The King is available from:
The King- 9.3/10.0
Dirty Games- 9.6
Two Sides- 9.4
Banging On The Bone- 9.3
Old Town- 9.4
STAND OUT CUT:
Dirty Games, Two Sides, Old Town
10 March 2014
Rich Robinson at Big Red Studios.
ALL SONGS WRITTEN BY:
The exhilarating Devon three-piece have airs and sensations of The Libertines; but don't let that enforce your conclusions: The King is a six-track collection that has ample unique force, passion and intelligence- setting Crooked Daniel aside from masses of similar bands. Indie-Rock is a hard genre to dominate and tantalize: the boys certainly mean serious business.
I am taking a bit of a geography trip today...
to the south coast. Over the last few months I have had the chance to witness acts from all around the globe- most U.K.-based acts emanate from cities such as Leeds and London. It is always nice when something new comes along- not just in terms of their location; the music on offer as well. Devon is an area of the country that has produced a fair few impressive artists (over the years). In addition to the likes of Muse, the southern county is seeing a lot of eager young acts come through the ranks. I am not sure whether there is a correlation between location and the type of music that is on offer. Perhaps so, but one thing I do know is that if you master your sound and identity you can put your hometown on the map. In the mainstream, you never really get to see an act start from the very beginning: make their initial moves and plan the rest of their career. New music provides the opportunity to encounter an act at the exciting fledgling stages: witness the excitement and fresh sense of ambition. My featured act has a composition and biography that may sound familiar to many: the trio play their songs with the volume played high. As much as I love deeper and more seductive sounds, you cannot deny the appeal and transcendent quality genres such as Rock, Indie-Rock and Metal throw up: that sense of recklessness and raw passion is something that speaks to a lot of listeners. As such, the market is seeing waves of eager new bands provide the same sort of promise: mix noise and energy rush with incredible sounds and sensations. Before I delve deeper into my point, let me introduce the band to you:
Mike Squires- Vocals & Guitar
Lewis Harvey- Bass
Sam Hall- Drums & Vocals
"Mike and Lewis used to play together many years ago.... then Mike started another band with Sam and another bassist. They took a break. Then they stopped taking a break - Crooked Daniel was born. Other bassist left - Lewis joined. All is right with the world now."
The boys are certainly ambitious and forward-thing. Their cider-infused crunching guitars, aggressive bass and pounding drums have seen many local fans flock to see them (in the flesh): the classic combination is something that is very popular at the moment. It is probably not surprising that Crooked Daniel are starting to get people excited. Playing in the Indie/Indie-Rock genres can be a double-edged sword: it is a sound the public desperately want to hear and embrace, yet so many like-minded acts are doing the same thing. A lot of artists I have surveyed have true potential and a chance for a great future- there are many more that seem likely to have a very short-lived career. It is not merely enough to combine vague threads of instruments together; kick the pace and energy level up and hope for the best. If the modern-day masters have proved anything, it is that original intent and personality needs to mandate your music. Crooked Daniel have plenty in their arsenal that means they stick in your mind: you can hear some influential shades but their presentation and songs have a unique and individualised heartbeat. The new music scene is going to keep growing as the months tick away; as we speak, Indie-Rock bands will be forming and doing their best to make sure they have enough ammunition to make a go of things- and establish some sort of longevity and potential.
Being a newborn act- by comparison to many other acts- the boys have put their first strokes onto canvas: The King is their first outing and foray into music. In that respect, the most prudent thing I could do is to assess it on its own terms- I will touch more on this in the review. The King is a startling debut in a lot of respects: not since I reviewed the likes of Los and the Deadlines have I been so impressed by the confidence on board. Most sapling groups- when it comes to their debut- tend to present something rather unambitious and half-baked- as a generalisation, but my point does have a point. The Devon trio have clearly been inspired by their heroes- and their debut efforts- and marshaled their talents: if you look at The Libertines, few would have expected such an in-depth and compelling first album. Although the lads have a few years to go until they climb those dizzy heights (equaling The Libs.); they have made sure The King possess no loose edges or slight songs- they have ensured that quality outweighs quantity. The final thing I will raise is this: the overall band performance. When I have reviewed other acts- whom have a similar projection and style- there is often a weak link: some of the performances are not as high as they should be; a few of the players aren't as striking as they perhaps could be. Crooked Daniel infuse each of their songs with tight and layered performances: each member is up to the task and shows a clear passion for the source material. It is not just the nuance of each song that impresses, but the sheer amount of energy and emotion instilled into every song: that is a hallmark which will see them grow in confidence- and make their next release much-anticipated.
