An impressive online portfolio, and a twisted and Alpha Male sound results in a wonderful jam.
Crying Clown is available at
IT is down to the south coast again, once more...
that my mind is focused upon today. For a long, long while now, most of the bands and acts focused here have hailed from the north. I was surprised and pleased when I came across Classic Plastic, and their unique blend of Britpop-cum-classic '60s blend, and stated how rare it was to hear of a great band from the south coast. Not due to a lack of quality or low numbers; sheerly because any media promotion and attention seems to focus on bands from either London, or foreign climbs. There seems to be an ignorant disregard for any worthy act that originates beyond the capital. As I mentioned when reviewing the Brighton boys, it is hardly surprising that such a confident and talented act should be found here. The air is fresher, the streets are less cluttered, and there seems to be a physical and creative space in the southern coastal spots, that is lacking in the bustling metropolis. A dedicated regard has been appropriated, where there is no city stress. If you wander along the seafront, or venture further into town, there are well-worn doors and strange little clubs, that each proffer a different sound, and offer a unique curiosity. The music that is elicited, tends to be perhaps heavier in nature than you'd expect; there is a lot of guitar music, and not too much soul or jazz. London may have the diversity, but where the likes of Brighton may be less varied as a whole, the quality tends to be more concentrated, and there is more personality and approachability amongst the acts. I guess in a way, the hub of economy, politics and population is centered in London; it is where the vast majority of magazines, newspapers and music sites are based, so naturally, it is where the majority of attention and focus is going to be paid. I accept that. It just seems that a lot is being missed out; there are wonderful, humble and striking acts to be found if you venture further north or south; each promoting a solid work ethic, that promised high yield bonds and a longevity that many of the more celebrated London acts may not posses. Strange thing, I guess, about music: you would expect a greater security and protection the closer you are to London. I suppose politics and life in general is unpredictable and uncertain, so too are our assumptions with regards to epicentres of quality music, and the duration of the inherent participants. I digress, somewhat. Brighton soon could be a contender for the future capital for great music, and the horizon for which tired eyes may soon be straining to view more clearly.
The Guardian has recently focused the wonders of The Wytches. Their name may be simultaneously straight-forward, yet hard to spell, but is a trend that is occurring amongst young bands. The Strypes are doing it as well, and should the two acts ever share a bill, it will be interesting to see if a name civil war breaks out. The profile piece noted that it is rare in 2013; or in the 21st century in general, to hear acts that not only offer psychedelic music, but a sound that is perhaps darker and more deranged than you may expect from any comparable '60s acts such as The Byrds and The Beatles. The Wytches are a rarity, in the sense that they not only are stepping away from a predictable and lamentable scene that sees most new acts aping existing bands, and instead finding a new and curious path. Their front-man, Kristian Bell has had his pipes compared to them of Alex Turner. This shouldn't be seen as a red flag at all; more of a slightly fatigued comparison. Recently I have heard far, far, far too many new bands, where the front-man has taken to mimicking Turner. To be honest one is enough, and trying to emulate Arctic Monkeys in terms of quality and conviction is an impossible and fruitless task. Where as Turner tends to be convincing yet a little flat, with regards to range and power, Bell has a wilder and more ravaged voice; a cross between Jim Morrison and Captain Beefheart, in a sense. Bell, along with his band cohorts, Mark Breed, Dan Rumsey and Gianni Honey (best name ever, by the way), are a tight and mature band, in spite of the fact that from looking at them, you would swear they were all between 16 and 17 years old. The band call their sound "surf doom", which is something I have never heard. You get the impression that Dick Dale has joined forces with Quentin Tarrantino and made a darker follow-up to Pulp Fiction. They have been lucky enough to have recorded their track Beehive Queen, in Hackney's Toe Rag Studios. Helmed by engineer maestro Liam Watson, it has all the hallmark sounds you expect from a Toerag recording: sparse and raw, with a retro '60s sound, and an overall effect that gives the unnerving sensation that the band are playing the sound live in your living room, or the back of your mind. The band have a weird breeding, when it comes to melting sounds, and unleashing a perfunctory aroma. There is a teaspoon of 1950s surf rock; a spill of 1967 psychedelia, and '90s desert rock. If you put out of your mind any notions of Arctic Monkeys tribute, and set aside the issue of the youth of the band, the results are quite startling. Beehive Queen one side of their double A-side single, and has been getting a lot of press, because of its immediate and fresh sound, and of course, that Toe Rag Studios gold seal. It is the other A-side song- Crying Clown- that I was more focused on.
