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Albums: WE VALIDATE!
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Recorded (mostly) over the course of a week in Cornwall, spent in a studio that used to belong to Lemmy's Son. This was released on July 10th 2006 and set us off on all manner of adventures, not least a live session on Radio One!
Try before you buy - stream it online for free at our bandcamp site.
Try before you buy - stream it online for free at our bandcamp site.
Tell Me Something You Do Like
Looking At My Hands
Better Things To Do
The Gay Train
Dino At The Sands
Breaks In The Journey
The Fight For History
Quality Of Life Enhancement Device
The Lesson Of The Smiths
We Only Ever Meet In Church
Steve Lamacq, Radio One:
"when it comes to observational pop music few do it better than MJ Hibbett & The Validators".
Jude Rogers, Word Magazine:
MJ Hibbett should be a British institution. He's the kind of singer you assume went out with Red Wedge and the Redskins, shuffling somewhere in-between Half Man Half Biscuit, John Cooper Clarke, Carter USM and Billy Bragg, singing songs called "Mental Judo" and "Quality Of Life Enhancement Device" in a broad Peterborough burr. Hibbett's songs are about meagre success ("I went to a gig/And the venue was slightly too big/For the six people who were there/Including the other band"), funny observations ("Flemish is a language I can't chat in/I'll learn it if I'm ever off to Bruges") and politician-bashing ("They say Ronald Reagan was the master of diplomacy... I dunno about you but that's not how I remember it"). Any nonsense is give short shrift, as opening track "Tell Me Something You Do Like" puts it neatly: "A pessimist is never disappointed/But they are disappointing".
The best track here, "The Lesson Of The Smiths", is a paen to how "Morrisey, Marr and Barlow changed my life", cocking its snoot at indie snobbery. Wonkily played and wonkily sung, it's unaffected, unpretentious, funny and stupidly entertaining. I Validate!
John Kell, Artrocker:
This is less an album, more a manual for life. For all this super-arch, hyped-up artrock, don't be fooled. MJ Hibbett's seen it all before and lived to tell the tale. If you want the secret of how to do the same, look no further than these finely crafted nuggets of pop wisdom. To put them over, the Validators find a new ferocity, they are fierce on 'Tell Me Something You Do Like' and inventive on 'We Only Ever Meet In Church' and are capable of very other nuance on the tracks in between, not least ripping off that Rourke/Joyce sound on 'The Lesson Of The Smiths'. One song, however, marks this album out above the rest. Anti-Thatcher songs are a great tradition in British pop music, but they died out somewhat after 1990. After all, how relevant can they be any more? Hibbett tells you how on 'The Fight For History': just wait for the tide of bullshit and lies proclaiming her Britain's greatest ever politician when she snuffs it. Those who remember the 1980s will want to take issue with it, and the battle-hardened Hibbett strikes the first blow here: he was there and he will not forget, and sets out litany of the damage she did. That David Cameron seems a nice enough bloke, is at least one subtext, but let's not forget the kind of people we're dealing with. That's just the highlight of one of 2006's most worthwhile albums. It is true. It is just. It is valid.
James Walsh, The Morning Star:
Manifesto amid numbness
HIBBETT is a sane, reasonable man in an increasingly complicated world. His album with his cheery band The Validators unfurls a world of small victories, of not taking things too seriously - in short, of not letting the bastards get you down.
The fast-paced, acoustic guitar and violin-led songs are akin to Billy Bragg without the politics or grumpiness or Chris T-T without the rage.
He sings in an affecting, faux-naive lilt, of a happy life, of not quite changing the world, preferring to stay in and watch DVDs with his girlfriend, of achieving transcendence by buying, say, a new sieve - "quality of life enhancement device" - and of the little things that make life worth living, such as the new series of Doctor Who and free tea on trains.
But there is anger behind the make-do attitude - album highlight The Fight For History rails against the post-death beatification of right-wing leaders, "Warmongers take credit for a peace they didn't want."
Moving and sweet throughout, without ever becoming too twee or cloying, MJ Hibbett may be a self-confessed everyman, but his songs are a manifesto for living in this occasionally numbing, post-Thatcher "consensus."
