Hailing from Bristol, UK, gypsy rock six-piece Mr. Tea and the Minions (and no, I’m not talking about those annoying yellow things) play a party for your ears with their sophomore album Mutiny, ignited and punctuated by a light-hearted “meow.” Their music is fun and accessible, with a touch of danger lurking beneath the surface.
James “Tomo” Tomlinson—also known as Mr. Tea—acts as the principle songwriter and lead guitarist. He originally formed the band after taking an interest in Balkan folk music. Along with guitarist James Pemberton, the two of them play a mix of ska upstrokes, jazzy noodling, and leads with an Eastern European vibe. Throw in Fabian Huss on drums, yet another James (Talbot) on bass, and Lucy Razz on violin and you got a full, Bohemian sound (in both the regional and artistic sense of the word).
Have you ever listened to Gogol Bordello and thought: “This is great, except for that rough-voice thick-accent singer?” (I love Eugene Hütz, but his vocal style is definitely an acquired taste). Well, here comes the smooth and sweet voice of Elle Ashwell to make the music that much digestible.
The lyrics describe a strange and frightening world, but you can’t help but venture in further out of curiosity. “Rabbit Hole” tells the story of a girl going out for a harmless night of drinks, but gets swept up into a late bender. The next track “Fools Masquerade” details a party populated by monsters and freaks, and the dancing never ends. “The Spider and the Fly” is a duet, with a back-and-forth dialogue of a woman seducing an unsuspecting love interest. We don’t hear how the story ends, but one can only assume it ended in ruin.
Despite the dark nature of the songs, the music itself will make you feel like you’re at a crowded party on a boat being rocked to and fro by the ocean. Just listening to it, I can imagine a number of people dancing along at their live shows, either by skanking, jumping, twirling, or whistling and howling between songs.
Written by Chris Aitkens
*edited by Danielle Kenedy