Jon Byrne
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Jon Byrne

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"MOJO"

***

It’s Boring Being in Control (Militant Entertainment)

Ex-busker’s rough diamond debut.

If I tell you that Jon Byrne was a busker from Barrow discovered, quite literally, ‘on the streets’ by Mick Jones, you might consider that a recommendation or a warning. Listeners will be equally divided when they learn that he’s no a man to veil his words in beguiling metaphor. He writes clunky pub rock songs about ASBO neighbours and predatory older women with lines like “My doorway’s always covered in dogshit” and “You can do me where the sun don’t shine”. Hardly raising the bar for wit or subtlety, but his blunt humour does raise a few smirks, he writes songs you can shout along to after six pints, and romantic vignettes like Wonderful Woman and Nothing My Dear display a tender truthfulness that sticks in the memory.
Johnny Sharp
- Johnny Sharp


"CLASH"

7/10

It’s Boring Being in Control (Militant Entertainment)

Discovered whilst busking by Clash legend Mick Jones, the Cumbrian troubadour’s passionate and raw social commentary is steeped in 1960's protest music, yet poignantly shines as a soundtrack to the UK's current and social and economic climate. As winner of Glastonbury's Left Field "New Artist" award, Byrne's crafted a collection of tracks which cover drug use, future generations, religion and the shortcomings of the welfare state. The wordsmith's lyrics are his passion and take the Arctic Monkeys' patter to a higher level of sophistication. 'Cocaine' narrates living under the influence, with a humorous honesty that can only be told by a Northerner, whilst 'Cigarette Song' is a hilarious parody about 'pulling' in nightclubs. We can all relate to that
- David Aaron


"UNCUT"

***

It’s Boring Being in Control (Militant Entertainment)

Former Busker Lets Rip on Debut Release

Byrne was spotted busking in West London by Mick Jones, no less, and was promptly sent to Glastonbury, where he won the Best New Artist Award at the Left Field stage. His sharp Lyrics and dry delivery are what stand out on songs like “Scumbags”, about his next door neighbours, and the heroically filthy “Cigarette Song”, putting him firmly in the anti-folk tradition. The tearjerkers “Impossible” and “Wonderful Woman” suggest there is more to him than caustic putdowns, but he does those so well, nobody should be complaining too much.
- David Shepherd


"ROCK 'N' REEL"

****

It’s Boring Being In Control (Militant Entertainment)

Imagine, if you will, Jake Thackray’s finger-on-the-pulse ability to document contemporary subjects and Shane MacGowan’s scalpel-precise wordsmithery backed by The White Stripes and you begin to get some idea of the content of It’s Boring Being In Control. Little wonder then, that Byrne won a Glastonbury new artist award in 2008.
Eschewing liberal PC niceties in describing some of the travails of modern life, Byrne brazenly tells it like it is on subjects as diverse as nightmare neighbours, predatory nightclub women and the prospects for the young underclass. I suspect, however, that there is some firm tongue-in-cheekery at play, for Byrne’s humour shines through on these and other cuts, most notably on “Nothing My Dear”, where the age-old and universal battle of the sexes is played out in, presumably, his native and ever present Barrow-in-Furness.
It’s not all grotesque cynicism however, and on “Sunshine” and “Wonderful Woman”, Byrne reveals that he can do optimism and affection too and these songs are no less convincing in their frankness than their more splenetic neighbours.

A startling debut from a very promising talent.
- David Innes


"CLASSIC ROCK"

7/10

It’s Boring Being In Control (Militant Entertainment)

Barrow-in-Furness street Bard’s Recession Rock debut.