Alex Lawson, Sandman:
The terms �life affirming� and �inspiring� have always been over-used in album analysis, so why bother bucking the trend? Luckily MJ is happy to buck it too with an record which would make a coma victim spring up before realising they needed to remember how to stand up, then grinning as they lie in a crumpled mess on the floor. Hideous unnecessary visions aside �We Validate!� is a worthy addition to the Hibbert cult which stems from the type of crazy, informed eloquence that features elsewhere in this mag.
But as I said, this is inspiring. Not necessarily inspiring to make music like it but this acts like a syringe to the brain, his infectious humourous positivity seeping through the listener with unnerving speed. To name names the likes of �Tell Me Something You Do Like� (a fantastic attack of lazy moaning songwriting which resonates nicely with me) and �Mental Judo� (nice little tune embracing nights where no-one turns up) showcase his ability to speed out unfathomably good, upbeat lyrics before you can even digest them. What�s more the heartfelt nature and honesty of these songs, the fact that he clearly will stand and fight against the rose-tinted memory of the politically torrid eighties and does like the Smiths and Take That despite the wankers associated is a damn fine thing. And being able to mention BHS on a record without it sounding out of place is, somehow, a good thing.
The Validators do a fine job in backing him up for high-tempo strum alongs like �The Gay Train� which, I attest, is perfect for swinging round those yellow poles on the tubes to without caring. Life-affirming? This simply inspires life to get better and better.
Alistair Fitchett, Tangents:
�Morrissey, Marr and Barlow changed my life.� So starts the wonderful �The Lesson Of The Smiths� by M.J. Hibbett and The Validators that kicks off my mix this month. From their wonderful new We Validate! set on Artists Against Success, it�s a key song on an album filled with pithy pop commentary and reference, and I love it to bits, not least because it�s a song that perfectly sums up the kind of attitude to cultural consumption I like to think I subscribe to. So with a �Headmaster Ritual� bassline rumbling in the background (or �Marie�s The Name�, if you prefer), Hibbett highlights the pitfalls of making one�s (pop) cultural judgements on the perceived connotations of fanbase or media representation rather that the content. And whilst a little voice inside me whispers that, ah, remember context is all, and that you cannot divorce the content from the context, it�s more than ably countered by Hibbett�s rousing chorus:
�Remember the lesson of Take That. Just because a pile of pillocks pretend to like it, it doesn�t mean it�s crap. And remember the lesson of The Smiths. Just because a bunch of wankers like it, it doesn�t mean that it�s shit.�
And he has a point, particularly during the refrain about feeling the desire to walk away from the two million who walked against the war after seeing the �usual Marxo Anarchistic sods� before realising: �so what if there�s a thousand fuckwits here. Peace and Love is still a bloody good idea.� Amen to that.
Elsewhere on the album there are equally marvellous nuggets of intelligent Pop commentary, from the Indie-Whinger bashing �Tell Me Something You Do Like� to the poignant reflection on the �80s that is �The Fight For History� with its rousing chorus of �we will fight for history the day that Thatcher dies.� It�s chilling and inspirational all at once; both a warning and a call to arms to not permit false histories to erase the realities we lived through. I expect that everyone feels the same about the decades that they personally grew up through; expect that they feel the same despair and disgust at seeing the realities skewed and distorted as marketing executives strive to airbrush out the negatives and present in simplified soundbites to sell trashy retro TV shows and compilation CDs of cheesy chart pop. Well, as Hibbett sings, �I was there and I will not forget.� Amen to that as well.
Everett True, Plan B:
Reasons to love We Validate! First up, it sounds like obscure literate sarcastic post-Fall mid-eighties Peel-beloved pop band Yeah Yeah Noh. Second, it lists Gary Barlow next to Morrissey as one of Manchester's greatest songwriters. Third, it smarts. Fourth, they claim that, alongside two million other folk - a troupe of Canadian Mounted Police and a classroom full of Norwegian kids are in love with their universal love song 'The Gay Train'. Fifth, violins, Wedding Present guitars and an eye for the ridiculous is a potent combination. Sixth... ah, fuck this. This is brimful of quirky melodies, sordid biographical details and Bogshed namechecks - what's not to love?
"Tell Me Something You Do Like" sings Mr. Hibbett in the opening song of this prettily packaged album. Well, OK Mr. Hibbett, I like your new album.
I've been listening to it now for a good two months and you seem to have been stalking me for the last 20 years watching me go to gigs, nearly get beaten up, fall for girls, fall out with girls and act like an arse.