It is Beehive Queen that has, by far the most listens on SoundCloud; but Crying Clown is the curious sister. There is no time for an intro, it is straight down to vocal duties. It that bare-boned and sparse echo that hits you first. There is no studio glimmer and plastic polish; just an unfettered and minimal sound that has not been heard far beyond the legacy of The White Stripes. Our front-man spits electrical sparks in a dark atmosphere; at times it is hard to distinguish what is being sung, as our hero is enraptured by a memory of his loyalty being "sold illegally". The band are settled and composed in the early stages; the percussion smashes, wait for a few seconds, and then smashes again; injecting an audible punch into the proceedings. There is a fleck of bass, but the initial attention is on Bell. He has a vocal rough edge that the likes of John Lennon possessed as a birth right, and inspired a legion of future musicians. The sound is rooted in the north, and somewhere between Liverpool and Manchester. The tales, too, that the band are portraying, have their heart and head in 1967 Liverpool too. In spite of the boys being born in a modern age, they convey a genuine affection for the birth of psychedelia, and seem intent on making sure that it blows the cobwebs from a dusty and stuffy music scene. The chorus- when it arrives- is spewed faster and more breathless. The words are almost growled, like Bell has donned the clown make-up, has grabbed a hatchet, and is swaying through the rain-battered streets, in search of a target. It has a flavour of The White Stripes as well; there is a percussive and vocal byplay, with familiar dark edges; think second half of White Blood Cells. The chorus, too, is the first real accelerated moment to the song. Before, the verse has been measured and biding its time; letting the words out and building up the tension. When the band unleash words of "The graveyard girl" and a septic Gothic haunt, there is a sense that something dark and dangerous is lurking nearby, ready to strike. A murky, psychedelic operetta is dispensed to elicit tension and story. The guitar crackles, burbles and crashes, like an authoritative Jack White lick; only it is less Elephant, and more debut/solo album-era. The way that the clattering percussion, bass and guitar summons a snowballing gravity, is reminiscent of The Beatles' I Want You (She's So Heavy) from Abbey Road. It is focused and well-aimed, as much as anything; nor merely a professional jam session or ad-libbed waltz. It is tantalising too, as the line is built and repeats, and repeats, until you assume that it will be hear to stay for a little longer, and then... it dims down. The mood again becomes more composed, as our protagonist steps back up to the mic. The pattern and signature is the same as the first verse, only now the lyrics have shifted to include dream-reading and "casual teens". The subject of dis-satisfactory or ill-managed love is hardly a new subject, or one that will be diminished, yet The Wytches step away from cliched lyrics, instead arousing vivid and strange images, in the same way the likes of Jake Bugg- and yes, Alex Turner- do so skillfully. The band are nothing if not unpredictable, unwilling as they are to stray towards convention or expectation. Around 1:54, Bell's voice switches from its registered and pondering finger-wagging, and suddenly becomes a bloodier and more savage animal altogether. The demented, psychotic clown figure has apparently found a victim and has entirely lost its composure. There is Frank Black guttural growl, the sort of flair that Kurt Cobain employed for Nirvana. The 1960s psychedelia has fast-forwarded to early-'90s grunge- think a very lo-fi and sonically anorexic Nirvana-cum-Soundgarden (think New Damage/Badmotorfinger) with a little bit of Pixies in there too. It is hard at times to hear what is being sung; in a sense the fascination comes from the intensity of the music and vocal rather than specific words; you just need to let it invade you. When our front-man has exorcised his demons, there is a some feedback, before that heavy metal/Beatles rollicking bomb blast staggers and explodes once again; rhythmic and enticing, as well as hypnotic and fist-pumping. Then it is at an end, having made its mark, and laid out its stall, and punched you in the guts, ears and heart.
The Wytches are by a long distance, the most exciting young from the south that I have heard, for some time. I have heard only 3 tracks from them, but cannot wait to hear more. The specific talents that are brought to the band, individually are hard to match. The vocals are dark and strong, but have a dexterity and malleable menace that gives it a utilitarianism and key utility. The Alex Turner comparisons seem a little lax, as I never heard Turner bellow and scream like Bell; likewise, the overall tone of his (Bell's) voice is closer in comparison to John Lennon or professional John Lennon impersonator Liam Gallagher. There is more than enough in the accent, diversity and power to suggest that Bell could establish himself as a long-term great, and if the songs keep this strong and diverse, he will be able to stretch his lungs and talent to some wonderful and undiscovered corners. The bass has all the Grunge/Gothic crawl of Kim Deal, as well as a pioneering and adventurous soul, that is able to match and bolster the mood and tension, as well as keep the peace when needed to. The guitar and drum work together and work wonderfully. The percussive flair is to be admired, as it is taut, but also has a freewheelin' spirit to it; I hope that on future records, we hear more of it, and it is brought more to the fore, and given a couple of changes to be heard in a solo capacity. The guitar work threatens to steal the show, as it is contorted and strong-arming; able to glide between 1969 The Beatles, 1999 The White Stripes and- yes, at times- 1969 Led Zeppelin. Above all though it is original and modern, and will be an exciting addition to the band's future songs. Overall the band prove themselves to be superior to any comparisons or sabre-rattling. They are a group whom understand the importance of projecting potency, authority and intention right from the off, and the decision to record at Toe Rag Studios and make the most of the fascinating and analogue enviroment, has paid dividends. At times some of the words get buried underneath the sound, making the overall effect less potent and impactful as you'd like, but it is a minor quibble. They will be a future mainstay at festivals, and on the minds and lips of ardent music fans for a long, long time. If they haven't already been played on BBC Six Music, XFM and Absolute Radio, then they will be, as it seems like a natural homestead for them. Whether an album beckons next year, or slightly further afield, is yet to be seen; only increasing anticipation and intrigue. One thing that cannot be questioned..
IS just how impressive these first footsteps are.