Gimme That Swing
9.6/10 & 9.7/10
The Cuckoo stalls have unleashed a new swing wonder; and, unsurprisingly, there is potency, style and curiosity, aplenty.
Gimme That Swing is available at:
IT has been a fair few weeks, since I have talked of a...
record label that offers endless consistency. I have experienced a lot of great music from Cuckoo as of late, from Jonnythefirth, through to Little Violet. It is not a label that fosters narrow-minded ambition or has a particular sound. There are a lot of styles and flavours to be unearthed, from blues rock, through to folk, and it is a stable that is playing host to some seriously great future talent. It is not a shock that there is so much electricity and marvel, up in the north. It has been with trepidation, that I have taken on the task of reviewing new artists. So many times, I have gone in; hopes high, only to be left heartbroken by the results. Too many artists get it into their minds, that by near-aping their favourite band or most relevant contemporaries, is the way to success and credibility. It seems that every single act or new artist is instantly compared with an existing one. It is a worrying sign, as- no matter how good a voice or sound the act has- it displays a lack of originality. I guess, with so much music already having been recorded, and so many artists having passed through music's illustrious annals, that being unique is becoming harder and harder. Although, this said, when artists are compared with others, by and large, this is because they want to; fans and the media know this. It is angering, as the original artists- whom the new artist tend to mimic- are always superior; have greater talent, and most importantly, got their first! I guess it is a quagmire that is going to get worse, but I am fatigued and fed up with the lack of ambition and individual personality but musicians today. With the exception of a vast minority, music is in danger of becoming a horrid and ersatz version of itself, circa the late '90s. In Yorkshire, where homophones are riff; landscapes are varied and beautiful, and few great football teams are situated, there is a music core, whom are ripe to supersede my reticence and loathing. A lot of the activity is located around Leeds, Bradford and Wakefield, but there are some rustling and bustling around Sheffield as well. It is Leeds that has intrigued me most. Until very recently, I was hard pressed to think of many bands or artists whom originated from here. Scritti Politti, Kaiser Chiefs and Alt-J hail from here, as well as one of my all-time favourite bands. Wild Beasts. Predominantly, it is the less-well known, new artists whom are based here: Pulled Apart By Horses and The Pigeon Detectives are two of the best and most potent, of the current crop.
Cissie Redgwick is a veritable Dark Knight of the music scene. By day, she is Miss. Redgwick- swing artist extraordinaire, but by night: dark vigilante Rose and the Howling North. I have perhaps unveiled her secret too soon, but the woman behind the masks- Rosie Doonan- is not only impressive in her creative range, but also her musical one, too. It is no overstatement, to say that Rose and the Howling North's debut album, was one of the finest I have heard this year. It has been on my stereo for weeks, and there is so much ambition and range over the album, that it always feels alive and fresh. The title track to that album- Cuckoo- will stay in your head longest; with its vivid and story imagery, Nancy Sinatra-esque musical composition and dark edges, and wild and wonderful vocal, it is the epitome and embodiment of the album, artist and Yorkshire scene, as a whole. The work of Rose and the Howling North has been gaining momentum, credit and celebration, at a steady rate since the release of the album, and there is a huge demand for future songs. Redgwick- Bruce Wayne, if you will- is a different sort of beast. Somewhat softer, less dangerous and more jazz-infused, she is a swing legend, re-imagined for the modern age. Of course Rose' has soft, playful and alluring sides: that was what makes the album so invigorating; but Redgwick is more comparable to her Cuckoo 'stablemate' Little Violet. Little Violet (Cherry Gears), is a gorgeous and sassy swing artist, with a fond admiration for the jazz and swing music of the '40s and '50s, and impressed me with her sharp and memorable songwriting, and wonderful sound. Redgwick has a similar appeal and energy; both of whom are making the type of music which- sans Caro Emerald- is vastly rare in 2013 (and indeed the 21st century)! The music of Redgwick and Little Violet is similar to that of the likes of The Andrew Sisters, only a lot sexier, and more steroidal.