You see, MJ Hibbett is a master of the minutiae of life as an indie schmindie record buying, spectacle wearing clever clogs.
You know that moment you visited London for the first time and got trapped in a tube carriage with a bunch of Gay Activist marchers? Well, Hibbett was there too and he's telling the world all about it. Or the time when you finally realised that, after spending weeks and months telling people, "The Smiths are rubbish", that deep down you adore them even though they're hip. Yup, you guessed it. He's way ahead of you again.
This album is witty, fun, clever and intruiging. Musically it's a bunch of old fashinoned (in THE BEST sense of the term) indie guitar pop. Guitar pop like guitar pop used to be. But then surely that's part of The Validators schtick - picking up threads of life as it was, things that have happened, and singing them so you KNOW THEY WERE THERE.
As many of you already know, i don't like music very much. But this is an album I LOVE.
Ned Raggett, All Music Guide:
MJ Hibbett and his merry crew continue their sprightly, witty, and often sharply emotional ways with We Validate!, a title whose bright spirit perfectly captures the music within (even as the cover showing a slew of office drones suggests a darker spin). As before, one of Hibbett's core gifts � being able to snappily comment on his country and contemporaries without sounding hopelessly insular � is on ready display throughout. Thus, the opening "Tell Me Something You Do Like" cocks a snook at "the corporate indie scene" and Primal Scream in its first verse, before charging ahead to a great chorus that Bobby Gillespie probably couldn't write if his life depended on it. Hibbett's lively poetry � a joy of language's possibilities as played out in song � gets many notable airings, with the slower songs giving them even more room to breathe, as in the memory of attending a 1994-era pride parade in "The Gay Train" ("looking very hetero just in case") or the sweeping, cutting analysis of gender roles "Girlfriend Alarmed." "Better Things to Do" is one of the best arguments ever for not learning how to drive a car (among other skills) while "The Fight for History" deftly tackles self-myth-making by vested interests at the expense of those without power. The Validators, co-writing much of the music for the first time yet in the group's career, once more prove themselves to be a brisk, fiery backing band, with Tom McClure's violin and Emma Pattison's backing vocals the not-so-secret weapons complementing Francis Machine and Tim Pattison's fine rhythm section. Perhaps everything about the album comes together in its next to last song (brief snippets aside), "The Lesson of the Smiths," where over a great melody and band performance Hibbett triumphantly sings about not only that band but U.K. �ber boy band Take That and the key point drawn from both: "If a pile of pillocks pretend to like it, doesn't mean it's crap...just because a bunch of wankers like it doesn't mean that it's shit."
Rachel Queen, Friends Of The Heroes:
Some CDs are like sunny days, and happy dogs. No matter how you were feeling before they appeared, you can't help but smile the second they burst into your life.
"We Validate!" by "M J & the Validators" is just such a CD. It exploded with happiness in my ears from the minute it began. Straight talking, optimistic and full of life the album bounced around my head pushing aside all negative thoughts and emotions.
"I do not care if there is never anyone else there. I'm going to enjoy it for what it is not, not for what isn't"
The album shares lessons learnt, opinions and anicodotes with an unerring sense of optimism and humour throughout.
"La, la, la
I could not be arsed to put some words into this part
La la la�"
"We only ever meet in church" is one of the slower songs on the album , and tells the tale of friends who gradually move apart only to rediscover their friendship in a woolly jumper and a pub. Proof that friendship never really has to die if we make a little effort.
"We Validate" is an album to listen to anytime that you have forgotten to smile, or anytime that you would like to smile that little bit more. It is an album to cheer you up when you alone, or jump around to when you are with your friends. And it is an album that reminds you that the world is really not all that bad!
Sunny days, happy dogs,and "We Validate!" by M J Hibbett & the Validators . All things that I do like!
Donald Bush, Is This Music?:
MJ Hibbett may lose as make as many friends as he makes with this album. Not through the music on offer - which is a bigger breezier sound than the more solo-based work of old. Not even specifically from the lyrics, which show off the wit that's seen the band have Rolling Stone salivating over previous efforts and which has seen Hibbett crop on radio with the likes of Steve Lamacq, acting as 'correspondent' rather than performer.
