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Hello and Goodbye: The Only Album From U.K. Poetry/Music Collective A Means To An End

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A Means To An End is both the debut and final album of the now-broken up, U.K.-located, DIY, indie, poetry/music collective A Means To An End. The trio consisted of Andy N (spoken word), Petrova (vocals/spoken word, guitar), and Jeffarama! (spoken word, guitar), all from the Manchester, England area, and its intent was to blend the arts of poetry and music into a completely new form of communication. The band was formed in 2011 and in the brief time it was active its members released demo material (and this album) and performed live at various festivals several times.

The lo-fi, low-key, but highly thoughtful A Means To An End is a fitting introduction and swan song that collects the highlights of the band’s output, with songs that delve into the universal experience by recounting the band members’ personal viewpoints. The ruminations are spare and direct with a vivid sense of time and place and perception. Words are mostly spoken, sometimes sung, with a thick, but clear British enunciation, oftentimes accompanied by contemplative acoustic guitar lines.

The effect of remembrances and the past crops up on several songs, including the first one, “Return To Kemptown”. It’s an ode to memories that linger long after events have unfolded. Andy N speaks of closed-up shops, the dazzling sun, and his thoughts of Helen where “… my memories of her / were now lost in the tall grass.” Petrova’s singing floats over Andy N’s reflections as she opines “Can’t get you out of my head.” amid two gently strummed guitars.

The lyrically pointed number “Ever Wondered” contrasts delicate acoustic guitar lines with Andy N and Jeffarama!’s traded spoken word, with Andy N cuttingly asking “Ever wondered why innocent suffer and keep on dying / and why politicians and leaders just deceive and keep on lying?” Petrova’s light and crisply pleasant spoken word graces the two tracks “Caterpillar Days” and “Front Page News”. The lyrics of “Front Page News” are wryly funny and so true – “It’s the age of technology / Life’s a front page / Gotta update your status / Tell everyone about – your breakfast.”

Andy N is spotlighted on the affecting “Leaving Belfast”, his poignant spoken word supported by delicately picked guitar notes and airy backing vocals from Petrova. Andy N recalls his tumultuous time spent living with someone who has now disappeared from his life, musing “Even now you are gone / I remember you in Belfast / Been more like war / than lovers or respectable friends.”

Jeffarama!’s spoken word takes center stage on “A Coin in the Fountain”, a bleak, or at least realistic, look at life where “The past all leads to the future / which I suppose is now today.” “Dead To Me” is an alt-folk delight with Petrova singing with a lovely lilt against light guitar strum, wistfully wondering “If I open up my heart / will I finally belong?” Andy N twists enticingly through “Hard Rock City”, name-checking Bowie, Chuck Berry, and other artists, depicting the experience of seeing a rock star at a live performance.

Andy N continues for the first half of “Curtain Call” amid chiming guitar lines, while Jeffarama! takes on the second half, speaking of the divide between anonymity and fame, and how no matter if the audience is large or small, “I give it my best / I give it my all.” That’s what Andy N, Petrova, and Jeffarama! do on A Means To An End, focusing on the (relatively) little details of their lives to paint a bigger picture about what it means to be human.

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