Discovered by Mick Jones while plying his trade on Portobello Road, Byrne must have put the Clash legend in mind of Joe Strummer’s busking days.
With Songs that offer a withering, often despairing view of contemporary Britain, Byrne’s tell-it-like-it-is approach is as rare as it is welcome. “Scumbags”, with its description of street filled with violent drunks, vicious, incontinent bulldogs and ASBO-wearing youths suggest life in Barrow was less than rosy.
But Byrne tackles tough reality with splenetic attack, black humour and colourful dramatic songs. They even allow him to unleashing gruesome homicidal feelings (Voices) with compelling cast of characters and musical references that range from The Clash to the seasoned whine of Gallagher Junior (Sunshine)
This is rock from the rough end of the streets, delivered with guts and passion.
- Gavin Martin


"MAVERICK"

*****

It’s Boring Being In Control (Militant Entertainment)

Warning: bad language and seriously funny songs

I am unsure how to react to the opening song Cocaine as I am absolutely against the use of any drugs. There is use of foul language, which is not to be played around children or people offended easily. Second track Scumbag is still pretty down to earth and full of language that will be blanked out if this track ever achieved airplay. Lyrically, despite the use of cursing words, the song is actually very funny, as Jon talks about his scumbag neighbours. As the album progresses I begin to realise the first two songs were no exceptions to the use of indecent language and crudeness. If you can past the two songs, Cigarette Song will be you’re favourite, it is definitely mine. If you listen to Scumbag and think that is funny, Cigarette Song will have you clutching your sides in agony as you laugh uncontrollably.

Voices is a creepy number, but with Jon’s voice singing with the uplifting beat of the band you can’t help but laugh and nod along to him sing about being a mentally ill murderer as odd as it seems. This album is pleasantly full of laughs and enjoyable listening. Recommended to those with a great sense of humour. CB

- Charlotte Bones


"WHISPERIN & HOLLERIN"

********

It’s Boring Being In Control (Militant Entertainment)

Busking is a vastly under-valued trade. Over the years, it's bequeathed us legendary performers like Shack's Head Brothers and Can's Damo Suzuki, who was recruited by his band mates while allegedly shouting at the sky on the streets of Munich. Makes a change from the Bob Dylan songbook, that's for sure.

The latest crucial recruit from the busking circuit is Barrow-in-Furness native JON BYRNE. He has the distinction of being discovered by no less than The Clash's Mick Jones while singing his heart out on London's Portobello Road. Indeed, so impressed was Jones that Byrne soon became a regular at his Carbon Casino Events and he's since become a hero of Glastonbury's Left Field stage. If all these plaudits weren't enough, he's even been described as “fuckin' cool, man” by John Cooper Clarke. The pinnacle of anyone's career, surely.

Thankfully, instead of retiring after JCC'S praise, Byrne has hooked up with Geoff Martin's Militant Entertainment label and cut a largely fantastic debut album, 'It's Boring Being In Control'. As you might expect from a performer growing up in the tough, Northern town, Byrne's songs are gritty vignettes touching on life, love and lunacy, delivered with liberal helpings of humour, sorrow and desperation. Collectively, they are a vividly accurate depiction of these troubled, recessionary times.

Byrne's electric guitar and voice has been expanded with a core group featuring bassist Bobby Kewley (The Christians) and drummer Paul Tsanos (Pete Wylie, Ian McNabb) presenting a tight, economic combo sound and Alabama 3's Devlin Love providing the sweet and soulful vocal foil where required. She soon makes her presence felt on the rough-edged opener 'Cocaine' where Byrne also sets out his blunt, expressive lyrical stall in no uncertain terms. Over a cocky swagger of a groove (think Alabama 3 meets The La's), Byrne rips into drug-induced denial: “when you look in the mirror, what exactly do you see?/ That desperate, washed-up fucker looking back at me.” Wake up and smell reality's eau de ammonia indeed.

As it turns out, he's only just getting started. ASBO-aspiring songs like 'Scumbags' and the bleak 'No Future Generation' (“you get pissed all day, you never bother with school/ you're as thick as two planks, you’re addicted to glue”) are deadly accurate portraits of a modern society where having nothing to lose is the norm. The Withnail-meets-Shallow-Grave plot of 'Voices' is arguably even better: a quality suburban murder ballad (“I killed a man with a hammer and relieved him of all his cares/ I buried him along with the Taxman in the cupboard beneath the stairs”) set to an incongruously poppy stomp of a backbeat.