But it's opener 'Tell Me Something You Do Like' which is the sticky point. Tackling lazy songwriting - "Sheathed in black and leather jackets / They sound like Primal Scream " - it's sure to alienate 90% of songwriters - well, those with any sense of self-awareness, who will realise that the "Cororate Indie Scene" includes them as associate members. You couldn't accuse Hibbett of this, lyrically he flits from tales of alarmed hetro bystander getting a fast education on 'The Gay Train', to the viewing of the 80s through rosy spectacles on 'The Fight For History' which "begins the day that Thatcher is dead". Appropriately, the sounds if anything hark back to that era - scrappy indiepop which owes some lineage to the Wedding Present and more aptly, when the fiddles kick in, Billy Bragg.
The beauty of this album is that the music is as good as the lyrics, a trick which few acts get right. "I could not be arsed to write some words to put into this part... la la la..."
They're in love with life, despite all its foibles and their joy de vivre means you'll fall in love with them too. Even if you're in a rubbish indie band.
Gareth Ludkin, Funky As Fudge:
This album is an odd record. Not in the conventional meaning of the word. It is an endearing odd feeling that makes the album a good one rather than a bad one. The liberally used violin adds more to the music, a more interesting dimension and something which reflects a more folk tinged feel to some of the songs. Listening to this album for the first time you will recognize the more unconventional approach to the music. The music is different to much that you will have heard before with lots of different things going on. Each song tells a story, isn�t repetitive and odd in the best sense of the word. � G
Charlotte Sometimes, Beat Motel:
I'm fed up with people plucking quotes for press-releases (here from those guys at Rolling Stone that seem to like any music from Bury) that slag off a more popular band. We should "fuck the fucking Libertines", apparently, 'cos "this is the true face of post millenial Albion!"
If you ignore this silly playground tactic to gain support, the album's actually, er, kind of amazing. I really like the singer's accent, too, which is probably a pretty weak reason to like a song or twelve, but there you go. He sounds a bit like Billy Bragg, but happier. Silly amounts of fun can be had singing the chorus to "The Lesson Of The Smiths", while the cheeriness in "Better Things To Do" makes me smile. This album is much more fun than an intelligent indie record has any right to be. It's also packed with extras, so it's good value for money and everything. If y'want to spend the summer miserable, give this a miss, but otherwise give it a try. It's worth it, I promise.
SOMETHING YOU DO LIKE: Last year we got MJ Hibbett to open a bill for us. He was charm and diffidence personified, slipping in and quietly watching us rush around stuffing jack-plugs into the wrong amps, swearing, and being very rock n roll, we only clocked him from the guitar case and the fact that we couldn't find our opening act anywhere. Once onstage he was a revelation, raw, ragged, funny, bitter and raging. Jaws dropped all round, he then watched the show and slipped out without his fee, which we still owe him. So, only fair to flag the fact the new MJ Hibbett & The Validators album, We Validate!" is out today. Not only out, but fucking outstanding and if you want to know what it's like... it's like a set of Ballboy songs written by Robin Ince and Billy Bragg and that's probably why it's currently shaking our windows right now.
Skif, Vanity Project:
'This Is Not A Library�, their last LP, was a brash laying bare of MJ Hibbett�s chirpy shtick, his wordplay and unpretentious voice given extra life by his Validators� alt-folk battery. This follow-up easily matches it for the vividity of the sound and the profundity of the home-spun wisdoms. MJH is a proletarian, utilitarian diaristic wordsmith that interlocks thick sarcasm and a positive outlook like they are knuckle-cracking fingers. It is a useful marriage taking the edge off any sugary tweeness while also keeping them several leaps away from the full curmudgeon. He derides those who can only converse in the negative (�Tell Me Something That You Do Like�), extols the virtues of enjoying things, like poorly attended gigs, for what they are. �The Lesson of the Smiths� tells us that we shouldn�t wait for things to become cool with age or irony, while the �Gay Train� barrels through PC egg-shells with cheekily innocent size-14s. MJH, and his V-team, just haven�t got it in them to let us down.
Andy Malt, Indigo Flow:
The second album from MJ Hibbett & The Validators is the first where the whole band have worked together in the songwriting process. It shows too; the backing behind Hibbett as he runs through his blunt but always charming folk songs is far more solid that on This Is Not A Library. It�s not just the band who are on top form though, Mark�s voice is sounding better than ever before too.
