Bourbon Street Beat- Knuckles of Brass- Track Review

Track Review:

Bourbon Street Beat

  Knuckles of Brass

Bourbon Street Beat


Manchester 3-piece infuse '50s and '60s rock and blues to create styles of the streets; via the sounds of the U.S.A, direct to your brain.


Knuckles of Brass is available at:

Their debut E.P. is available at:


PAST decades have taught us quite a lot about what we have lost...

as well as what we have available, to incorporate into modern music.  There is such a choice that has been left by historical bands and acts, that it can be bewildering when thinking about what ingredients to include into your sounds.  When I am putting together song ideas and titles, my mind always turns to the 1960s: for me, the first truly great decade for music.  It is one that is defined by bands such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and a generation of hot U.K. talent; many of whom were the first examples of pop and rock bands that spoke to everyone.  Of course in the U.S. solo stars such as Bob Dylan were also enlivening and inspiring, and their influence has been utilised by a lot of modern-day bands and solo artists.  Naturally it is tempting to incorporate elements of '60s masters into your sonic cauldron, but given the quality of music, it can be hard to match the genius and wonder of these artists; the trick is to hint at the majesty of these folks, and take patterns from their past, and weave them into your music, without sounding like a tribute band.  The '60s also gave us a great deal of potential promise.  The likes of Led Zeppelin began life at the end of the decade, and it was a period that was to see a great deal of talent sit up, take notice, and see how good music could really be.  In the ensuing two decades there was some terrific music being made, but to me the greatest decade for music is the 1990s.  It is a period that is often unexplored by a lot of new bands, which always surprises me.  Considering what the decade brought: Britpop, great dance music, Grunge; a mixture of great U.K. bands and U..S acts, as well as terrific solo work, it is a goldmine that has not been tapped as much as it should.  To my mind, that was the last decade and period that produced truly wonderful music, and I doubt things will ever be as good ever again.  Not pessimism or hyperbole, I just feel that there was something about that period that inspired a great deal of musicians, and a common vein was struck; the reasoning is ineffable but staggering.  Today the task for the new act is making your sounds sound modern, but also eliciting some bygone glory too.  The 1960s and '70s seem to be the best decades to focus upon when crafting rock and indie sounds.  Rarely is there a great deal of consideration or patronage paid to the 1950s.  If anything this was the godfather/mother of modern music.  It gave life to the '60s, which in turn, inspired the bands of the '90s; to give life and inspiration to 21st century music.  I suppose the '50s was defined by narrow appeal.  The rock and roll bands as well as doo-wop mainstays were still in force, as well as a eminence of the swing and jazz greats of the '40s.  Naturally there were some great sounds to be heard, but I feel few take full advantage of the decade as it was defined by sounds rather than bands and songs.

It is perhaps not shocking that Bourbon Street Beat are inspired by the music of 60 years ago.  Their name evokes images of U.S. backwater bars, located in Mississippi or another Louisiana passage; inhabited by New Orleans jazz, grizzled rock and roll and folks that you would not double-cross in a hurry.  The band name is- perhaps unintentionally- taken from a very short-lived T.V. series of the late '50s.  That show focused on a New Orleans former cop, whom partners with an Ivy League lawyer, to fight crime.  Today it is the kind of synopsis that would make you think of a sitcom or parody: it is so clichéd and contrived that it is a wonder it was made at all; but has kitsch appeal and at least had a great backdrop.  Bourbon Street itself is situated in the French quarter of New Orleans, and plays host to Mardi Gras, a wealth of neon-signed bars and- improvised as Louisiana is as a state- it attracts tourists and many visitors, all of whom are keen to be intoxicated by the smells, sights and sounds that it has to offer.  Iain, Joe and Andy, our Manchester trio, are possibly not what you'd expect when presented with that particular band name; given that the current sounds of Manchester are imbued with Arctic Monkeys-esque rock and 1980s-inspired sounds.  I have long focused on Manchester and the north as being one of the most bustling and productive sections of the U.K.  A lot of new bands suffer a similar fate: trying to sound far too much like Arctic Monkeys and more local bands such as Oasis and The Stone Roses.  Away from the clans of the unoriginal groups such as The 1975 are laying down some intriguing and exciting sounds.  Our 'Bourbon' boys are fellows of the same school of thought.  They blend '60s rock with '50s rock and roll; dolloping a modern life dose of invigoration and subjectiveness, creating a spicy and flavoursome dish.  In spite of only being on the scene for 3 years or so, the lads have amounted a fair number of positive reviews; as well as drawing in and winning over a number of dedicated fans- and not just around the Greater Manchester area.  You do not have to hear a single note before your attention is pricked and tantalised.  That band name drips with promise and potential.  The boys are unforceful proselytizers to their merry dance; the music draws you in, and does not need Liam Gallagher-esque bolshie nonsense or hoopla: it captures you on its own pure terms.  The debut E.P. by our trio is available, and the 3-song collection boasts a great range of mood and sound, but keeps their core style and aesthetic solid and dedicated.  Reviews on iTunes for the E.P. have been overwhelmingly positive and were it subjected to a Metacritic survey, it would score in the high 90s.

