The Hightown Pirates’ formed by Simon Mason release their debut album Dry and High this month. The conception began through Mason’s friendship with Mick Head (Pale Fountains and Shack) in Liverpool and also a tour with the Libertines last year. This lead to Pete Doherty producing the artwork for the album. Indeed, one track is written about him Just for Today. Various musicians got on board and contributed to the “collective”.
Mason is known for his critically acclaimed rock n roll memoir Too High Too Far Too Soon recounting his debauched exploits at Glastonbury festival when he was a “chemist” to some of the biggest bands of the 90s. He was then “rescued” by Banksy from a stolen camper van. He’s certainly notorious. The album starts with the track Higher Ground which begins with a lovely flute sound before guitar and drums crash in. Mason’s vocals have an air of Roger Daltrey about them and the songs demonstrate a feeling of survival about it. It’s a robust song and a strong starter.
Last Chance Saloon brings back that lovely flute sound before a gutsy male/female harmony comes in. This is pure rock n roll and Mason sounds like he’s singing about his down times. It’s riotous but then pulls back with that gentle flute revealing a tenderness. By Mason’s own admission the songs were written both during his drug days and more recently. East London Morning is highspeed guitars and drums intertwined with flute and again, recalls the times when he was battling drug addiction. It’s rousing with some great wah-wah guitar and he comes on sounding like Paul Weller. Throwing Stones has a great horn section, sardonic lyrics and I imagine would be great seen live. Two for Joy stands out as a highlight track. It’s fervent with strong harmonies, heartfelt lyrics and boundless guitars.
On a critical note, just occasionally one or two of the songs start to sound a bit too similar for my liking but overall Dry and High comes from the heart is passionate, ballsy and gets my vote. An album that’s raucous, high-energy, but with moments of pure vulnerability.