Emergency Noise is available via:
Everybody, All the Time- 8.6/10.0
Emergency Noise- 8.8
Casual Soul- 8.3
My Favourite Machine- 9.2
National Low- 9.3
STAND OUT TRACK:
Emergency Noise, Sycamore, My Favourite Machine, National Low
16th June, 2014
ALL SONGS WRITTEN BY:
PRODUCED AND RECORDED BY:
(C) Unmanned Ariel Vinyl (2014)
Alternative-Rock, Indie, Rock, Lo-Fi, Indie-Pop.
With so many bands focused on projecting as much power and punch as possible, meet the competition: a tight and unique London band that make sure their Indie-Pop song books stick in your head. Victory Kicks have developed and grown over the last year: Emergency Noise sees them at their tightest, focused and ambitious best.
LONDON is calling to the faraway towns...
Now war is declared- well, sort of. I have waxed lyrical- as regular readers will attest- as to the fervency and sense of direction in the North of England- how the musicians there seem to be amongst the finest and most ambitious in the U.K. I will not tread well-worn canvas again, but it brings me to a connected thesis: the upsurge and renewed prominence of the capital's musical elite. The North-South divide (in music) is seeing quite a lot of friendly competition and one-upmanship: various acts and artists are putting their regions and locales on the map. One of my biggest concerns- when it comes to new music- is the difference between various cities: the northern elements of Leeds and Manchester provide diversity, rarity and speculation; southern cities such as London have range and difference- although I feel there is less mobility and manoeuvering. When assessing Yorkshire-based Swing and U.S. Blues-Rock, a question came to mind: how come we do not hear more of this further south? It may be that tastes and preferences vary depending on geographical location, though it points towards a wider malaise: there is too much homogenization and safety in the music of southern artists. I would have tattooed this opinion to my body- as little as a few months ago- yet a rebranding and uprising has occurred: musicians of London (and the Home Counties) have shown flair, tenacity and huge ambition- something that was missing at the tail-end of 2013. Aside from this rebirth, there are still quite a few Indie/Alternative bands coming through: they are probably amongst the most common-place and multitudinous examples in all of music. It is not just London that is culpable when it comes to this short-sightedness: Liverpool and Manchester have their fair share of genre examples. I have no issue with this trend- if particular bands present something new and exciting, then that can be a wonderful thing; relatively few are doing this at the moment. I have shrugged my shoulders often- when an anodyne and beige Indie/Alternative act comes through- and resigned my optimism and excitement to darkened corners: today, I have cause for a sense of positivity. Victory Kicks remind me of one of London's most exciting new Indie acts: Crystal Seagulls. Like the high-flying precious musical birds, 'Kicks are capable of big things. They may be a younger and fresher example (compared to 'Seagulls), yet their determination, adventurousness and vibrant sound is likely to reap benefits. Let me introduce you to our featured act:
"Victory Kicks are an indie rock band originally from the Isle of Wight and now based in London. Formed in 2013 and lead by singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist John Sibley, the band records and releases collections of melodic indie rock on its own independent record label Unmanned Aerial Vinyl. The band draws inspiration from the likes of R.E.M, Wilco, Yo La Tengo, Guided by Voices and The Replacements and makes home recorded rock music that features riffy, rhythmic guitar work, driving percussion and melodic vocals. Over the last year the band has released several EP’s, a full length debut album and has had several singles receive airplay in both the UK and America. The band spent the Autumn of 2013 recording their debut LP, The Decibel Age, which was released in February, Emergency Noise is the first collection of new material to be released since then, it was recorded over a couple of weekends during the early spring of 2014. On Emergency Noise the band gets through 7 songs in just 15 minutes. The record was recorded entirely at home with the songs being written, arranged and recorded on the same day, a change of approach for the band that lends a freshness and urgency to the music."
