The Virginmarys Divides on Colored 2LP + Download
Follow-Up to English Alt-Rock Trio's 2013 Debut Kings of Conflict
Call To Confirm Colored Copies Are Still Available
The Virginmarys are old hands at soldiering on, but only because they care so deeply. Devoted Macclesfield, England lads – although drummer Danny Dolan originally hails from Manchester and singer, guitarist and lyricist Ally Dickaty moved there ten years ago from Helsby – they have carved a path to international acclaim with hard graft, hard knocks and hard talk. Their sophomore set, Divides, is undoubtedly one of the most impressive, adventurous and outspoken rock records of 2016, tackling themes from the deeply personal to the vehemently political with punk force and melodic panache. From the gargantuan cavern riffs of "Push The Pedal" to the epic finale of "Living In My Peace," it's a record unafraid to scale the barricades and bare its bruises.
Ally sums it up, "The overall theme of the album is the divides among people, freedom and power, injustice, inequality and corruption. Anger, disillusionment, injustice, frustration about where I feel we are in today's society. History repeating. Restraint by systems that benefit the few and the choices left to take part or be cast aside and face persecution. The rise of depression and anxiety and use of anti-depressants and drugs across the globe. Disillusion in politicians and democracy. There's a lot of divides with us in Britain, many created by the government and media turning people against one another. We are brainwashed with who to love, who to fear, who is good and who is evil."
On the political front, the furiously pop metal "Free To Do Whatever They Say" – named in tribute to Bill Hicks' legendary Go Back To Bed America routine - confronts "the control the system and government has on people." And the love-as-warfare "For You My Love" has Ally sneering "they bring their wine and missiles, aim and fire for fun" and promising that "if I must fight, I will fight for you, my love." Even a song like "Motherless Land," ostensibly a rousing rock love story about a heroic, down-at-heels couple escaping down a Springsteen-style highway, is full of references to prescription drug addiction, environmental disaster and how the war on terror only creates more terrorists to fight.
When he approaches personal issues, meanwhile, Ally always finds a wider significance. Giving up alcohol a few years ago - and the disillusionment, depression and boredom that followed – inspired "Into Dust" and "Walk In My Shoes," but he twists them into elegies for society's most downtrodden, struggling under governments hell-bent on punishing them. The stirring epic "Moths To A Flame" also touches on drug addiction and the cruelties it brings. It's not all bleakness and politico punk vitriol, mind. There are heartwarming – and occasionally sexy - bits too. "Halo In A Silhouette" is a lusty roar of adoration over "an unconventional angel whose being true to herself. Kind of like a hippy girl with nettles in her hair rather than flowers," while "I Wanna Take You Home" is your basic, no-nonsense shagging song, right?
It all ends in a good place too. The moving stadium ballad "Living In My Peace" finds Ally - sober, eye-opened but struggling with temptations to slip back into his bad old ways. It's a remarkable record full of heartfelt revelations, astute social commentary, rib-crushing noise and head-spinning melody. Buy in. Lose control.