And the subject matter for this album? Well, you�ll be pleased to know that there are still plenty of topics ready to receive the MJ Hibbett treatment. With an running theme that could perhaps be called �angry optimism,� people who complain too much get knocked (Tell Me Something You Do Like), as do people who forget the bad bits of 80s politics (The Fight For History), the roots of male/female misunderstandings are revealed (Girlfriend Alarmed) and the fact that the quality of a band�s fans doesn�t necessarily reflect on the quality of their music (The Lesson Of The Smiths).
Also on the menu is the thinly veiled love song (and first single) Better Things To Do, a call for universal love and peace through an anecdote about watching a Gay Pride march (complete with tribute to Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince) and what is quite probably the world�s first song to pay tribute to simple household items like the 4-way plug adapter, Quality Of life Enhancement Device.
As the album draws to a close with We Only Ever Meet In Church (about friends you only see at weddings and funerals) in all its epic form you�re left satisfied with tunes rattling your head and little thoughts to occupy your time - reminding the rest of the musical world that you don�t have to write songs about sex and cars to connect with people.
And never fear Hibbett fans! This CD is packed full of futuristic multimedia, giving you alternative versions of all the songs on the album, lyrics, extensive sleevenotes, articles, interviews with the band and photographs of the recording sessions.
To Hell With:
forget all that rubbish about the likes of the artic monkeys being the new chroniclers of british life, they�ve barely left school what do they know? give me a bunch of thirty somethings with an unhealthy love of the smiths & take that anyday. sounding like billy bragg fronting a supergroup made up of the smiths and belle & sebastian, this 5 piece (drums, guitar, bass, violin, vocals) make wonderfully witty insightful indiepop with great melodies and harmonies. on opener �tell me something you do like� they aim this vitriol at those fashionable kiddy indie bands, this album has made me laugh more than anything in recent memory, �looking at my hands� is about suddenly realising you�re growing older and embracing it. �better things to do� pokes fun at that lie that we must improve ourselves by learning to drive, learning languages, having an important career, knowing about wine �i�ve not been on a course to learn to program c++ i frankly could not give a toss for dos....i have got much better things to do, like watching dvds with you and drinking cups of tea with you�. �the fight for history� is a smart take on how the 80�s are now being remembered as a good time when infact they were shit, �down in soho all the peacocks try to make out its iconic, wearing council hair and pop socks and paint the 80�s as an age of decadence and glamour as if the miners strike, poll tax and bse never happened as if section 28 was never passed into the law�. the undoubted highlight of the album has too be �the lesson of the smiths� with it�s wonderful chorus lines of �remember the lesson of the smiths, just because a bunch of wankers like it doesn�t mean its shit, remember the lesson of take that, if a pile of pillocks pretend to like it doesn�t mean its crap�. �we only ever meet in church� is a quite sad and epic way to finish the album, reflecting on friends who you only see at weddings, christenings and funerals. this album is a breath of fresh air, and is an unexpected gem.
new noise / mmf:
It�s difficult not to like MJ Hibbett And The Validators. Clever, cheeky Indie monkey�s who have received a mass of critical acclaim and sound like Billy Bragg�s little brother. Maybe not a wise but damn funny and up for the fight. �We Validate� is an enjoyable album of interesting songs covering such bizarre topics as the homosexual occupancy of the northern line one Sunday, how household objects can improve your life and the fact that there is nothing wrong with liking The Smiths or Take That. Beautifully composed and cleverly written, �We Validate� is a twee and witty romp through all things English for the modern man.
Paul Meggs, Velvet Grooves:
MJ Hibbet & The Validators - We Validate is an album of simple songs, backed with guitars, bass, violins and drums. As a package the CD is jam packed to tell the truth - full of demo mp3's, alternative versions of songs, lyrics, a 'making of', photos, and possibly more - I may have missed some out. They've done a kind of DVD special features featurette on a CD. And that as an idea I'd say resembles their attention to detail.
We Validate contains songs of arguements around pub conversations, technology innovations, the general 'need' to only speak negatively in some people, and lazy song-writing - possibly a go at more recent acts who've become famous even though they don't deserve it. Maybe this is their 'Artists Against Success' ethos... There's also elements of humour in the lyrics - "La la la la la! I couldn't be arsed to put any words to this part! La la la la la! " which may be a hint of lazy song-writing, but well it has been fixed with humour...