The video for Gimme That Swing is dependably stylish and period-relevant. As the intro scats and repeats the song title, and the music jumps feet-first into the fray, there are male dancers, party goers, and scenes that could have been taken from a London swing club of the '40s. The introductory seconds are a blitz of staccato and rapid-fire vocalisation, and a blustery and energetic musical mood: all horns and swing strings. Redgwick sings of themes that are as relevant today, as they were 60 or 70 years ago: simple love and universal differences of intention and opinion. Redgwick is offering love from the heart; but adds the caveat: "Try not to need it so much". Although Redgwick has loved her beau "from the start", there seems to be a lurking discontent: a malaise. Redgwick employs similar thematics and stirring musical accompaniment to that of Little Violet, only the voices are very different. Little Violet is perhaps softer and sweeter, but with power underneath; whilst Redgwick is a little more forceful and Alpha. Both share a pain and common muse; yet the way that their thoughts are expressed, are very different. Gimme That Swing, has skiffling beats and boasts an jubilant and boisterous burst before the 1:00 mark; as the mood notches up, and Redgwick's voice accelerates and intones warnings such as: "You better run for cover". There is a play-fullness and sensitivity beneath the skin, and the main aim is to portray and employ a massive sense of fun and atmosphere. When there is a musical break at the 1:20 point, there is brass and percussion that breathes in and out; parps and dances; only for a brief time, as Redgwick is back onto her feet. She is more pensive and matter-of-fact: she is setting the scene, given some back-story, and settling scores. Her former sweetheart had "dangerous charms", that our heroine fell for- as well as the "diamonds and gold". In the video, our protagonist begins on foot, striding and eliciting; before she sits- a pair of dancers weave in front of her, as the music blends with her voice, perfectly. In spite of all the bads and flaws that her man had she loved him without discrimination; but now that things have taken a turn for the worse and truths have been revealed, she announces: "I will make you pay". The chorus is instantly indelible and simple. It strikes a huge chord, and the combination of swing (and at times Cuban-sounding) brass, combined with a voice and evocation fresh from the golden age, balances brilliantly with the slower, and more spiked verses. The entire song is never dragged too deep down: the key manifestos are energy; excitement, and a imploring desire to make your feet dance. It is an incredibly catchy and invigorating number, and the tune, melody and firestorm of jazzy tones will smash, as hard as the potent and personable honest, and well-observed lyrics. Redgwick is a woman who has been wronged, and is intent on releasing a biblical plague of retribution, through swing. It may sound like a temporised vengeance, but the sonic blasts and cursive vocal immediacy is more discommodious and miasmatic than any physical punishment.
Although not available via YouTube, or on wide release yet, Mister Mister, is the bedfellow of Gimme That Swing, and if anything, even more impressive. The openings bars and notes have a lot in common with Redgwick (Doonan)'s alter ego Rose and the Howling North. The track begins dreamily, with its author imploring: "Mister Mister/Don't treat me so unkind". Again the subject hugs closely to the heroine-is-wronged-paramour-must-pay theme, the way that the story is told, is a lot different to that of Gimme That Swing. There is a little regret and wistful looking back. In the gentle and tender opening moments, Redgwick has told how she figuratively hanged her sweetheart in the past, without thinking of him- or providing him with explanation or reprieve. Anyone whom has heard Cuckoo, will be familiar with Doonan's strong suits, as a songwriter. She knows what a strong and layered voice she has, and is able to scribe tales, that will be familiar to women and men alike. They are ubiquitous and familiar, yet contain twists and snakes, and wrapped around her voice, create a heady elixir. Redgwick is more reserved and open in this track. There is a little of the sharp edges, but by and large, but she is more touching and coquettish. She wants her man to "give me more". The pace of the music, as well as the vocal, suggests a bit more of a soulful edge. If one were to visualise, or anticipate a video for this song; we would be in a club again, but there would be less frenetic dance, and more of a lounge and candlelit mood. In the same way as Little Violet did with Don't Stop, the subverted anger and dissatisfaction (Shut Up, in the case of Little Violet) is counterpointed with a song that is smoother and more flirtatious. Redgwick announcing: "What you need, I/Shall give you for a smile". There are still guts and dominance underneath, as she implores her lover not to mess with her; in order for things to go as he wants, she