When a band marries indie-pop with "some uniquely funky sax beats", one of two things can occur: it confuses, or completely wins you. Definitely a case of the latter.
Catch 22 is available at
DIVERSITY can be as divisive as it is commendable...
When you think back to psychedelic experimentation in music, in the mid-late '60s, the result heralded a huge change in the musical landscape. It was a bold and exciting sound, that was to be used hugely be a lot of bands. The Beatles began to heavily experiment within Revolver; other pop acts incorporated psychedelia into their template, and this continued well into the '70s. It was a wave and transformation that changed music indefinitely, and inspired a great deal of bands in the '80s and '90s, including The Stone Roses. You can hear in a great deal of today's music, and is an example of a genre/style of music that is potent and majestic; if used correctly and not too frequently. It would amaze you at the number and range of acts and artists whom have used psychedelic shades in their songs. Certain styles and stages of music, are of their time. Hair metal and many fads and phenomenons that gladly died in the '80s, reflect the mood and ambition of the artists at the time; Britpop has not been used too inclusively and fervently since the cessation and decline of bands such as Blur, Oasis, Pulp, Supergrass and Suede. Although Suede (and to a degree Pulp) are still operational, their sound has mutated to something more mature, with flecks of hard edges and dark energy. Whether a particular sound is designed to capture the zeitgeist, or inspire future generations to foster and parent it passionately, varies. It has been a source of much perturbation and disgruntlement in my mind, that seldom few bands are willing to be diverse. I don't mean that they have to employ five or six different genres in one song, but it wouldn't hurt is more artists were willing to expand their palette: incorporate something unexpected; mix things up a little bit. It is not a coincidence that the greatest bands of our time- from Blur to Radiohead, through to Queens of the Stone Age and Arcade Fire, regularly would, and do, blend differing sounds and influences into their music. It keeps the intrigue fresh and mobile, and also means that new fans and followers are attracted to your music. Given the vast chasm of music that has been left, and is being produced, one would imagine that this art-form should be popular and ever-expanding: you'd be surprised. Many acts- new artists especially- are too concerned with developing their own sound, that they are too nervous or limited, with regards to expanding their grasp. It is ironical that so many new acts sound like an existing one, that encompassing some obtuse angles into their cauldron, would help take focus away from accusations of mimicry and plagiarism. Over the past 20 years or so, there has been experimentation with jazz and blues notes. Even during the glory dances of dance music- when Massive Attack burst forth with Blue Lines, diversification was expanded in new directions. They were adept at weaving sounds and sample into one harmonious blend: a move that saw the likes of Moby, The Avalanches, Gorillaz and such, delve into annals past, and blend some unexpected compounds together.
The aspect of conjoining sax and jazz influences into a modern indie/rock template, has not been attempted too often. Bands have done it sporadically: Radiohead during Kid A and Amnesiac; QOTSA during Rated R, and I am hard-pressed to think of many groups or acts that experiment this way, aside from Sufjan Stevens. Perhaps I am missing out, but it may be the case that the spate of new acts and music is burying somewhat, the exciting artists, whom are doing something different. Ded (sic.) Rabbit, are a Scottish outfit; created in Yorkshire and migrated to Edinburgh, whom have volunteered a lot of time to studying past masters such as The Beatles and Hendrix, and splicing influential little spices into their sound. The band consist of Eoin, Donal, Fergus and Eugene. From the pages of social media, through to the music newspapers, the band have gained massive positive feedback: bolstered and aided by festival appearances and a tireless work motif. The boys have an impressive and bullet-proof list of influences, and have pulled away from the tendency many have of being narrow and rigid, by infusing their tracks with '60s passion, as well as jazz/sax. wonder. Their is a wild abandon, as well as a playful swing to their music, and their song titles: ranging from Andromeda's Milkshake through to Navajo, have a familiar and appropriate psychedelic/jazz-cum-'60s bliss oddity to them. They seem like cuts from a lost Captain Beefheart album, and certainly are befitting, considering the contents of the tracks themselves. For over 2 years the band have been laying down and honing their sound; with very little comparable bands or artists troubling them at all. It seems unusual: if you think abstractly, and are open-minded in your talent mounting, then songs come more freely, and are alive with greater possibilities and stunning colours. For all the guitar/indie bands out there, most of whom are too similar to an existing act, it is a relief that there are artists that are willing to be different and brave. I have stated (in previous reviews), that the most fascinating footsteps take place the further north you travel. I have been bowled over and seduced by some wonderful acts from Bradford, Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool, and through my association with Steve Heron, have been made aware of a great raft of bright young things in Scotland. In fact Heron himself has a restless energy and is someone always looking to do something new and different- nary compromising his integrity or core values. It is perhaps indicative of a potential shift in 2014, that London-centric media types, will need to refocus their energies to Scotland, when looking for the best and most prodigious: it seems that the south is struggling by comparison. In spite of the band's reputation, as well as their imperial vigour, underneath there is a more tangible and humanised whole: four lads, all of whom are personable and face the same sort of mundane daily torments, as you and I.
