Back in 2016 I reviewed an album by an act called Big Top Heartbreak. Deadbeat Ballads was one of those albums where the personality of its creator truly shone through. It was a shame then that it languished in relative obscurity, with even being absent from some of the bigger music cataloguing websites. Its cult appeal was obvious though, and it was heartwarming when I saw the hits for the review here on Backseat Mafia slowly but steadily creep upwards years after its release. Deadbeat Ballads had an appeal beyond its cult appeal. Big Top Heartbreak made music that endured. For the next couple of years after its release, I kept my ear to the ground for news on Big Top Heartbreak, hoping that there would be a follow up to Deadbeat Ballads, but alas, as time progressed it seemed that it would be the sole standalone release for a talent that just didn’t get the talent it deserved.
Then a few months ago an email dropped into my inbox asking if I would like to review a new release by some guy called Scott Lavene. In the back of my mind a connection was made. An email was fired back to the PR company, asking if this was the same Scott Lavene who had previously recorded as Big Top Heartbreak. Turned out it was. Not only that, but the album was on its way to me.
Broke is an album title that raises a smile with me, and not only because it echoes the often overlooked Dr. Hook classic, Bankrupt. Be it music released as Big Top Heartbreak, or under his own name, Scott Lavene has an innate talent for narratives delivered from the social perspective of those on the fringes of society. Not only that, but his instantly recognisable voice encourages empathy for those characters he is singing from the perspective of. Now you might think that that is one of the main requirements of any singer, but you’d be amazed just how rare that quality actually is, but it is one that Lavene has a surplus of. As a working class chap from a loving family, with a small family of his own, office job and a mortgage, I’ve never really been on the fringes of society, but listening to Broke, such are the lyrical and vocal talents of Lavene, that I can’t help but find myself hoping the individuals who populate this album have better times ahead.
As is often the way with albums made of songs with string narratives, Broke is an album where different songs leap out at you every time you play it. “Super Clean”, “Modern World” and the title track are three tracks that never fail to make an impression, while “Methylated Blue” is an accessible number with a measure more production polish than the rest of the album. “Methylated Blue” practically screams out as the song with the most cross over potential, as it is complete with pretty melody, a chorus which hooks you in, and once again a narrative that even those of us unfamiliar with the references that Lavene makes can’t help but have an emotional response to.
Broke is an album which encourages these emotional responses, but doesn’t do anything so crass as demand them. It’s an album that gradually convinces you of its worth without having to shout about it, and in a music scene where competing for attention is the norm, it’s lovely to have an album by an artist that has a clear and convincing voice, rather than trying to shout above everyone else. Regardless of what name Scott laverne records his next album under, I’ll be listening out for him.
Broke is released on June 7th on Funnel Music.