'You Only Like Me Coz I'm In a Band'
Halifax boys have a familiar sound, but are a very different kettle of fish.
Availability: 'You Only Like Me Coz I'm In a Band' is available via http://soundcloud.com/the-ruckus-band/you-only-like-me-coz-im-in-a
Don't let the band name, or familiar tones ward you off...
because a quick Google search may provide fruitless, at the best, partially successful. There is a band in the U.S. with the same name, as well as companies and other such avenues. It is a good name for a band, but wish there was a sophistication amongst search engines, where you could narrow searches down to bands, locations and such. Anyway, I shall get more into the band, shortly. For now I am going to be a musical Michael Palin, as I go on a rather curious- albeit unambitious- traversing of a special part of England. More specifically Yorkshire. There has been a commodious outpouring of super talent from the west of Yorkshire. In such a large county that comprises vastly evocative countryside, and breathtaking beauty; a lot of the inner cities have had a hard time recruiting followers and converting people to a musical cause. There is terrific music talent in the likes of Leeds and the stables of Cuckoo Records. I have harked on about and flapped my gums many a time about the merits and profitability of the charming record label. But people bang on about Rough Trade Records, and there is as much diversity and potential to be found at Cuckoo, as there is within the London label. Cuckoo has the alluring sexiness and infectious jazz of Little Violet; the Detroit blues-cum-Yorkshire grit man Jonnythefirth; right through to the pastoral folk of Amber States; it is a brooding cauldron of magic, mystery and intoxication. Over in Bradford, there is the talents of Abi Uttley and Marc Otway. Marc is a stunning songwriter and guitarist, and has the potential to be a huge talent, imbued with a Jake Bugg/Alex Turner grip on the modern pulse, and the surging guitar chops of Johnny Marr. Abi is an alluring and stunning songstress with a staggering voice and heart-melting looks; together they are going to be a massive future proposition. 21 miles to the south-east, is a charming, and metropolitan district of Wakefield.
Humorously- or perhaps with quiet reserve- the band of men The Ruckus, shyly state that they hail from that "small town" of 76,000. One suspects that there is an international naivety. A lot of American and foreign T.V. networks and record labels are stunning naive and stereotypical when it comes to England. They assume we are all either Danny Dyer/Dick Van Dyke rabbits in the hat; either sweeping chimneys and dancing on Victorian rooftops, or surveying the streets of east London, looking for some slags to teach a lesson. It is all billiard halls, Union flags, and Guy Ritchie films. The other side is the majority viewpoint that we all have butlers, have concrete upper lips and talk like Keira Knightley and Helen Baxendale. We all say 'gosh' and 'golly' too much, stand in red telephone boxes and go down the local ale house for a game of arrows, before sitting round a piano singing WWII knees-up tunes. It is a nice image but one reserved for bad (read most) Hollywood interpretations of England and the English. People get shot, stabbed and join gangs here. A lot of the U.S. have no ideas places like Leicester, Brighton and Wales exist. They have no idea where Canada is, either, but that is a damning indictment on the U.S. education system. My point is, that people who live farther afield than the north of England, and certainly live overseas, are unaware of what Wakefield is, exactly. There will be a time, I hope before I die, where there will be a global awareness of the hot-spots, bustling towns and countryside wonders of our island nation. We have produced the greatest musicians in history, so the world needs to catch up. Whilst I wipe the angry spit from the screen, let me introduce The Ruckus. Aside from residing in a historical town, the boys are, Greg, Patrick, Darren, James and Jack. They have a classic 5-piece formation, with each chap taking on an instrument and owning it with authority. They are fresh-faced and curate a mixture of "high energy dance" and "sing along songs". They have an E.P. due very shortly, and have spent this year writing a load of new material, from funk-driven gems, to monster-riff beasts. They have toured the local circuit, and won approval from local radio stations. Following on from the fervent approval of Yorkshire, their sound has been noticed and premiered by BBC 6 Music, and the band have been touted as future festival headlines, with fans left in wonder by their memorable songs and energetic and captivating performances.