In places I feel like I'm listening to an alternate version of Billy Bragg, although Mark Hibbett says he thinks Jimmy Nail is a more accurate person. Still I find parts of the album very enjoyable, and this was after a few listens so yes it's a grower.
MJ Hibbett and his Validators have been praised by Rolling Stone, and are soon in session with Steven Lamacq, so I think it looks like we're onto another 'ones to watch'...
Being part of a record label with a name like Artists Against Success, you could be forgiven for thinking that a man like Mark Hibbett has been fucked over by the major label money machines so badly that he has since foresworn to a life of independent record releases and limited success as a political statement rather than a purely romantic ideal.
Well to find that out you�d have to ask him, but it�s comforting to know in an age where everybody seems to believe it�s their god-given right to get their 15 minutes of fame as a by-product of simply being born, perhaps there is something to be said for those who have the courage to reject the corporate machine bee-line to stardom and stick to what they truly believe in.
Having been previously championed by indie godfather Steve Lamacq and Rolling Stone, MJ Hibbett and the Validators have come to save your corporate soul for the sake of Albion. If AAS troubadour Mark Hibbett is the lifestyle architect to this ideal then MJ Hibbett & The Validators new album �We Validate!� is the manifesto. Since 1998, MJ has picked up a bunch of like-minded souls and well-versed musicians who have plied their trade with the likes of Prolapse, Stereolab, Cornershop and Thurston Moore over the years. From the album opener �Tell Me Something You Do Like!�, which is a quirky DIY pop war-of-words, Hibbett is already up on the indie pulpit urging us to fight against the lack of imaginative songwriting employed by the majority of their contemporaries.
It�s just as well then that MJ Hibbett & The Validators can back this statement up as they have taken their own advice and come up with plenty more ideas than your average pop outfit. The old classic lyrical themes such as love are given a kitchen-sink twist with a wry sense of humour and mixed up with realist view of 80s era politics and social drama�memories of Thatcherism, C86, music snobbery, John Peel, discotheques, gay pride and Morrissey & Marr are just a few of the things still keeping Hibbett awake at night these days. Ok, so it could very well sound like an excuse for a self-indulgent rant at why life was so much better back in the day for a bunch of past-their-sell-by-date 30 somethings� But it�s not. There is a life-affirming brightness with which the band deliver the songs, and more significantly Hibbett�s lyrical wordplay, that would shame most of their younger contemporaries.
�Looking At My Hands� sees the singer looking back at his past with the added comfort of being happy to be where he is in life. A simple but reassuring comment on reaching maturity with the option of the adolescent boy not being far behind when he tells us �if my back aches it�s because I�m carrying the equipment of a stallion�! Tracks like �Better Things To Do�, �Girlfriend Alarmed� and �Fight For History� are incisive pop gems, reminiscent of a more acoustic early Wedding Present covering Half Man Half Biscuit (ask your Dad). The latter of those three being a bitter nostalgic stab at the over glamorization of the 1980s with the repetitive end refrain of �We will fight for history on the day that Thatcher is dead� which is a subtly that Moz would surely be proud of and is as rousing to listen to as it is comforting to know.
The album could be a bit of a mixed blessing in that the sense of nostalgia is too noticeable in almost every song here and it�s only when the band get more experimental on standout tracks like the noise-drenched post-pop of �We Only Ever Meet In Church� that you can see what they could truly be capable of. It�s really only the music that suffers in it�s obsession with 80s DIY indie nostalgia, a time when David Gedge was being tipped as the successor to The Smiths� indie crown and Noel Gallagher wasn�t even a twinkle in Alan McGhee�s eyes. But to be honest, that doesn�t really matter too much when you have a band with such an extraordinary spirit as MJ Hibbett & The Validators.
Recorded whilst growing moustaches (no doubt in a homage to 80s TV icon Tom Selleck) in Cornwall, this celebration of britishness is at best life-affirming and at worst a charming look at modern day albion. If you�re in a band or want to be in a band and all this makes sense to you, check out the website below, buy this album and be inspired.
MJ Hibbert and The Validators are the kind of band that John Peel would dig, in the vein of Belle and Sebastien, Half Man Half Biscuit and Billy Childish, their lo-fi quirky songs about the wonder of modern gadgetry, Gay Pride 1994 and The Smiths, MJ's Validators are the type of quintessentially English band that you expect enjoy afternoon tea, tweed and browsing in antique shops.