Those that are looking for like-minded acts will be disappointed and pleased (all at once). The boys have a list of influences- each of whom incorporate their essence in Crooked Daniel- yet the band have a unique feel and flair that I cannot tie to anyone directly. Muse's epic solos and electrifying epics come to mind: our guys have little of their county-mates' pomp and ridiculousness- instead they match Muse's blazing anthems- embers of Hysteria and Plug In Baby come to mind. Like Muse, Crooked Daniel have a way of burrowing an intro. into your head: their E.P.'s lead song has a rampant and potent spell that compels you- without a single word being elicited. The effiicaciousness of Royal Blood makes it mark across the E.P.: that same grit and authority makes its presence known. When you witness The King in full, that comparable majesty lodges in your brain: there are few loose or aimless notes; everything is primal and tightly constructed. The boys themselves count the following acts as idols: Libertines, Weezer, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Young Knives, Moriaty, Futureheads, Sex Pistols, Iggy & The Stooges, MC5 and Patti Smith. To my ears, there are smattering of The Libertines' youthful energy and modern-life tableau. The songs (from Crooked Daniel) not only throw sweat and blood through the speaker: you get a great sense of comradery and brotherly spirit- the business of music and lyrics means a hell of a lot to the guys. Swathes of Up The Bracket's ragged and charming rambunctiousness shines in a few of the E.P.'s numbers: you could image Barat and Doherty side-by-side; filled with alcohol and high spirits- a palpable feeling of joy emanates and proffer. AC/DC's hard-edged riffs mandate The King's songs: you feel as though the lads have the potential to rise to the same sort of prominence and respect. In addition to some modern-day/early-'00s Indie-Rock charm and swagger, there is a definite Punk energy and mood that shows its hand. Like Iggy & The Stooges and Sex Pistols (The Clash too), the Devon clan have a rebellious streak: a sense of ambition that makes the songs so strong and nuanced- they are able to cross-pollinate genres and bands with expert consideration. There are shades and undertones (of the aforementioned) but nothing glaring comes to mind: the boys cleverly provide suggestions of past wonder- whilst keeping the overall sound very much their own baby. With their frontman possessed of such a unique- yet pleasingly familiar- voice, the music connects with the listeners hard. There are so many bands- that play in the same genre/milieu who come across as stale and predictable. Thanks to some well-crafted and well-rehearsed numbers, you can tell Crooked Daniel have taken the time to make sure their songs have distinct layers- so few bands have that same commitment. Overall, the trio have a knack of putting their music directly into your brain: with a gift for incredible compositions and memorable lines, their music is that which you will be repeating and replaying for a while to come. In that sense, there are not many other acts you could tie (Crooked Daniel) to: investigate their music and come to your own conclusions- every listener will have a different interpretation and experience.