The band's social media following is a little under-subscribed at the moment, but this will soon change: their new E.P. provides enough sway, beauty, directness and brilliance to spike the interests of the uninitiated. What impresses me about the act is their self-determination and D.I.Y. approach- I have featured several bands that take matters into their own hands, and am always staggered by the bravery and mult-taking abilities. It is fascinating to witness the transition of Victory Kicks: few acts change their projection and work ethic- doing so allows freshness and urgency to come through in the music. After some important and defining airplay across the U.S. and U.K., the band's decision to focus on concision and fast turnaround has benefited them hugely: their newer sounds come across as more alive and pressing; the passion and authority is there, but there is never a sense of inattentiveness- the music on show is of the highest calibre.
The Decibel Age was a confident and assured debut album that built off of the promise of their earlier work. Their L.P. (as well as their first E.P.) contained plenty of interest: the sounds were not explosive or overt; instead considered and deep. Due to Sibley's arresting and imploring vocal, The Decibel Age's songs contained intelligence, thought and lashings of catchiness- whilst there were few out-and-out rockers, plenty of nuance and memorability lingered. Mercury Rules' tight and punchy swing seamlessly sat alongside softer codas such as Replaced With Birds- there is plenty of diversity and fascinating back roads. Whilst commentators and reviewers were kind and effusive towards the album, many shared the same recommendation: future releases would be stronger is length was replaced with muscular tightness and tightness. Emergency Noise has taken these concerns on board; the ambition, variation and range- beautiful acoustic numbers and straight-ahead Rock lust- remains, yet the band have tightened everything and condensed their spirits: the seven songs not only get through with business in quarter of an hour, but compel you to demand more- which will not only see desire for a new E.P. (or album) but bring in new respect and adulation. Victory Kicks' debut album contained a few gentler numbers- most were effective and stirring; the odd one passes by with little impression- as well as harder-edged slices: there is a bigger emphasis on the latter throughout Emergency Noise- although we are still treated to acoustic beauty and soulful considerations. Jazzy edges and wracked vocals. Few wasted breaths mean that the band have completed a stunning transformation.
Amongst the band's influences is Guided by Voices, Wilco, Yo La Tengo, The Walkmen, British Sea Power, R.E.M and Grandaddy: these names are as good a starting point as any when trying to find some familiar ground. U.K. and U.S. sounds mingle alongside one another throughout Victory Kicks' work: there is that anthemic quality of R.E.M; the Classic-Pop/Alternative-Rock fusings of Wilco- as well as Yo La Tango's flair and conviction. As I say (with every review), I offer caution: do not assume that Victory Kicks are merely a tribute act of the aforementioned- many reviewers are too quick to compare acts with one another: it clouds your opinions and thought process. The London assemble are in their professional childhood- so are still adapting and working on their sound- yet their pillars of urgency, emotion and directness defines their work- most of us seek these aspects in music; making Victory Kicks a band well-worth investigating. At the moment- when you think of other bands' influences- there is a tendency to ply towards the likes of Arctic Monkeys, Oasis and Queens of the Stone Age- bands that offer anthemic grit and 'Britpop' wonder. Few current acts employ shades of The Walkmen and Grandaddy: that mix of '90s California and '00s New York together in a hypnotic package. Although there is a lot of American influence (in Victory Kicks' arsenal); plenty of Britishness and home-gown pride makes its impact- fresh and modern-day London sounds give their tracks that additional majesty and splendor.