Recorded in deepest, darkest Cornwall, the Englishness of We Validate is unmistakeable, with Tom McClure's on the violin giving the record a sense of plaintive nostalgia that is what makes us Brits. Ironically, 'The Fight for History' is a criticism of the glamorisation of the 1980's, which, let's face it, were pretty shit. The standout tracks for me are 'Mental Judo', which, with its melancholic string section and unforgettably poppy melody, has definitely taken a leaf or two out of Belle and Sebastien's book, and epic final track 'We Only Ever Meet in Church', which is a quirky love song with lyrics like 'Your Christmas card arrived/ I must say I'm surprised/ it's not from the cheapest packet from BHS' that just sum up all the nerdy Englishness that makes this such a charming record.
Anyway, must dash now, so to sum up, if The Validators, as the name of the label suggests, really are artists against success, then they're going the wrong way about it, so let's have three cheers for MJ Hibbert and The Validators! Hip Hip, Hooray!
John Kell, The Unpredictable Same:
At the gig in July, I observed that, as per his song, MJ Hibbett does indeed bank with Barclays. He seemed surprised I was surprised: "Everything I sing is true!" he protested. Hm. I rather suspect a man carrying "the equipment of a stallion", as he claims on this record, wouldn't have waited until his third solo album to mention it, but all the same a Hibbett making outlandish boasts is a far cry from the Hibbett of Say It With Words and, without knocking an album for which I still have a considerable soft spot, clearly all the better for it. For this is less an album, more a manual for life. For all this super-arch, hyped-up artrock, don't be fooled: Hibbett's seen it all before and lived to tell the tale. Much of the record is a lengthy celebration of how a total lack of planning at 24 can turn out very nicely thank you very much by "double 18", which is a relief. The Validators too have obviously developed: they have always been a good backing band, but here sound more than ever like a band in their own right, of whom Hibbett just happens to be the fifth member. In particular they find a new ferocity on the opening duo of tracks Tell Me Something You Do Like and Looking At My Hands and a new inventiveness on We Only Ever Meet In Church and The Gay Train. Probably the most notable two arrangments are the playful ripping off by Tim and Rob of that Rourke / Joyce sound on The Lesson of the Smiths (though I suspect everyone is too fond of Mark to tell him he can't pronounce "epitome" on the same - sorry mate, tough love!) and the restrained Girlfriend Alarmed, with Tom's violin alternating between unpredictable interjections and a convincing imitation of a Proper String Section, and some breathy vocals from Emma placed deviously low in the mix (in fact, slightly too low, though maybe that's the point).
As usual, the songs are pretty direct, bar the cryptic Dino At The Sands, which before I heard it I had assumed was something to do with dinosaur-themed children's amusement parks. For my money, the strongest run comes with two of the "it's all fine, relax" songs, Breaks On The Journey and Mental Judo, both among Hibbett's very best feelgood lyrics, sandwiching perhaps the record's greatest achievement: The Fight for History. Anti-Thatcher songs are a great tradition in British pop music, but they died out somewhat after 1990. After all, how relevant can they be any more? Hibbett tells you how: just wait for the tide of bullshit and lies proclaiming her Britain's greatest ever politician when she snuffs it. Those who remember the 1980s will want to take issue with it, and the battle-hardened Hibbett strikes the first blow here: he was there and he will not forget, and sets out litany of the damage she did. That David Cameron seems a nice enough bloke, is at least one subtext, but let's not forget the kind of people we�re dealing with. As someone with a history degree, I rather feel it should be more properly titled "The Fight for Posterity" - whatever nonsense happens in the media, and whatever effect it has on most people's understanding, academic history of the Thatcher years is already being written and broadly ignored. Bar the partisan Conservative historians, it is pretty critical: to an extent, this gives me faith in the objectivity (or close to it) of the professionals, though at the same time it may just be that historians really are generally a bit left-leaning and I merely approve of the bias, I dunno.
But back to the album: Hibbett records seem to be evening out at a new LP every three years, and this was without doubt worth the wait: it comes with all the usual multimedia bells and whistles, and the only real error is that the lettering on the spine is upside-down. Bah! Unforgivable!
Dominic Robinson, DVD Fever:
I last heard of M.J. Hibbett & The Validators with the excellent hit that took me back to my schooldays, Hey Hey 16k, about the very early days of the home computers that could be programmed and were an integral part of my growing up as a teenager.