Crunching and galloping intent opens up The King. Containing a suitably regal pretense, the percussion charges and pummel; the guitars swing and stagger- the boys mean business right from the start. After a brief while the intensity starts to build; the trio notch it up a gear and combine with lustful intent. Such is the indelible and memorable nature of the riff, you start to get lost it in: it sucks you in and leaves you guessing what is to come. Our trio tease and tempt: the introduction develops and blossoms; mutating and pervading, it ensures that no ears go un-seduced- touches of Oasis and The Libertines are entwined and paired. When our frontman steps up the microphone, his voice is distorted- at the beginning- and echoed. With a raw passion and intent gleam, initial words are offered forth ("Did you let the lights go out?"). Backed by a rousing and swirling composition, your mind instantly starts to piece things together. When singing- his voice now clear and unprocessed- "She never changed", you get the sense that ambition and personality are being talked about: maybe dreams have died or a relationship is reaching its final stages. Our heroine admits that a man cannot change his ways and habits. Having gone so far in her life- and chosen a particular path- she is turning her back on everything- seemingly resigned to a different life and way of thinking. Our 'queen' is living on "a knife-edge'- a sad set of circumstances have meant danger and uncertainty are daily certainties. Squires lets us know that the king was born to a "doubtful queen"- if a relationship is being assessed, it appears there is an imbalance and sense of hindrance. Usually- when songs look at relationship strife- it is the man who is blamed (and the villain): by switching gender roles, it gives the song a freshness and sense of originality. The young and immature heroine is definitely being given a thorough investigation: the song's hero is the king and rules things. In the passion of the night; the day-to-day, it seems that only one winner will prevail. As an infectious and rousing coda is unleashed, the boys manage to whip in a hell of a lot of swagger- as the guitars and percussion strike and relent, there is a cheeky nod to The Libertines. Conviction comes through strongly and starkly. Whether Squires is recounting a personal relationship or not I am not sure, but you can hear the passion come through in the vocals. The composition is a white-hot and lustful monster that keeps on coming back for more. Before the next verse, the lads ensure that you do not lose focus: the guitars smash one moment; wail and roar the next. The bass provides constant drive and determination as the percussion injects menace and Indie grit. As more distorted vocals are laid in, the story continues: the hero comes under scrutiny this time around. The heroine is chasing nightmares by the riverside; lost in a sense of pain and confusion, you get the impression breaking-point has been reached. Neither party will change who they are (or their ways of thinking): with backing vocals from Hall, the tension is built and the scene cemented- things have come to a head and it seems there is no way back for the duo. Before an emotional crescendo is reached- and the final twist is unveiled- the composition comes back under the spotlight: another snaking and rousing sonic swathe is unleashed. Like the title track, Dirty Games starts its course with an upbeat and powerful introduction. The band's ability to present catchy and insatiable intros. is already evident- and is a handy and useful tool to have in your bag. The choppy and stuttering parable has an 'umpa, umpa' delineation: it catches your mind and spikes your interest. Our hero keeps cool at the beginning: offering up some "la la la" vocals, there is a weary detachment at first- although it has a purposeful sense of ambition. Squires admits: "I feel the lows/You see the highs"; projecting his words with careful consideration, each line is given a chance to campaign- whatever is being sung means a great deal to him; he wants the listener to know that. It is hard not to hear some of The Libertines' inventive energy in the early exchanges- the boys add their own unique stamp and play with clear passion. Our hero looks at a particular heroine: when he heart comes out to play, it is here that he does not "want to stay"- it appears that the sweetheart will not let him go; caught in her grip, Squires sounds trapped. As the mood becomes tense and vivid, the trio notch up the offence: a frantic and Punk-infused line is laced in; everything sharpens and quickens- the signature changes and the boys seamlessly evolve the song. A game of cat-and-mouse is unfolding: the heroine has played her "dirty role", yet things go on- maybe it was meant to be a one-night stand; she has not got the message. I hope the boys will forgive me, but their Libertines authority shines- (the vocal is not that similar) the composition and lyrics have a flair of Up The Bracket. Ragged and raucous guitar notes fling and tumble; there is a playfulness- and kick-ass sense of wonder- in the song: tied with lyrics that have their mind located south of the heart, it is a stirring and captivating mandate. When the duo- our hero and heroine- go dancing in the street, she is always "sweating on my feet". I get the sense that 'dancing' is employed as a euphemism for sex- although that may say more about me than them. Because of the raw passion and conviction, you cannot help but to train your eyes there- as she digs her heels in dirt, you feel our hero may not find a way out. When the final moments arrive, the boys unleash a last-ditch attempt for freedom: the percussion pummles furiously; guitar and bass deliriously tumble and spit- making sure their message gets across loud and clear. Our unfortunate hero "crash-landed in the morning"- the opening thoughts of Two Sides. Out in the rain again, various scenes and interpretations come to mind- you wait to see what is going to be unveiled. Drowning in- one presumes- his girl's "filthy tears", Squires has taken the blame: with nothing to gain, it seems that a fraught scene has been witnessed. As his mind is drowning, perhaps there has been dishonesty and cheating; an