Still Valid, the new album from MJ Hibbett & The Validators, is out today and well worth a listen if you're a fan of catchy punk songs with lyrics that make you chuckle so much that you almost miss how insightful they are.
Now, many of this album's tracks deal with the theme of getting a bit older and thinking about the past and stuff, and I worried that as a mere 24-year-old I might not be able to fully appreciate the middle-aged wit and wisdom on offer here. To counter this problem, I played the album for my mum and asked her to write down some of her thoughts, which you can find below after my own review of Still Valid. I'm hoping that, by offering a perspective from either side of the big four-oh, we can do this ace little album justice.
Reviewer #1: Joel DearBlogger, copywriter and musician, born in 1991
I'm nearly halfway through my twenties now, and the prospect of getting older still is a pretty terrifying one. I've been doing the same job for four years and I increasingly feel like I've missed my chance to be a rock star or a successful music journalist or, y'know, something actually fulfilling.
I like this album a lot. The songwriting is right up my street - that is, there are lots of words sung quickly over not many chords - and just about every track has a great chorus that's super-fun to sing along with. The violin is a nice touch too, gliding elegantly through each track and lending MJ Hibbett's simple, punky compositions an air of maturity and refinement.
The best part about this record, though, is the way it makes my aforementioned growing-up anxieties fade away each time I play it through. Rousing closer We Did It Anyway acknowledges that The Validators will probably never win an award, get on the news, et cetera...but then it gives a defiant shrug and assures us that they'll keep making music anyway, "just because it's good". And afterwards, I don't care that I might never be wealthy and well-known as long as I can keep singing songs and writing my blog for as long as I want.
Reviewer #2: Paula Dear
Aromatherapist, wife and mum, born in 1962
Well, what an honour – being asked to write as a guest middle-aged person on Joel's blog! At least he didn't say I was old.
Still Valid is fantastic, and you really don't have to be middle-aged to appreciate the wit and the music, which is slightly reminiscent of Mitch Benn, Dexys Midnight Runners and The Housemartins all rolled into one while also being truly original, with memorable fiddle-playing and beautifully blended voices.
The exuberance of 20 Things to Do Before You're 30 made me laugh out loud as I will never be like some of my friends who have run marathons and climbed Kilimanjaro, yet I too can "experiment with chilli sauce" and hopefully not end up like the man in That Guy "standing in the rain" and "masturbating in a skip"!
The wry observations of The 1980s How It Was resonated so much (and indeed I concur that "history's rewritten by the people who did best from it"), whereas the poignant In The North Stand had me sobbing as I remembered my dad taking me to Watford's home ground Vicarage Road when I was young.
So yes, I loved it and at the risk of sounding old I could hear all the lyrics! I will certainly go back and listen again and again, especially to Burn It Down and Start Again with its brilliant pauses, its glottal stops (it's like I'm back in Watford again!) and its wonderful poetry – the phrase 'gene puddle' particularly appealed.
Thank you MJ and The Validators for making me feel, well, validated and to end with a line from one of their early songs (yes, I was motivated enough to check them out on YouTube) which is currently very appropriate: 'peace and love is still a bloody good idea' (The Lesson of the Smiths).
And a big thank you to my son for still valuing my opinion and for introducing me to some good music!