Everybody, All the Time certainly gets the E.P. off to a lively and invigorated start. The guitar winds up and strikes- retreats and repeats- with a punchy and fizzing introduction: the sense of immediacy and vibrancy is evident from the off. There is plenty of upbeat and optimistic grin in the melody and composition- the latter is urgent, yet has a summer-time feel and bouncing sensation (there are embers of 'Britpop' masters, Oasis and The Thrills). Our hero seems to be directing his missive to a sweetheart. Not able to make her believe (or make her see) there seems to be some disjointed thoughts and anxiety- perhaps the relationship is breaking down and needlessly pattering out. When Sibley sings "I'm calling it out again", you get the impression that he has been through this before: he keeps his voice cool and detached, yet instilled with plenty of energy and life. Images of the walls dripping with blood help to emphasise the sense of urgency and conviction- although there are no violent intention's in Sibley's heart. One cannot help but get caught up in the melody and breeziness: the band manage to coax so much light and colour from proceedings; riffs mutate and spiral; solos are offered and sting; stirring percussion tumbles and strikes- the composition is endlessly energised and grinning. Any stresses or woes are dispelled by an infectious and chantable final coda: upbeat and sun-soaked "la la la"s sparkle and crackle- once again compelling the listener to sing along and move their feet. The E.P.'s title track has initial signs of R.E.M.'s Out of Time: those Alt.-Rock Atlanta tones come through from the initial seconds. Unlike the opening number- as well as Stipe's voice- Sibley has a little more barbed wire intent in his pipes: words tell of "collisions tonight" and a real sense of unease. Like the E.P.'s opening, there is plenty of memorable riffs and measured hooks: there are loose edges and a sense of fun, yet the band come across as assured and well-rehearsed- making their songs stronger and tighter. Sibley's voice is rife with coolness and conviction: he never shouts or belts; his tones are more relaxed and easy-going- yet lose none of their edge and weight. The band performance is consistently engaging and driving, and the entire track shows what Victory Kicks do best: create songs that get inside of your head and can adapt to any festival, venue or location. Sycamore is a more laid-back and tender acoustic number, which sees Sibley in a reflective state of mind. The guitar seduces and softly whispers, as our hero states "I've been shaken up/I've been washed away"- his voice abound with heavy-heart sentiment and burden. When our hero sings that "I don't belong here", it registers the E.P.'s most honest and open moment: he has been "stolen out of sight" and seems a little lost and directionless. Although time is always on Sibley's mind, it is on his side: you sense that he may be okay in the end. Nothing mordent or suppressive comes through in the song: an unending sense of restitution and redemption seeps through the cracks. By the track's final seconds the strings fade, and we are left to wonder: does Sibley get the answers he is looking for, or will we have to wait a little longer? Casual Soul is the E.P.'s shortest track- and one of the catchiest on the set. Sibley is accusatory and inquisitive mode in the opening moment: "Are you happier now you've got an answer?" Whether he is speaking to a former love (or a friend) I am not certain, but there is plenty of conviction in the vocal- one of the hallmarks of the E.P. as a whole. Before you can get wrapped up in the song's sense of melody and calmness, the atmosphere blackens: the guitars explode and burst; the percussion peppers and stabs- the atmosphere snaps with thunder. Not only is Casual Soul the E.P.'s heaviest and most enlivened track, but one of the most emotion-packed. Sibley clearly has had scars left and been messed around: the way he questions and cross-references his subject drips with a sense of anger and resentment. Maybe my proclamations about Casual Soul- it being the E.P.'s hardest hitter- are myopic and rash. My Favourite Machine begins life with big intentions: the guitar and percussive rush that opens the song up instantly gets your feet kicking and your attentions stood up and sharp. There are touches of Parklife-era Blur (Tracey Jacks, Bank Holiday) in the bustle and rabble-rousing. Plenty of tension and angry undertone comes through in the song- Sibley is at his most wracked and potent here. Again, it is not clear if he is speaking to a former beau or a traitorous colleague: early thoughts such as "Now my brittle black heart inches close to decay" tell of a young man with an old man's woes- it seems that emotional entropy may be imminent. The band manage to subvert expectation: most acts would accompany these sort of outpourings with a suitably aggrieved composition- Victory Kicks ensure that their standard sense of fun and melody are focused and determined. The song looks at the detrimental aspects of life and reality: the horrors of the morning routine feature alongside modern-day stresses and concerns. By the end of My Favourite Machine, Sibley is fading away: backed by a stunning and memorably insatiable composition, you suspect that our hero will find a way out of his anxieties and proclivities. Once more we are greeted with an elliptical and energy-filled opening mantra: National Low attempts to top its predecessor's sense of adventurousness and