argument may have erupted- with our frontman wrongly being accused. Professing there are two sides to everything, the urgency starkly comes to the fore: his no-good beau needs to own up and take responsibility- things are not as one-sided as she thinks they are. The vocal is given the chance to shine early on- the lads keep the composition fairly restrained and temporized; it ensures the words are clear and decipherable. A lot of love stories have their fair share of recrimination and fall-out: here our hero feels that there are two sides to (his girl's) heart; he is unable to get a fair hearing- perhaps he can never win the war, or even the battle. Underpinning the lyrics, the composition has a consistency and pace that adds emotion and weight to proceedings- it is not as mutating as previous numbers; it is more straight-forward. That said, Squires lets his guitars wander and pervade- beautifully punctuating the verses. Most listeners will sympathise with the hero: we have all been in the situation (he is in) and the words are those that are directed to everyone. With a title as vivid as Banging On The Bone, you would expect a suitably impressive opening salvo: the insatiable introduction certainly does not let you down. The song begins by observing the heroine- in a loose sense- that just sits and stares. Looking at a third-party, our hero presents another disconnected love story. It seems that the ashes of a relationship- or perhaps something more brief- are being trodden: whatever has happened between the two needs to rest and let go. Seemingly there is a sense of clinginess and inability to walk away: the ensuing words certainly add clarity to things. The unfortunate heroine is being taken advantage of by the boys: seemingly unaware of her role, tshe is reduced to a piece of meat- stripped of any righteousness and dignity, you can hear tones of sympathy (come from Squires). Assessing at the carnage, it seems that the girl has dug her own holes: being unshy, "cracked up" and "smacked up", she is unaware of what she does; having put herself on an unnatural high, she can not perceive how low she has gotten. The composition beautifully mirrors scenes of sex, drugs and... well everything else you might expect. Giving a clear picture of events, the listener is drawn into a seedy and rank underbelly- you almost feel sorry for the unfortunate 'heroine'- an ironic word, given what she puts through her veins. After the shortest track on the set, Old Town (the second longest) arrives. Perhaps the most exciting and electrifying intro.- on the disc- comes to light here: the guitars rush and clammer; the percussion peppers and rolls- perfectly leading in our frontman. We "never say never again"- with bloodshot eyes, a tense tale unfolds. The subject- our male protagonist- is armed and is a disreputable sort; the heroine is given no warning. Initially, we learn the man spins his "web of lies": a murderer of "the English kind", you start to imagine and prophesize. In spite of the bleak repressiveness and ill-fated goings-on, the composition has a chirpiness and let's-go-play quality that beautifully juxtaposes the lyrics- it does not poke fun or undermine anything; instead acts as a relief and sense of light. Our hero's vocals are determined and powerful: never dark or embittered, they ensure the words are intent and urgent. It is perhaps no surprise that the old town is seeing such horror and unpleasantness: Johnny (the song's villain- The Girl Looked At Johnny?) was a "messed-up kid at heart"; taking his gun into the night- "He didn't give a reason why"- you know that the heroine may not get out of this unscarred. Underneath the words of woe and imminent gunfire, the band summon up plenty of emotion and compositional quality. The percussion rifles fiercely; the guitars pump and throbs; the bass levels the two out- making the composition taut, tight (and showing its teeth). After another introduction of the chorus- the tension builds once more- the boys let their instruments continue the tale: there is playfulness still; everything becomes energised and instilled with a very British Indie-ness- embers of early-'00s masters come to mind. Not allowing the energy levels to drop for a second, the track keeps (that infectious) fresh in the mind: reinforcing the sense of danger and deceit, the band use it as a warning sign- get out before you get killed. Bringing things to a close is Timbuktu. The album's longest track, it starts off with a definite sprint: a fierce and sweaty intro. get the song right off to the races- similar to the title track, the opening develops and changes shape as it goes on. Having laced in plenty of fascination and urgent intent, the moment of reckoning arrives: our hero begins by wondering "Did you see the fear/In the eyes of a lonely heart?"- the song's title at once becomes meaningful and relevant. I sense that (the title) references the state of affairs: the subject is in the middle of nowhere; trapped in a vast desert of confusion, the heat of life is making him make mistakes. Taking trips with a "local scally"; tripping down a poverty-stricken street, he has nothing to lose- his singleton and unchained heart is causing recklessness and indiscriminate. As the blues lights flash; sirens wail- and chaos reigns- some bad crap has gone down: a man lies in the street, yet it doesn't seem abnormal or unexpected. Previous numbers have seen the boys offset some alarming starkness with buoyant notes: Timbuktu is no exception in this regard. After a heavy and blood-dripping opening, they allow a deep breath to come through- whilst ensuring that the sense of pace and potency never miss a beat. Light at the end of the tunnel is seen: the song's hero has allowed his drunken mind to become distorted and lead astray; that is putting reality into stark contrast. Perhaps the idea of running with the boys is a mistake- that shady life is not embraced for a very good reason. Our frontman lets empathy and caution rule his voice: you feel he wants things to work out for the best, but has been there before- he knows what lies in store, but perhaps it will all be okay. As the final notes ring and resonate, you wonder whether Timbuktu's central figure has made a clean break...