In continuation of the thematic detailing of everyday horror, it was not a shock to find that their track, Catch 22, was motivated by getting grief from people on the bus; much undeserved and highly annoying. Whether this is a fictionalised parable, or drawn from the band's collective biography, is a curious question. The song rattles, seduces, bends over, fights and annihilates in 2:08; managing to cover as much ground in 128 seconds, as a lot of bands do over an entire E.P. The track wastes no time in ratcheting the fireworks: guitar, bass and percussive joints fuse, and destroy one another; jazzy sounds are splattered onto the canvas with Abstract intention. There is no time to breathe or absorb what is being proffered: instead you are carried away by the wave. It terms of emotive adjectives, I guess 'fun' would sum it up, as good as any. It is a light-hearted and Calypso dance, that has hidden aces and joker cards up its sleeve. From 0:20, the pattern changes to a woozier guitar swagger: elements of Kaiser Chiefs as well as a little fusion of The Mars Volta and Sonic Youth. It is not dark and brooding, more utilitarian and populist. When it seems like we may be about to witness a Muse-style space opera (think Knights of Cydonia-cum-Take a Bow), the spontaneity continues unabated, as the vocal arrives. The voice is dynamic, but also is embalmed with an innate punk energy, as well as jazzier edges: the resultant hybrid of Ian Dury and Jamie Cullum. When it is sung: "Can't listen to it anymore", Eugene has a delivery that, to my mind, has hints of Carl Barat and Billie Joe Armstrong. There is a relentless pace and drive, but always a purpose and control, too. When the jerking and punching guitar line, transposes to a fuzzier beast, there is QOTSA Lullabies' druid rock-cum-psychedelic fizz. The rise that follows is more celebratory and jazz-tinged, with an acid underscore; there is a comparable scrummage and chaos that Ian Dury and the Blockheads employed. Radiohead elicited pure f****** chaos on The National Anthem and Life in a Glasshouse; QOTSA went similarly nuts on I Think I Lost My Headache; here the disorder is much more amiable and impish. The guitar sways and moves have the appearance of bridging the two halves of the song: they prepare you for what is arriving next. When the next verse arrives, our omnibus drama develops in the second act; our hero is asked what he is sorry for; he explains he was "trying to be polite". There is a simmering tension underneath; the music has a Libertines-by-Squeeze journeyman quality, if the words are more purposeful: "Surely out of mind/And out of sight". The track finishes with a sax. flurry and a final dance, and everything is wrapped up and completed.
If there was any trepidation about the band and their oeuvre: the bold mission statements, the potential for disarray etc. it will come as a soothing remedy that nothing malodorous or unnerving lurks within. At times the vocals are hard to decipher: buried a little too far down the mix and slightly unintelligible, but it is a minor quibble. It is true that Scotland have a vast chest of diverse and amiable talent. Away from the homogenised major cities, it is a breath of fresh air that something different and genuinely exciting can be heard here. What happens next is down to the band. I hope that an album and touring will ensue, not only later this year, but into 2014- and beyond. The guys are young and enthusiastic, and have a key understanding about what the market wants: something that goes beyond the monotony and predictability of a lot of the modern crop. There are guitars, bass and drums; but they are used and fostered with a firmer hand and wiser mouth. In future years, I hope that new acts will break away the tendency to ape existing acts or be too safe and timid when it comes to experimentation and diversity. The likes of Ded Rabbit have shown that it can be done very effectively. Take note, future wannabe musicians:
YOU can learn a lot from these chaps.
17th May - Electric Circus, Edinburgh
26th May - 20 Rocks, Dundee
31st May - Snafu, Aberdeen
1st June - PJ Molloys, Dunfermline
22nd June - Mickey 9s fest, Glasgow
29th June - Art School, Glasgow
25th August - Feast/ELjam, Musselburgh