Thankfully, Byrne also appreciates the importance of leavening the madness with some well-placed ribald humour. The hilarious 'Cigarette Song' finds Jon desperate for a light but ending up on the receiving end of a lot more than he bargained for. 'Nothing My Dear' is a tragi-comic portrayal of a dysfunctional relationship involving all-important minutiae such as sleeping on the sofa and buying sheds and 'Don't Let Life Get You Down' is a waywardly brilliant tribute to the travails of being different in a conservative town like Byrne's hometown of Barrow.

There's the occasional stumble. Byrne's limited vocal range is raggedly exposed on the solo 'Halfway To Ruin' and the sincerity of 'Wonderful Woman' sounds strained and forced. The grand finale of 'Funny Old Town' is excellent though. The band all weigh in with personal bests; Devlin Love turns in a fine, doo-wop style performance and the extended, soul revue ending is both unexpected and convincing.

Outspoken and militant, Jon Byrne's biting British social realism may be too stark for those keen to bury their head and hope the current climate goes away. In a world where the likes of the X Factor still hold sway, though, his stinging commentaries are nettles we could all do with grasping.
- Tim Peacock


"ROOMTHIRTEEN"

12/13

It’s Boring Being In Control (Militant Entertainment)

Mr Byrne is at the beginning of a rags to riches tale of a spotted busker turned into a star, and whilst this is his debut album, having had the spotter being Mick Jones of the Clash, and with other admirers being Billy Bragg, Tom from Inspiral Carpets, Bonehead from Oasis and The Smiths drummer Mike Joyce, then the path is already being laid for gold…

So Jon’s debut album, ‘It’s Boring Being In Control’ is unleashed and it’s a lovely mix of stripped down Rock/Pop from the 1960’s with some Folk and Country pumped in for good measure. There is a passing resemblance to Frank Turner if he was out drinking with Nick Cave and Billy Bragg.

The first song, ‘Cocaine’ has a Country twang that could also be a Rockabilly track with a Surf Rock guitar sound, and is slightly Nick Cave mixed with a Micah P Hinson. This then leads to the slightly more Kinks-esque feel of, ‘Scumbags’ that has some great choice lyrics, “The kids they got an ASBO each for Christmas // The fathers always in and out of jail // The mother spends her time getting violent drinking wine // And celebrating her two weeks out on bail…” Great stuff! ‘The Cigarette Song’ has a strange synthesizer loop behind some acoustic guitar and lyrics that talk about big armed, 400lb women and the need for a smoke. It’s the simplistic music and amusing words that make Jon’s songs so great.

In ‘Impossible’, things slow down and go slightly Johnny Cash and Micah P Hinson in a haunting ballad of an uphill struggle, as is ‘Halfway To Ruin’ later on. Next is another slow song in, ‘Wonderful Woman’ that at least is a little more upbeat. It’s the mid-tempo songs that are truly great as in, ‘Sunshine’ that is very much like New Yorker Langhorne Slim, it’s a memorable foot-tapper. ‘Voices’ is a dark and wonderful song about killing the tax man, and keeping your wife after she has died. If Alkaline Trio went more folky then this is the song that they would sing! Things are then a little like Tom Petty and The Kinks in ‘No Future Generation’, then we have a slow and complex song of, ‘Nothing My Dear’ that is beautiful without having a great melody, but is lyrically driven over strings and an acoustic guitar.

With an acoustic Rock’n’Roll feel to it, ‘Don’t Let Life Get You Down’ is a perfect tonic for the blues of recession, making you want to jump around and grab a girl to dance with. Then on the last song, ‘Funny Old Town’ we have a sound very much like the opening track, ‘Cocaine’ which brings things back full circle, however this one is slightly more Rockabilly with double bass and female backing singers.

