Sometimes you find books and sometimes they find you.

I was in the kitchen listening to Shaun Keaveny’s breakfast show one morning when a guest appeared talking about her new book concerning ‘The Russian Novel’ and how we should all be reading them. Shaun admitted he’d been suffering from genre-trepidation and had a copy of Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita all ready to go on the launch pad but no match in sight.

A few days later I was at Bromide bass player Hugo’s wedding, and a copy of the book with its shadow-puppet cover was lying around in the hotel lobby at the reception. For some reason someone thought the book belonged to me and it became clear that this was going to be my next read - especially after a google search pulled up a quote from Stones drummer Charlie Watts recalling Mick Jagger playing the band an early version of ‘Sympathy For The Devil’, written just after he’d finished the book.

The book itself was written between the First and Second World Wars (in secret - Stalin wasn’t big on satire), but not published until 1967. The story is centred around the events following the appearance of the Devil in the midst of Moscow ”at the hour of the hot spring sunset.”

Within a few pages the thin veil of normality has disappeared and we witness a prominent literary figure slipping on spilt cooking oil and losing his head under a tram… moments later we’re in ancient Judaea where Pilate is questioning Jesus in an hilarious encounter that reveals the latter to be closer in character to Monty Python’s ‘Brian’, paired with an Alastair Campbellian spin doctor in disciple Matthew. Back in the USSR, the Devil and his entourage have taken over a theatre and captivated the Musocvite bourgeoisie with a magic show involving further head displacement… and a walking talking cat called Behemoth is causing general havoc amongst the population and stealing the show wherever he goes.

It’s a fantastical ride.

That doesn’t really do it. It’s fucking nuts and will have you laughing out loud.

Though, through all the chaos and multiple other plot lines, it is essentially a traditional story at heart. Like Star Wars, The Bible, The Doors’ ‘Break On Through’ and perhaps every moment of every day, it’s ultimately about Good and Evil.

“What would your good do,” Woland (the Devil) asks the disciple Matthew towards the end of the book, “if evil did not exist, and what would the Earth look like if shadows disappeared from it? Shadows are cast by objects and people. Here is the shadow of my sword. Trees and living beings also have shadows. Do you want to skin the whole Earth, tearing all the trees and living things off it, because of your fantasy of enjoying bare light ? You’re a fool.”

Who knows he might even get your sympathy.

Bromide's new album I Woke Up comes out tomorrow through Scratchy Records.

Live Dates:
Sat 16th June - ALBUM LAUNCH Scratchstock #27, London, Birds Nest
Thurs 12th July - Fuck Off Trump - London, Railway Arch off Old Kent Road
Fri 31st August - Scratchstock #28 - London, Birds Nest