The King is a hell of a debut E.P. from a band with an incredible amount of talent. Before I get down to all the (many) positives, one or two points come to mind. The intelligibility on The King (the song) sometimes wanes: some of the words get lost, making it a bit hard to understand. Well actually that is it- the rest of my words are going to be nothing but positive. Whilst there are touches of The Libertines within the E.P.- some of the songs reference their work; some of the compositions/lyrics walk similar streets- the abiding sensation is on a very unique and fervent band. You would be hard-pressed to compare Squires's voice with too many others- it has lingering embers of greats, yet does not succumb to mimicry at any stage. The six songs across the E.P. are instilled with so much life and story: from the tales of broken relationships and clingy girls; to the gun-totting maniacs of dark streets; the one-night stand girl and lies of love- there is plenty of action and fascination throughout. Having been reviewing- over the last few months- a lot of similar themes: personal love stories; the break-ups and insular depressions- it is nice to witness something with some grit of the street. The Crooked Daniel boys have clearly lived the life: they have seen everything you could possible see and are recalling the memories through six stunning tracks. No two songs stick to the same theme: from one number to the other you are treated to a new experience and insight- each track has a sense of danger and heartache. The band is consistently tight and impressive: the performances are filled with conviction and heart; the sense of purpose and pride never relents. Squires marks himself out as a singer with a clear determination: his voice is solid and powerful; able to sympathise- as well as cast blame- it has many shades and sides- that clear and unique tone creates consistency and familiarity. Both warm and open; darkened and gritty, it will be great to hear more of it (the voice) in future releases. Harvey's bass work keeps everything in check: the rambunctious songs need guidance and authority- the bass does this wonderfully. In addition to offering support, it unleashes a huge amount of force and potential. Capable of stinging and stunning; tempting and seducing, it perfectly matches the lyrics of each number- lesser musicians would not be able to obtain the same sense of richness and diversity. Hall's percussion is consistently potent and rampant: The King is such an intense and imploring beast because of that indefatigable element. Few drummers are capable of a consistently bold and pulverizing sound: Hall is perfectly adept at weaving colour and surprise into the mix- he has as much style as he does panache and manliness. With Squires's guitar capable of breathlessness and wide-eyed surprise, the songs are treated to a huge amount of consideration. Within the six songs, the guitar is given plenty of time to electioneer and play: each riff and passage is packed with emotion and confident swagger- kudos goes to the axe man. When you are an Indie-Rock band, the biggest challenge is trying to set yourself aside from the masses of like-minded musicians: The King is a work that certainly shows its quality and originality. The band parlay some of their idols into proceedings, but never bury their songs midst familiar strands and sounds: the tunes are their own bosses and have their own skin. My last point concerns the quality of the songs themselves. Each number captures you with its youthful energy and compelling characters: a lot of times you find yourself rooting for some rather murky and unholy figures. Too much of new music revolves around narrow themes and predictable avenues: pillow talk and predictable love songs are a staple that we have all seen enough. Crooked Daniel take things out of the soul and into the streets: we peak behind closed door- and smashed-in ones- to witness something different- similarly, scenes we can all relate to (in some degree). The E.P. will connect with those familiar with the legends of Indie and Rock; draw in fans of other genres- it is a record capable of mass appeal and consideration. It is hard trying to grab a foothold- on a busy and tall mountain- and the first step is the most vital and difficult: The King shows ample promise and nuance that should see it ascend to the higher ranks. With its sounds capable of seducing the likes of Radio One, XFM, Absolute Radio- and venues a-plenty- I would not be shocked if one of their tunes was being spun here- very soon.