All in all this is a great debut album bringing together all of things that I like about artists like Micah P Hinson, The Kinks and Langhorne Slim mixing up some nice dark tracks with some amusing ones. Lyrically this album is rich and will have you feeling full by the end. I guess the downside could be that there are too many slow tracks, although they're not bad, they slow down the momentum created in some of the other up-tempo tracks.

This is good stuff. Who would’ve thought that the musical epicentre would be Barrow-In-Furness? Not I, sir, not I… - Jim Ody


"MORNING STAR"


It’s Boring Being In Control (Militant Entertainment)

BARROW-BORN Jon Byrne is a feisty rock 'n' roll street busker with a gob full of naughty words and a stark message about society, yeah?

This, his debut album, is a rag-tag mix of protest folk, blues and rockabilly and it's really rather intriguing.

Scumbags sees the less than tolerant Byrne wish for a gun so he could shoot his noisy neighbours in the face while Cigarette Song is a bawdy back-seat bonkathon with a woman with a "manly kind of status."

Great stuff, but keep it down if he moves in next door.
- Matt Fancy


Discography

'Positively State of the Art' - EP (March 2008)
'Cocaine' - download single (March 2009)
'It's Boring Being in Control' - Album (April 2009)

Photos

Bio

Jon Byrne was spotted by Clash man Mick Jones busking on Portobello Road. Jones was so impressed that he booked Jon on the spot for his Carbon Casino bash that night. That went so well that he returned for every subsequent Carbon Casino event and spent several months playing with the Rotten Hill Gang, the Westway collective featuring Mick and members of BAD and Groove Armada.

In the summer of 2008 Jon played to a packed house at Glastonbury Left Field and won the stages ‘new artist’ award.

Along with Mick Jones, Jon Byrne’s raw, passionate delivery of slices of real life in a northern town – Barrow-in-Furness – has won many admirers including Tom Hingley of the Inspiral Carpets, Pete Wylie, Billy Bragg, Smiths drummer Mike Joyce, Bonehead from Oasis and Johnny Bramwell, singer/songwriter with I Am Kloot. Legendary punk poet John Cooper Clarke, who clocked Jon’s ‘60s wide boy threads, told him ‘You look fuckin’ cool man.’

But in Barrow-in-Furness, dressing like you’ve just walked out of a Soho drinking den in ‘68 carries its own risks, and Jon has had his share of slaps after closing time.

‘Jon Byrne is a star. It may be winter recession outside, but inside Jon’s music there is a warm, bittersweet fire burning’ - Tom Hingley (Inspiral Carpets)

Following the linage from the blues through to Woody Guthrie, the protest music of the ‘60s, the spirit of punk and the Specials ‘Ghost Town’, Jon Byrne is out of the blocks with the soundtrack for today’s deepening recession. Jon has worked petrol stations, shelf stacking and the busking pitches and his music is loaded with his ‘finger on the trigger’ social commentary.

Described as ‘Oscar Wilde meets Withnail’ Jon Byrne is a troubadour for the zeitgeist and the perfect antidote to corporate greed and the X Factor.

'Here's someone who really means it man! If you think (like me) that there's an intensity and passion in Jon's delivery that's rarely heard on record... then just you wait until you experience the man live …WOAH!' - Mike Joyce (The Smiths)

Jon's debut album 'It's Boring Being in Control' was released in April 2009 and has been critically praised by the music press.

'Sharp lyrics and dry delivery' - Uncut
'A tender truthfulness that sticks in the memory' - Mojo
'Takes the Arctic Monkeys' patter to a higher level of sophistication' - Clash
'Rock from the rough end of the street, delivered with guts and passion' - Classic Rock
'A startling debut from a very promising talent' - Rock n Reel
'Byrne is a feisty rock 'n' roll street busker with a gob full of naughty words and a stark message about society' - Morning Star