The Room in the Wood are clever buggers. Their latest album We’re the Martians, Now is one that will work is way under your skin and into your subconscious and, once there, will stay with you for a long time.
We’re the Martians, Now is an album that repays repeated listens by revealing it’s many layers. Personally, I have always been a fan of albums that grow on you, that have something going on under the bonnet, as I think these have a musical and emotional intelligence.
Happily, they are often the albums that you end up loving the most, something that will certainly be the case with We’re the Martians, Now.
Things get off to a good start with Diamond Clouds, featuring a riff and groove kind of halfway between the Rolling Stones and The Verve.
There is a lack of studio trickery here that places us almost in the same room with these songs. Dave Jackson‘s voice particularly is left bare and quite high in the mix. The result is an honesty that makes the songs more beautiful and more expressive and that provides an intimacy missing from more over produced songs.
This isn’t to say that We’re the Martians, Now is under produced, just that the production sounds as if it was approached with a view to capturing the band as they are.
The Room in the Wood are a band I find it hard to draw comparisons to, to identify where their influences come from. There are a few hints here and there that the band may not have even countenanced. Hints of Johnny Cash or a more pastoral Nick Cave maybe.
It is also hard to pinpoint an era that feeds in their music. Stowaway has a 50’s elegance to it, while Blue has an air of 90s shoegaze.
Album highlight Shimmer is the kind of song that lodges itself in your head and refuses to move. “Does it get any better? It could always get worse” croons Jackson over a delicate and haunting guitar line.
Other songs such as Fun of the Fair show that The Room in the Wood can take things up a gear and rock out when they want to. There is a vein of rockabilly that runs through their songs when they do this.
Dragonfly takes us again in a pastoral direction, complete with flute intro, acoustic guitar and an almost 60s pychedelia-like whimsy about the whole thing.
We’re the Martians, Now is an album that exists outside of current convention and fads. It is also one that will repay the investment of your time.
Sun 13 subjected The Room in the Woods’ Dave Jackson to a set of our fiendish 13 Questions. Read on to find out more about flat earthers, riding a bike and calling Dominic Raab a cunt.
1. Where are you and what are you doing? How is that working out?
“It’s the morning of 4th November and I’m in my office in the Redmonds Building at LJMU, using a day free from Zoom teaching to finish a chapter for an academic book on Screenplay Adaptation. I’ve got till Friday to complete an account of the development process that went into adapting, filming and editing the 105-minute low-budget feature film that we released in 2017 from my 100,000 word fantasy novel, Violet City.
I’m using this questionnaire to prevaricate and also to distract me while simultaneously listening with trepidation to US election results as they come in.
One of your earlier questions to a previous 13 questions participant was ‘When did you last shout at your TV?’ Before I left for work this morning, I screamed ‘Cunt!’ at Dominic Raab as the smug Tory arsehole refused to comment on or to condemn Trump giving his speech prematurely calling an election victory and claiming that Democrats were committing electoral fraud . The present state of affairs has me in a perpetual state of indignant anger.
I’ve been coming into the largely deserted University building to use my office computer’s webcam for teaching sessions. The zoom sessions, though scary at first, seem to have been going well. But, it’s all a bit weird and I do worry for students unable to interact in anything like a normal manner.”
2. How have you been coping with the lockdown?
“My mother became seriously ill in late February and was taken from hospital to a care home just as lockdown kicked in. We were able to have phone conversations with her, a few zoom calls, and one be-masked outdoor meeting during the summer before she took ill again and died in hospital at the end of September. We had to wait nearly a month to have her funeral without most of our family present.
Being unable to play live to promote The Room in the Wood’s LP ‘We’re the Martians, Now’, which came out just after lockdown kicked in was a pain. It also meant we didn’t get our records into shops, but everyone is in the same sieve as far as that’s concerned.
The early weeks of lockdown went fairly smoothly. I started doing long walks and then I bought a bike. I hadn’t ridden one for about 30 years, and after a few wobbly incidents, I took to cycling like a cat to water. But I did miss beer and meeting up in pubs and such.
Recently, things have begun to really get grim. News of the deaths of Andy Wilson and Hambi really hit hard. Both were lovely men. Andy played keyboards with me with John head, and Tim O’Shea and recorded the Red fin Sunset album I did with Robin Surtees and Greg Milton. He also played on several songs on the first The Room in the Wood album. I’ve know Hambi since the late 70s. 051 played an Eric’s gig with TonTrix in 77 and I made a short film with him in 2004 when he first started getting into filming.”
3. Who is the nicest ‘celebrity’ you’ve met?
“Not fond of the words ‘nice’ or ‘celebrity’. However, nice can mean sharp and, back in the mid-80s, Television’s Tom Verlaine seemed like a famous person to me – does that count? When he agreed to produce songs on The Room’s In Evil Hour album, I was thrilled. He didn’t suffer fools gladly, but he was friendly and helpful with me and the band, even giving Becky Stringer the moniker Boozy Becky for some obscure reason. I seem to recall that we bonded over a mutual love of the works of Raymond Chandler, Dashiel Hammett and James M Cain.”
4. When did you last get into an argument?
“It might be easier to ask ‘when didn’t I?’ Something I should probably curb. When you’re young, it can seem like ‘attitude’. In later life, it can come across as simply bitter and twisted. But I do have a real problem with religion, superstition and conspiracy theories of all kinds. So God Botherers and Flat Earthers beware.”
5. What’s your favourite food?
“Egg, Chips and Beans or Chicken Fried Rice. I can’t decide.”
6. When did you last consider quitting social media?
“Nearly every time I look at it. I started doing it because of the music stuff, really. But once you’re in – you’re in. It’s the only way I know of informing people about my endeavors.”
7. What’s the best night out you’ve ever had?
“If I could remember that, it might not count as the best night.”
8. How would you describe yourself?
“An introverted extrovert, who may have been born a few drinks under par.”
9. What words of warning would you give your younger self?
“Don’t expect friendship and loyalty to be reciprocated in the same manner that you give it. Choose your battles carefully and try not to be so intense in your attitudes when it comes to essentially meaningless matters of taste. Oh, and never eat anything bigger than your head.”
10. When were you last told off?
“I’m telling myself off as I write.”
11. What has been your favourite decade for music?
“1970 to 1980 – From Ride a White Swan to Atmosphere. T. Rex, Bowie, Roxy Music, Hawkwind, Lou Reed, Television, Patti Smith, Talking Heads, The Only Ones, Wire, The Fall, Joy Division. Glam Rock to Post Punk, if I have to choose. But loads of ace stuff before and since.”
12. What band or record changed to course of your life?
“Marquee Moon by Television inspired me to want to be in a band, and seeing The Fall for the first time gave me an understanding that an anti-showbiz stance and a way with words could be a pathway to a sort of weird transcendence.”
13. Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. Is there anything else you’d like to say?
“I might have blathered on enough. But cheers for the opportunity.”