Knuckles of Brass is the swansong finale of the E.P., and is gaining a lot of attention and plaudit.  Scarcely hard to see why it is gathering so much love.  If you play the video to the song, it is swathed in memorable images and scenes from popular T.V. of the past.  Popeye, Scrooge McDuck and cartoons and shows of the '50s make up the video; the band do not feature, instead the entire piece is a compilation of cartoon and T.V. clips, that is dizzying, fascinating and a perfect visualisation of the song's magic.  Twisting and jumping electric guitar strings begin the track; elements of U.S. rock: Queens of the Stone Age, Foo Fighters, Kings of Leon, mingle with U.K. acts: Kasabian, early career-James; Oasis too; but nothing sounds anything like a particular band, it is instead a cultured and authoritative build-up.  When percussion weighs in, it does so with hobnail boots on.  With a smattering of God Is In The Radio QOTSA, as well as a glorious recollection of 1960s Britain, the combination of strings and drums marches and waltzes with masculine strut.  Speaking of "Glasses of wine", and scenes filled with "Girls from shore" standing and staring, the initial bout of the song, sets out the stall.  Sonically the groundwork of '60s and '50s rock, mixed with Mancunian sparks are set up, and the vocal is breezy and powerful in equal measures.  Accent remains, without the need to needlessly bring too much American into the mix; you can tell that there is native tones, as well as influences from past times in the vocal cement, but the sense of individuality is crystalline.  The main thesis of my discourse as of late has been a lack of originality in this country, and the music we produce, but Bourbon Street Beat, walk across county and state lines, picking up memorabilia and souvenirs from some fascinating climbs; yet manage to keep their indigenous heritage and quality all in tact: the effect is why I mention the '90s so much.  To my mind that decade is reproachless in its innovation and joys, and the band are deserving of being classed with the highs of the last generation, as much as they are with the best of the current one.  You can tell that there is a sense of melody and compositional integrity throughout.  The song sways and swaggers as the vocal matches its dance.  Flecks of southern states U.S. come through; a little bit of bluegrass also pokes through in the tones of our front-man.  He has found a plan but "it drags me down": such is there the sense that the best intentions and surest footsteps are met with more negatives than positives.  Few people pick up on the musicianship of bands: look between the cracks and strain their ears and minds; but when you do, it gives you a clearer sense of what the band are trying to say.  Knuckles of Brass is not your straight-laced, one-dimension clout that too many contemporaries produce.  Gravity, multi-dimensions and adventure rule the palette.  In the same way that the new Queens of the Stone Age has been commended for its maturity as well as composed nature and audio blitz: multitudinous guitar sounds and wide-ranging ambition, similarly our Manchester boys wield a similarly-sharp samurai sword.  Gaps and pauses are give, tension is built, and when the guitar, bass and percussion works together, there is a constant sense of movement and change: taut drama-sound tracking spikiness-cum-bourbon-soaked rock entwines, and contorts throughout.  Our hero is "Tired of waiting", as "No one is listening": enforced as his mandate is, by the immovable swagger of the music.  The voice as well is commendable as well.  Certain words are emphasised and there is an audible rise; it gives the sense of lines unfolding likes waves: dipping and rises at various intervals, creating a sense of uneasiness as well as potency.  In the way that the vocals blend U.S. rock, blues and country, as well as British steel and Mancunian overtones, brings the words to life expertly.  Never is there a sense that anything is being phoned in, such is the conviction of all of the band's members.  Before the 2/3 mark a cobra of electric buzz is released, and raises the danger and temperature, as percussion and bass keep the backbone solid and unbreakable.  Throughout, there is a sense that our protagonist can get no satisfaction, and the best laid plans and moves are met by hostility and resistance.  However you interpret the song: whether there is a romance gone bad; personal inner turmoil or something more fictional inspiring the words, it is something that will strike a chord with everyone.  The song has a utilitarianism that can see it played at large festivals or smaller bars.  It could be played at a New Orleans watering hole, or a Salford pub, such is the universality of the sound.  Each of our players works hard and injects the song with huge gravity.

New as the guys were to my mind, Bourbon Street Beat are going to be future main-stays.  Rarely outside of the U.K. are evocations of the U.S. and its southern states displayed so convincingly.  In a year where new bands stick too closely to predictable sources and have too narrow a focus, the three-piece have adventure and ambition.  Musically there is modern U.S., '60s Britain as well as evocations of everyone from King of Leon, Queens of the Stone Age, Bruce Springsteen and The Smiths.  Vocally there are few comparable, but there is a bit of Springsteen, as well as country, bluegrass and rock idols of old.  If you take all of this together, and even if you compartmentalise the various elements that make up their sound, it stands up as its own man and beast, and you will not be thinking of any other band or act when hearing the track.  That is the appeal of the boys.  It is clear that they have a fond affection for the good ol' U.S.A: it's flavours, sounds, landscapes and music, but they have a modern-day sound that is as much influenced by local delicacies as anything.  A breath of fresh air is it as well- how many other acts today sound like them?  Too often have I been subjected to hearing bands and acts that are too indebted to pre-existing bands, but in Bourbon Street Beat there is something fresh and challenging.  It should- I hope at least- a raft of other bands to incorporate some bourbon and whisky into their glass, and pull away from beer and ale, as seems to be the nature of modern-day sounds.  It is fair that their band name, as well as song titles, elicit a lot of curious conclusions and speculation, and there is plenty of comparable joys to be discovered in their E.P.  What the future holds for them will be interesting to see- success for sure.  If a fully fledged album is in their minds will be a question many will ask, on the basis of their E.P.  If there is, then it will be fascinating to see if they keep their sound and aesthete unwavering over 10 or 11 tracks, or whether they will incorporate other genres and styles into the fold.  It is not something they should worry about, as their core sound has enough longevity to be exciting fans for many years to come, but one suspects that there will be some differing moves unleashed in future months.  For now, take in the sounds, smokes and flavours of the Manchester trio, and grab a (digital) hold of the E.P.  One thing in my mind is sure, and has ruled my musical thoughts for a long time: it would be bloody nice to see a new band be heralded in the public view; as there the best music at the moment is being made by established acts and the older guard.  Have no fear.  Should the trans-Atlantic path by trod with endeavours of continuing discovery:

BOURBON Street could very well go from New Orleans to be a big-name franchise.





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