style. The wonderfully focused drumming blends with nuanced and spinning guitars: once more shades of Blur come in, as well as R.E.M. and The Walkmen. Sibley will "gaze into the white heat" and is "sinking in the headlights": the track contains the E.P.'s sharpest and deepest set of lyrics. When our frontman tells of "Morning takes my mind/to temporary daytimes/Vanishing completely/swallowed in a black sea", various images and scenes swim in your mind: it is a stunning lyric that is both poetically dark and oblique. The band once more step up to the mark: the performance keeps events above the water and perfectly ensures that each note and word remains in your brain- long after the song has ended. Fears brings Emergency Noise to its conclusion: another acoustic-led number, it fittingly provided some soothe- after the events that have just unfolded. Sibley turns his attentions back to no-good suitors: he seems almost delighted as he tells his subject how rain clouds "rained on your parade." Our frontman shows how aching and sweet-sounding his voice can be; amidst words that speak of "falling for the final time", there is a sense composure and balance that makes the song oddly touching. Whereas previous numbers have displayed cynicism, personal strife and anger, Sibley is in romantic and supportive voice- it seems that initial words are not as vitriolic as one would imagine. No matter what has happened (to his subject) he is there to hold her hand: whatever fears and strifes are ahead, he is going to be at her side. Little more than acoustic guitar and voice feature on the track- giving it a sparse and intimate feel- the sort that Folk legends of the '70s pioneered (think Nick Drake's Pink Moon, sans haunting shadows). Fears is a sub-two minute gem that ends the E.P. in style: after some foreboding and spiky moments, you end up with a smile on your face- one sits back impressed at just how much the boys pack into fifteen minutes.
I shall touch on the constructive criticisms (before I get around to the positives). Each song on the E.P. is wonderful and engaging, although the production is not as strong as it could be. One of the only problems with Emergency Noise is the issue with decipherability and clarity (not on all tracks, but several). Accompanying their songs with lyrics would make things easier for reviewers such as me, as often I struggled to decipher what was being sung. It is a shame, as there is so much potential and brilliance within the E.P.- greater intelligibility would augment its potential and bring greater weight to the songs. I adore the band's sound, yet the lyrics themselves have so much potential: words often can get buried into the mix and some lines do die beneath the waves of instrumentation and composition. It is only a minor criticism, and I hope the band manage to rectify it for their next release: it would be great to quote more lines and lyric snippets. I hope that I have interpreted the songs- and their meanings- as best as possible; the lines I did gleam and extrapolate pointed towards huge potential- songs such as The National Low are synonymous with their memorable lines. Emergency Noise isn't quite as vivacious and immediate as the title would suggest, but that doesn't come at the expense of the songs: the seven numbers here are filled with strong hooks and rousing choruses; thought-provoking words and tight performances. The band show how much they have grown since their early days: the immediacy and sense of urgency makes every song vital and alive: nothing is rushed or half-assed; instead the songs sound stronger and more assured- the tighter and more concise they are. Some critics were ambivalent towards Victory Kicks' early-days acoustic numbers: some felt that they were a little hit-and-miss. This is an area they have improved upon greatly: Sycamore is a gorgeous and introverted number that ranks along their best work. Whilst many band take too many risk on being heavy and dangerous (with regards to their sound), our four-piece are a less carnivorous animal: they favour depth and texture over pure force- the end results sound more original and impressive for it. What makes the E.P. a gem is the band themselves. Each performance is tight and strong- you can tell they have been playing together a while and have a clear understanding of each other. What you get from Emergency Noise is plenty of personality and festival brilliance; swathes of depth, emotion and intelligence- it is an E.P. that is perfect for this time of year. Sibley's voice is perhaps the star of the show. In spite of my grumbles with regards to clarity, there is plenty to recommend and love. His lungs are capable of beauty and sensitivity (Sycamore, Fears, The National Low) as well as franticness and headiness (Casual Soul, Everybody, All the Time): the mark of a truly great singer is how effortlessly they can go from pillar to pillar- Sibley is a confident and striking singer. The entire band should be commended as well. The guitar work is filled with life and variation: springing and bouncy hooks, forceful and jarring riffs sit alongside riparian delicacy. Kudos goes to the percussion and bass; each drives the songs forward as well as helps to bolster and elevate the melodies: such a huge amount of energy and blissful punch is summoned up- when the mood calls for something calmer and more emotional, they are beautifully up for the task. If the band factor out the minor detraction, then you could well be seeing them headlining future festivals.
