1861 and a tale of confessions to fiery digressions. There’s a bit of a rockabilly beat to this one, and why not. You could think of this as a kind of steampunk ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ in format. Some uplifting bopping brass takes ‘Let’s Make A New World’ up a gear, a hope for the future. “Let’s make a new world, we’ll move into the skies, gigantic floating cities is where you’ll run your lives”. So many of the songs here invoke inspiring visuals; it’s a soundtrack to a film yet to be made. ‘The Curse Of The Bunbury Rum’ is an old seafaring tale concerning the superstitions of the waves. Featuring fast guitar work, handclaps and some awesome drum sounds, this is a very folksy offering, and all the better for it. We near the end of our voyage now with the suitably titled ‘I Miss You’, though this is hardly the plaintive ballad it’d have you believe. With lyrics including “A full moon glowing in the night and I won’t see your face tonight” and “when the rage that curses through your blood takes you far from me” (curses, you’ll notice, not courses) we’re into the realms of lycanthropy as a man pines for his lupine love. And so we conclude with a rip-roaring rocker, a la Neil Young, with ‘Old Steampunks Never Die’, music as ever by Richard Ryall, but words on this one track by Steven C Davis. And what a great song it is, a proper anthem for the cause. “With tea and biscuits served a sigh goes out, and music plays, and memories return” we’re told. Here’s to that. You can’t go wrong with a Littmus album; they’ll always get you in the mood for shenanigans, or lift the sunken spirit. Beautiful stuff.