In 1996 as a subscriber of Peter Gabriels Real World Notes I received a CD with each copy. Artists on the Real World label got to play their wears on these 16 CD, which sadly ended in 2003. On issue 3, track number 2 was a song by a new American artist, called Big City Secret. The artist was Joseph Arthur. Peter Gabriel had signed Joseph to Real World, after being presented with a demo tape by his A&R associate in New York. I instantly liked the original sound and wistful lyrics. I bought the album and was hooked. But this time a prolific songwriter had hooked me. Tripping lightly from grunge rock to bazaar tunes about cockroaches and spiders with melodic guitars and a hard voice, I have found it difficult to really categorise this singer-songwriter. But aint that true of all the best ones?
His first album Big City Secrets was followed a long four years later by Come to Where Im From. The rather long gap was filled with a fine EPs, which sadly I didnt get my hands on. However one song Vacancy from the EP of the same name was on Real World Notes. Much to my pleasure, this sad mournful song was the second song at the Brudenell Social Club gig, played solo using sound loops from his own guitar as his backing track.
Further EPs called Junkyard Hearts followed the second album. But here Josephs career changed from many artists in that his pace of song production keeps accelerating. Redemptions Son was published 2002 (the last at Real World), Our Shadows Will Remain in 2005, and Nuclear Daydream in 2006. This last albums song Slide Away finally got the reserved English of Leeds on their feet and joining the band for their party.
In 2006 Joseph gained an official band The Lonely Astronauts, with whom a prolific spell of writing resulted in Lets Just Be in 2007. This album is loud and certainly has a wild punk element within it. I think there are some rough gems on this album, in particular and being a podiatrist, I love Cocaine Feet, which put in an appearance in Leeds.
2008 was just a remarkable year. Joseph brought out four solo EPs, Could We Survive, Crazy Rain, Vagabond Skies, and Foreign Girls. Although not with the full Lonely Astronauts input, members appear here and there. However, back with the band Joseph also released Temporary people. I think his and the bands work last year are as fine as anything before and contrary to the thought that 38 songs released in one year must lead to a load of same sounding clap trap, every song seems fresh and original as his first album 12 years earlier.
That talent was very evident at the Brudenell, with songs from across his wide catalogue to a fair number of new songs. His gritty, witty and often sad lyrics are punctuated with true protest songs, something regrettably so many modern artists seem to have lost the stomach for.
Joseph Arthur still has something to say, and I hope Im going to have a chance to hear him say it again, live. Joseph interacts with his audience and drew the Leeds crowd to their reluctant feet by will power, a lone hippy dancer and Bob Longworths ability to be a gig yob at the first opportunity. By the time he sang ‘Faith’ he had everyone like putty in his hands. The band of Greg (G Wiz) Wieczorek,, Kraig Jarret Johnson and the rather too delightful Sybil Buck supported Joseph with humour (when things didnt go quite as planned) and some fine talent. Other highlights were In the Sun, which has been covered by Peter Gabriel, and Michael Stipe of REM, and a new song crying out against the suppression of the tentative moves for freedom in Iran.
Great as all this was the spirit of the evening was summed up after the event. While signing CDs of the gig, burnt before our eyes, someone passed a guitar for Joseph to sign. On this acoustic guitar he started to sing You are Free, a song not sung that evening. His backing group, so necessary for this song, became those waiting for an autograph. Truly I can say, We have sung with Joseph Arthur. This man has passion in and for his music. An excellent night I shall never forget. Please check out this artist because he is so undeservedly unknown. And yet from Scrubs to House to Lie to me, his songs are around in the media all the time. Once you have an album or two youll be so pissed you missed him at the Brudenell!
Andy (Footy) Horwood