The Isle of Wight group have covered a lot of ground since their inception. It has only been a year, yet the boys have acheived more than most of their peers- even those that have been playing for many more years than them. Victory Kicks' rate of progression is to be applauded: by changing their creative gameplay, they have managed to improve their music: Decibel Age was a tremendous and authoritative album- yet their latest offerings come across as a stronger and more satisfied beast. Emergency Noise- the band have a panache for sound-related titles- is more taut and concise: so much energy and story is ticked off over the course of 15 minutes. When I reviewed Twin Peaks (a Chicago Power-Pop quartet), I was amazed by their song, Flavor: it was a two-and-a-bit minute burst of introspection, personal investigation and reappropriation- from a band barely in their 20s. When I was investigating their music, I came away with one clear impression: some of the strongest and most memorable tracks are those that are short and to-the-point. Victory Kicks do not let any pretension or needless elongation ruin their overall sound: Emergency Noise's seven tracks remain in the memory yet do not hang around for longer than they need to. I feel that the group will do pretty well for themselves (in the future). A fully fledged website- one that contains photos, bio., tour dates etc.- would be a congruent next move: the band's 'official' site is BandCamp: there are plenty of potential fans that will come their way, so a band website would help to tie in all of their social media threads- and put them in a one-stop location. Likewise, it would be good to see lyrics attached to their BandCamp page. Their words (those that can be heard) are fascinating and quotable: their songs have depth and hidden layers, so it would be nice to have some words accompanying the tracks. These are minor points, and I am sure the band are already making plans- when it comes to these aspects. Few other acts are working as hard and tirelessly to get their music out there: the fact that they have released several E.P.s and an album since 2013 shows just how determined they are. When it comes down to it, desire and determination can play as big a part- with regards to attaining success- than the quality of music on display. Luckily, Victory Kicks are no musical slouches: their songs are fresh and vibrant; original and striking- they are likely to compel many up-and-coming acts to follow in their footsteps. The band have some modest tour dates in the pipeline, though they are likely to enjoy some high-profile success by this time next year. Nothing about their sound and music needs to change- they have all the quality- but I would like to see them get out there as much as possible- until a few days ago I was not aware of them. Of course, visibility and recognition comes from demand; this demand will arrive from representation (online fans included); that comes from public benevolence- the group are deserving of a large audience, so make sure you share the love. I hope the guys keep on plugging and performing, as- on the strength of their back catalogue- they have a lot to say: unlike a lot of bands, what they are saying is worth listening to. London is a busy and growing music marketplace: waves of clandestine bands are starting to come through; new delights are being discovered; brave talent are cross-pollinating and creating flavourful and colourful mandates- it is the city to watch at the moment. Because of the high price of real estate, Victory Kicks will have to work hard (to make sure they remain in the collective consciousness): on Emergency Noise's statements of intent, they are on the right path- I know the group will be planning their next moves imminently. Indie and Alternative-Rock are genres with plenty of players (making moves). When you find an example that resonates in the mind, you should ensure that as many people as possible hear them...
TO ensure they receive their fair share.
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