It has come to that stage once more: trying to distill a band into one paragraph (a pretty long one, I'll admit!). Crooked Daniel emailed me several days ago- wondering whether they could have their E.P. surveyed. Having not heard of the Devon three-piece (prior to the review), I went in not knowing what to expect. From their Facebook and Twitter pages, I extrapolated that they enjoyed a tipple of cider; their excellent record collection- in the form of their list of influences- wetted my appetites- a lot of potential presented itself on paper. When I actually sat down to judge the band's music, I was incredibly surprised: not in a bad way; I was just not expecting something so fresh, vivid and exciting. Maybe I have reviewed slightly diverse E.P.s (this year) yet very few have managed to impress me as much. Crooked Daniel manage to summon up so much force, weight and impressiveness over the course of six songs: each one is different and individual; possessed of its own magic and curiosity. Part of the reason I love new music, is that bands- and solo acts- dip into the past; their childhood icons are reintroduced and appropriated. The Devon trio sprinkle a little Punk fairy dust- Iggy', The Clash, Sex Pistols- some U.S. legends- MC5 for example- and a crop of homegrown legends- including Led Zeppelin and Muse. I started the review by stating how hard it is to make it count- when you are an Indie/Indie-Rock band. Being the busiest and most competitive genre in all of music, dozens of new young hopefuls are born every month. So many times I have gone in excited- when listening to a new act- and come away slightly cold and letdown: the initial rushes and passion dissipates and dissolves after a few tracks. Crooked Daniel have managed to samba past a potential stumbling block: their E.P. has a continuous momentum of quality that means you are left wanting more- hopeful that their sophomore release will be just as good (if not better). The boys are still growing and developing, but the early signs are very promising: The King is an action-packed statement of intent from a band that want to be taken very seriously indeed- they are not merely in music for the sake of it. I hope the chaps get themselves an official website in the coming months: not only can they bond all of their social media outlets in a one-stop shop- they can keep their fans updated and ensure more ears and eyes connect with them. It is great to see a band from Devon come through to the surface: there is still an hegemony among groups from London, Leeds, Manchester- and other large cities- that you always root for the underdog. These determined and impassioned band of brothers kick the blues away and compel the listener to dive straight in. With a maturity and sense of conviction that supersedes (their tender) years, the sheer urgency and authority they radiate sets them apart from the hoi polloi. The King will appeal to anyone that has a fond respect for the masters of heavy, sexy and youthful sounds. The lyrics and stories are not cliché or stifled: the band have a flair for atmosphere and landscape that ensures their music delves deep and far. Being a huge fan of (current new music leaders) like Crystal Seagulls, The Bedroom Hour, Los and the Deadlines and Knuckle; Crooked Daniel fit right into the list- they have the potential to parlay early investment into huge long-term profit. If you are not a fan of Indie and Rock, then do not despair: the band incorporate plenty of appealing facets that reach out to a wider audience. Beauty and introspection linger in many of The King's music; touches of classic and current-day Pop bubble in the undergrowth- you can discover much treasure if you listen hard. This year has shown itself to be one of the most fervent for new musicians: a greater range of talent has come through than I have ever seen- the signs for 2015 bode very well. Many have fallen at the first fence; others have bowed out with fatigue- the competitors with legs and intelligence win the race. Crooked Daniel have an authoritative and knowledgable music brain that translate into their music; their sense of intention means their songs cannot be ignored or overlooked- it seems that the next year will be prosperous for them. I know they have performed on (and interviewed) local radio (in Devon); ensured that a great deal of the local followers share their music- let's hope the word makes it far and wide. I am sure the band will make their name in music's most influential cities- London, Manchester etc.- and be in-demand any time (real) soon. Until that day comes, set aside some time to investigate The King- it is an E.P. that implores you to take notice and let your head and body rule your heart. With passion seeping from a great deal of musicians, it is vital...
WE herald and proffer bands such as Crooked Daniel.
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