I have been tasked with giving a review to their new song, 'You Only Like Me Coz I'm In a Band'. It has a sense of Juvenilia and northern late-night street spirit in the title, and the song and band name, and your reaction to the song, will be subject to Munchhausen Trilemma, and the circular argument. I shall explain more, in the conclusion, but for now; on with the song! Before I point out some obvious influences, the band themselves are keen fans of Oasis, Bloc Party and The Who. The intro, however suggests, a debut-era Arctic Monkeys, with slight edges of Queens of the Stone Age's eponymous album. It is the Monkeys that the boys sound most similar too. With fastidious myoclonic jerks of guitar, there are early shades of the near-neighbours. The intro ducks and weaves, punching out at intervals. The guitar is heavy and brooding. It has a jumpy and loose feel, injecting a youthful vibe to it, as well as a mature authority too. With hints of 'When the Sun Goes Down', 'From the Ritz to the Rubble', and 'Riot Van', it will cause a simultaneous curious intrigue as well as an outpouring of ambitransitive verbs amongst the educated and uninitiated, alike. It is a powerful and potent intro, that also a Michael Jackson 'Beat It' kick to it. As there is a mutated fleck of Queens of the Stone Age's 'Misfit Love', the drum clatters and gleefully bounces, as the band pull out the effects pedals, and a beautiful wailing 'wah' is brought into the mix. It is the mix of funk, northern indie rock and U.S. stoner rock, that blends wonderfully to lodge the song into your mind, without a word being sung. Luckily there is no Alex Turner drawl, when the vocal comes. It is a lot fresher and more energetic, with a keen edge. The lyrics are spat and tumble, almost with a rap/hip hop pattern. If you imagine Sugarhill Gang's 'Rapper's Delight' with a flavour of mid-career 'Stone Roses' psychedelia, then you are half way there. The lyrical tread a modern minefield of cultural and social divides. The band speak of someone who is not exactly an oenophile, seeing as they "only know what (you) see around town". There is a lot of Liam Gallagher-esque swagger to the vocal. The Yorkshire accent does come out quite convincingly. Most bands would try to inject U.S. accents or try to distill their own voice, but it is admirable that Greg doesn't; he sings as he finds, and sounds as he means. He can live up to Nero's dying words, without a hint of irony or over-exaggeration. There is a sense throughout, that, whoever this hanger-on and fake ligger is, they are not appreciated. They are keen to be disingenuous and hang out with the boys, but only do so because they are in a band. Whether the central figure of this tale is a male friend, or as I'd suspect, a potential girlfriend, they have been caught out. The band combine an infectious and scuzzy kick in the nuts of a riff; with some ragged swaying psychedelic bliss. The drums are fierce and powerful; it may have been nice to hear them more in the foreground, as they are potent and have a grunge rage to them, when required. As the song progresses, it does so without dropping pace, or easing up on any ministerial finger-wagging. When our villain is seen in rather suspect circles it is asked "Do you want to have fun?/So leave them behind", but seems that that will never happen. Just after 1:30, the anger seems to be too much, as the percussion thrashes and drives; the guitars and bass ramps up and begins to kick, like Zorba the Greek in its crescendoing latter stages. With a group/gang chorus of "get 'em off for the boys"", that is chanted fiercely, again with Arctic blasts, the vocals capitulate and there is a guitar/drums/bass battles as they tussle, collide and wrestle, as we come to an end.
There are no real negatives to suggest. I have yet to hear too many of the band's past and present, but on the basis of this song, there are a lot of similarities with Arctic Monkeys. This is okay in small doses, but there is a heavy leaning at times, especially in the intro, and chanted passage near the end. The Sheffield boys' debut was released in 2006, and there has been a cloying raft of late teen/early 20-something bands, looking to cash in and counterfeit the cachet and sound of Turner and his boys. In the same way that The Libertines suffered a same fate; they are now dead and buried. Arctic Monkeys have a new album coming out, and I hope that there will be experimentation and a widening of the sound, for future releases for The Ruckus. As it is likely the two bands will go head to head (although in different venues, circles and radio stations), the comparisons will come thick and fast, and being mentioned too frequently with existing bands, could be a first nail in a creative coffin. In the same way there are shades of The Stone Roses too, but it is less obvious. Th vocal is well produced and has a great clarity, but I would like to see as much focus given to drums as there is to guitars and bass. Jack Spencer is a powerful and future sticks master, and would be good to hear more of his voice in the mix, as well as that of the other 4 boys. That said that is about it. Less reliance on certain influences and perhaps a little more emphasis on the percussion section.
Those are the only real gripes. I have an attuned ear for such things and have a savant ability to be able to detect the geneaological roots of vocals and guitar. In the same way too the guitar sounds have a lot in common with Arctic Monkeys and Oasis. The band as a whole have a huge confidence. I would not have given the song such a high rating, were I genuinely concerned that important long-term career considerations had not been taken into account. The lyrics throw a cheeky wink to The Libertines' 'Boys in the Band', and run similar lyrical themes. The words are modern, sharp and have a northern wit to them, and suffer no ill comparison. The lyrics are sharp and genuine, and are kept simple enough to be appreciated by a large number of people. The riffs and composition is catchy and will drive into your skull, as there is a lot of power and guts, combined with a rare beauty lurking under the skin. The vocals are refreshingly heterogeneous and unique. There is clarity and consideration given so that the lyrics can be heard, but also breathless enough, so that you are swept away with them. In essence the band need not worry, as I know full well they have a growing and beloved fan base, that will bolster their confidence and ambition. They have a lot of tricks and aces up their sleeve, and can mix styles effortlessly. It is also rare to see such an authority from such a young band, as most bands currently getting similar airplay and credit are a lot older.
If you are unfamiliar with the music of Yorkshire, then liven up. Manchester, Liverpool and London get a lot of attention, but new bands that emanate from any other town or city, sometimes have a hard struggle trying to capture a similarly excitable collective imagination. The future of exhilarating and festival-headlining bands and acts will be coming from Yorkshire, so it makes good sense and is a solid investment to place your chips on this part of the map. Listen to The Ruckus, and delve a bit deeper into their annals, and see what all the fuss is about, as they are going to commanding a lot of air time when their E.P. is unleashed. Years, time and confidence will steer them to the right of Turner's crew, as they collate memories, stories, and fresh inspiration. If you are wise enough to give the guys a good hearing and a lot of time, then this is the perfect place to start. It was Friedrich Nietzsche who said: "The surest way to corrupt a youth, is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike, than those who think differently". Have no fear, though...
this year will see them defy all expectations.