We're back in the realm of songs that speak to everyman - to students and to eternal students. While 2000's Say It With Words continued in this vein for the nostalgic and for those who've experience unrequited love, We Validate! takes a step forward as Mark finds himself in his 30s, wondering if his life in going in the right direction and which step it should take next.
First up, Tell Me Something You Do Like is an upbeat, clever track - which sets the tone for the majority of this album - about looking on the bright side of things and with a chorus of "Tell me something that you do like, Tell me something you think's GRATE, It's so dreary sitting listening, To your vacuous complaints", this really should be made into the new theme of BBC1's Points of View as there's always so much to have a whinge about at Auntie Beeb :)
Looking At My Hands says so much about turning 30 and it really speaks to me about how I felt about it too. On the one hand, you don't want to get to that point and think you know it all at an earlier age, but once *do* you reach the big 3-0, part of the chorus that goes "I feel deeply satisfied, Knowing what my mind is and knowing that I'm right" says it all as you spend your school life being told what to do, your university life being told what careers to go for - or that you should be thinking about going for, and then your twenties thinking that you really should be thinking about doing something about your career and then... you hit 30. And you don't give a shit anymore... and the best thing is that you don't *mind* that! The balance is restored once more.
The single, Better Things To Do (right), follows, continuing the theme that so much of life has an importance put upon things that just don't really matter, but which seem like a must-do to others, yet if we did set about to concentrate on what we could be doing with our time, such as spending more time with a loved on instead of learning how to program C++ - a very nice touch since part of my University degree featured that language and, my God, what a complete waste of a few hours that was.
Men don't always say the right thing when it comes to talking to their better half, which is where Girlfriend Alarmed comes in, while The Gay Train recalls how life went for a friend of his who moved to London and a time at the Gay Pride Festival in 1994 when balloons were let off to commemorate those who had died of AIDS, both tracks which aren't as instantly a hit with me as the previous three but a few more listens should sort that out.
Dino at the Sands is a track that escapes me a little bit as I don't quite know what it refers to even though the notes on the website say it's regarding things MJ doesn't like about certain comedy double acts, while Breaks in the Journey is more 'everyman' stuff about missing out on things in life because you don't stop to smell the flowers while you can.
Things get rather political in The Fight For History, as it's said this fight will happen on the day that Thatcher is dead, but it's spot on when it refers to someone like Edwina Currie and Steven Norris and about how such people are turning up on reality TV and phone-in shows, with the latter even hosting a regular general discussion show for a time on TalkSport, a few years back.
Mental Judo continues the optimistic theme set with Better Things To Do and in a similar fashion, while Quality of Life Enhancement Drive is about how we're all slaves to electronic gadgets which are meant to make life easier, but then it can also make us overlook the things which are small but important.
The Lesson of The Smiths is all about desperately ensuring you don't follow the crowd, particularly when it comes to liking bands that everyone seems to like, but give it a bit of time and you'll find some bands' music is actually worth listening to and if you leave it too late... they split up and then you've lost your chance to see them live forever.
Finally, We Only Ever Meet In Church sums up how quickly stages of life pass us by and that we don't get to catch up with friends as often as we should, and if we leave it too long like this then the only time we'll pass by again is for births, marriages and deaths...
Well, I say finally, but there's still two pieces of around a minute each, a meandering piece known as Untitled and a 'slight return' for Dino at the Sands.
On the single, Better Things To Do, comes the additional tracks Leave My Brother Alone, a song about being protected by an older sibling and then being able to return the favour later in life when it really matters; and The Other Rush Hour subtly works in many occasions where events occur as a result of the clocks going forward an hour in the spring and back an hour in the winter and how do you keep up, since there's always confusion over it.
It's all very observational stuff with the best tracks being the first three and the last two, it slightly faltering part-way through with tracks like Breaks In The Journey and Quality Of Life Enhancement Device being more 'okay' than essential, but all still worth a listen although I would've liked another track that stood out as big as Hey Hey 16k. Great female backing vocals are also a noteworthy point about this CD.
For fans who want to hear more, put this disc in your PC and you'll find it contains many additiona; demos and rare alternate tracks such as rehearsals.
MJ Hibbett on twitter
The Validators on twitter
An Artists Against Success Presentation
Maintained by MJ Hibbett & The Validators