needs to be treated with respect and due diligence. The way the horns, brass, upright bass strings and associative accoutrements are deployed not only skillfully, but with some authentication, is impressive. A lot of swing-era sounds are elicited with irony or insufficient reverence amongst a lot of R 'n' B and grime artists: it is used as sound-effect and shading, but never treated fairly or given any sufficient airtime or musical Christo duce vincamus. Not since the ages of The Andrews Sisters, and the pages of P.G. Wodehouse, have swing-era playlets been tattooed so beautifully. The use of backing and multi-track vocals in the song add effectiveness and volume; and the words, and the way they are presented are no less magical. Redgwick "can't give any more", and has waited a long time for her beau to do right, and be whom she needs him to be. She warns that all his friends that he spent so much time with, and loved more than her "Can love you when I'm gone". She does not need him, as it turns out, there was insurmountable stress and sadness, mitigating their time together. Redgwick gave all her love to her man; yet was sorely let down, when all she needed was a little comfort. The vocal is delivered, dream-like and flowing, similarly to how Kate Bush would deliver a lot of her music. It is the way the words are elongated, enunciated and subject to her own brand of emotivism, that makes the song so special. There is fond affection for the bygone swing-era artists, and Redgwick is a brilliant modem equivalency. The hallmarks are all present: evocative and romantic musical mood; that distinct and heart-warming vocal, and scathing and ubiquity within the words. There is never an urge to portray a feminism in the same way that the like of Beyonce will turgidly turn out time, and time again. There is not a need for empowerment; there is greater relevance to her words, as our heroine wants to be given her fair due, and respected in love, the way she deserves.
I know I have been insistently banging on about the Leeds-based Cuckoo Records, for some while now. It is for no other reason, except to highlight where some of the biggest future names are based. It is a label with few comparables, and there is a consistency here that few other labels can boast to. Redgwick (of course a nom de plume to allow Rosie Doonan to experiment away from Rose and the Howling North) takes bold steps towards taking music in a new direction. I wonder whether she as well as Little Violet will work together, as between the two of them, they are helping to re-popularise a much-ignored genre. Of course Caro Emerald is going some way herself, to revitalising and updating the swing-era sound, and Redgwick, in the mantle of a modern-day electro swing star, is equally as impressive. She has a songwriting craft which has been proven elsewhere; yet she is effortlessly capable of adapting her core themes and ideas for whatever style of music, and whatever sound, she wishes. The voice is evocative and strong, and the musical backing is tight and incredible too. On the basis of this duo of songs, I hope that there is a lot more imminent from her, and she- Doonan- is able to keep Regwick and Rose and the Howling North camps, happy and contented for many years. Like modern-day workaholics Jack White and Damon Albarn, our star is able to reinvent and keep moving between styles and projects, without compromising any quality; instead she showcases her talents in new light. Today there is too narrow an emphasis on solo artists, either being emotive balladeers, or else them playing the self-elected hard done-by hero. Whether you detected- by the tattoos perhaps- that Rose and Redgwick are the same woman, adds a little fictionalised fun to proceedings. I think in a way there is a pioneering attitude from Redgwick, as well as Little Violet's Cherie Gears. They break away from well-worn pop/soul/R 'n' B and rock parables, and re-energise and modernise a style of music that, to me, is timeless and faultless. Perhaps it does not have grit or the sort of graffiti lines to attract the most hardened of street/grime artists and fans; but from my perspective- as a huge rock/Grune/desert rock fan, it is a wonderful sounds, and one wonders why there are not male artists whom are pervading the same electro swing lines. Maybe there are, but down to Redgwick (and Little Violet), there will be others waiting in the wings to sing the songs, they have sung, and try to take them on. There is a great deal of mobility available within electro swing- the lyrics, as well as the musical compositions, and with a voice as strong as Redgwick's; she is going to be capable of a massive amount of good, should she choose to. With the combination of 1941-Andrews Sisters, with 2013 freshness and innovation, mingling with an underlying '70s rock innovation in the music/lyrics set, Cisse Redgwick is sure of a long, and fruitful career; she is stunning, strong-willed and a phenomenally diverse and workaholic songwriter:
JUST make sure you don't pass her by, and miss out..