'Roll Up Your Dreams/Slipstreams'- Track Reviews
9/10 & 8/10
London-based 'Soul Rock' band follow up 'Her Soul' with an intriguing duo of tracks, that will have you hooked.
Release date: Later this year.
It has its sleeves rolled up, and fists of concrete.
New music is a curious beast. I've never been a huge fan of the critical lists which announce the '10 acts to watch' or 'sounds of the year'. Out of the 10 or so acts that are listed, there may be perhaps 1 or 2 that are genuinely noteworthy. Everybody has their own tastes and will try to find their own paramour and new music which fits into their comfort zone. Over recent weeks I have reviewed acts specialising in pop, country rock, and dub-step, and have been staggered by the wealth of talent and diversity amongst them. It was a few weeks ago, that I came across Shades of Jade.
I have been listening to their E.P. 'Her Soul' and have been impressed by their sound. It has an authentic rock sound, and has a deep soul and a stinging scorpion's tale. The band itself,. like all of the greatest rock acts (Radiohead, Queens of the Stone Age, Judas Priest, The Spice Girls etc.) are a 5-piece. Unlike the aforementioned bands they are fronted by a woman with a voice somewhere between Alison Mosshart, Samantha Sprakling and a young Patti Smith. It is a pleasing combination that has venom, maturity, youth and vulnerability all in one. (Front woman) Jade Barnett is also in possession of a raw sexuality and supermodel stunning looks as well, which makes for a uniquely disarming witches' brew. She is backed by an exceptionally tight and talented band. I relaxed my body, tightened my belt, and opened my mind, and prepared for what was to come.
The first track to bless my ears was 'Roll Up Your Dreams'. The first thing you notice is the idiosyncratic and intriguing title. You are not entirely sure just what is in store. The intro has many of the hallmarks of early '90s grunge. I was instantly reminded of Nirvana's 'Polly'; perhaps one of the key tracks off of one of the most quintessential albums in history. It is a reverent and a Trojan Horse of an intro, with guitar and drum beating Strum und Drang. Barnett's vocal arrives into the mix. It is seductive and sensuous, proclaiming: 'I don't know where to begin...'. A brilliant opening line, which circumvents expectations. The band keep time brilliantly, and provide a great backing to Barnett, who's voice has edges of Kate Nash, but with much greater range and credibility. 'What do you make of me?' is a question posed. It is hard to say. Around half way through the track, there is an explosion of sound and anger, the mood intensifies and the scruff of the neck is well and truly seized upon. The sonic elevation is alarming and gripping, and has hints of Nirvana, Queens of the Stone Age as well as The Pretty Reckless. It bubbles and taunts; rocks and rolls; kicks and screams. 'Roll up your dreams and smoke them away' is chanted over an army of guitars, drum and bass, and is a song that demands you listen, and you listen up good. It also employs an effective quiet-loud paradigm, which at once lulls and beckons you in, before kicking you out of bed. It is a tight and concentrated track and one that is original and fresh. You can hear influences here and there, but there is no mimicry, parody or reinvention. It is a first class track and second to no one.
The second song is Slipstreams. If you are waiting for a grunge/punk/metal intro, then you will be disappointed. Well, until you actually hear the into, which is softer and more law-abiding. It begins like a swim through a cosmic ocean: entrancing, light-headed and dilated. Soon enough it is replaced by guitar and drum. At first listen there are flavours of Travis and The Stereophonics, but after several repeats I detect 'The Bends'-era Radiohead in the music itself. 'Dreams slip away/In light of me' is one of the track's line. There seems to be an abiding constant between the tracks, of dreams relinquishment or having to let go of them. Maybe not, it just seems to be one of the first things that struck me. There are elements of Paramore and Patti Smith to the vocals throughout the choruses, and when they become multitracked before the chorus, they seem bigger and more breathless. The chorus itself is pleading, impassioned and portentous and is powerful and 'give me just a taste of what it's like in your world' is delivered in the midst of this, with Barnett's proclamation that she is going down for miles 'chasing slipstreams'.
Having journeyed through the band's catalogue on Myspace and Soundcloud, it is true that they have a hell of a varied range, and a multifaceted nature to their songwriting and delivery. Neither song in isolation would be wholly representative of Shades of Jade as a band. Both of the tracks I have listened to are varied and incredibly impressive. I would say that 'Roll Up My Dreams' is my favourite of the duo. It has a harder edge and is more memorable. Both tracks are very tight and focused, and the band's performance is exemplary. They compliment the vocals perfectly, and I was particularly struck by the drumming throughout. The guitar and bass are at once dark and acne-ridden, and the next sedate and honed. The biggest positives, aside from the range of sounds and mood switches, is the originality of the tracks. The titles are perfectly fitting and memorable, and although there are similarities to other acts, Shades of Jade supersede many of their contemporaries and by no means inferior to the classic acts of music past. I like the fact that the band has a woman at the front. There are some bands like Blood Red Shoes, Paramore, and The Pretty Reckless who are in a similar boat, but it is quite a rarity as a whole. In male hands, I don't think many of the lines would have been so meaningful, and it is the bi-gender interplay that makes the songs so memorable. The group are the vanguard of London Soul Rock, and hopefully when these songs are released to a wider sphere, rightful credit will be theirs.
I could think of no criticism at all. Certainly not with the songs themselves. The lyrics are effective and not untrite at all. The vocals are constantly engaging and strong and the band tight and committed. If I would lean towards one suggestion, it would be the desire for a an intensification of the polygamous nature of the music. Especially on 'Roll Up Your Dreams' they go from quiet to loud and back again very effectively, and would be good to have heard that similar affect on 'Slipstreams'. At the end of that track there is a tremulous and very beautiful vocal piece from Barnett. Perhaps as a tease, or a sign of things to come, but recollections of Jessie Ware came to mind. Maybe if more of this kind of serene vocalisation were mixed with the intensive rushes that are commonplace on both tracks, it would create an even grander sound. I don't know. It is clear there is a distinct band ethic and desire to be the very best band in town. I think they can achieve this easily and I am looking forward to hearing a lot more. For anyone with a curious desire to seek out exciting and incredible bands, check them out on Myspace and Soundcloud, and keep up-to-date with their happenings, gigs and news via Facebook and Twitter, because you won't be disappointed. They have inspired me to pick up a pen and write new material. Now...
... What rhymes with 'jealous'?
Key Track: 'Roll Up Your Dreams'.
Shade of Jade's E.P. 'Her Soul' is available via: