10 O’Clock Chemical
We Are Digital
The track, We Are Digital, is available via:
The E.P., Favours for the Wicked, is available via:
22nd June, 2018
WHEN approaching the guys of 10 O’Clock Chemical…
I have a lot to unpack. The guys have lost a member recently – since I last featured them – but that has not dampened their music or taken away from their strength and ability. I will come to that later but I wanted to investigate bands who can create their own genre and mix Rock, something cosmic with electronic; themes that look at social media, isolation and mass consumerism; a sound that is accessible and tangible (never too heavy or unforgiving); artists from Stoke-on-Trent and areas that do not get a lot of coverage – I will end by looking at the band and where they might head. I will look at their track, We Are Digital, in a bit but there is something oddly refreshing about 10 O’Clock Chemical. I hear a lot of acts that have a good sound and seem to differ from what is out there. One of the reasons why I have been a bit cold on bands is because of the rather ordinary and predictable sounds. You get too many acts who have lacking imaginations and seem to follow the pack. Maybe solo artists still hold more sway but there are groups that are coming back and showing some variation. I am drawn to 10 O’Clock Chemical because they have a genre all of their own: Gritpop. Maybe there are other groups who have their own sub-genre but the sounds fused by the boys are rather interesting. They take a bit of Britpop, in terms of a lightness and energy, but they bring together oddly cosmic science fiction and the Electronic genre. The hybrid of more accessible and traditional Pop/Rock is married with their own world that brings the listener in and exposes them to something peculiar and wonderful. There are so many artists out there who lack any real motivation and are willing to put out a sound that is a bit lazy and routine. What strikes me about the band is how they take a risk and explore sonic territory that others are not.
I like the term ‘Gritpop’. It explores the older days of British music and a time when we were all together and one – maybe there is an irony regarding that period and what it stood for. The band look at isolation and how social media is having a damaging effect on all of us – Britpop was about joining with one another and being much more involved in society. Maybe I am not explaining their sound well but my point remains about bands/artists that do their own thing. You hear little bits of Muse and their sense of identity – a bit odd and explorative but mesmeric – and Dance-Pop. It is a fantastic brew that gets into the ears and spikes the imagination. It would be rather hard-going if the band talked about isolation and stress in modern society and put together a sound that was closed-off, edgy and too dark. You would feel a bit too maligned and saddened; put off by the shadowy and harsh tones. Instead, 10 O’Clock Chemical explore ideas that reflect the realities of modern society but they produce music that has a lightness and sense of the fun. You can dance and move to their songs but you get to think at the same time. Those who prefer their music more throwaway and unchallenging might not bond with the band but I feel the guys are worth proper exploration and time. What gets to me is how the chaps have some clear influences but they never wear them too clearly on their sleeves. However you define Gritpop and what it is all about; it is hard unpicking it and comparing it with other artists – a unique brew that will stay with you and, for artists, will compel them to change the game. Those who take the time to go away from the mainstream and the oft-heard are to be congratulated. It is hard creating something original and being taken to heart.
The band, in my opinion, is among the most relevant out there. I hear so many artists that talk about love and relationships but I wonder how much you can really learn. It is great hearing about personal themes and hearing people reveal their souls and troubles. Whilst it can be hard to understand their precise viewpoint; you can relate to heartbreak and where their head is. The reason I love artists that go away from that is the lessons you learn and the depth explored. In the case of 10 O’Clock Chemical; they look at the modern day and ways in which society has changed. Looking at the grip of social media and isolation might not sound too cheery – it isn’t really – but it is relevant to all of us and does provide some inspiration. We are all, in some way, a bit too beholden to social media and what is being put out there. Maybe we measure ourselves in terms of other people’s success and what we are supposed to be – never really sure of who we are and thinking for ourselves. I am someone who spends a lot of time on social media and it can be very unforgiving. You get this false sense of friendship and understanding that is never human and physical. Maybe we find it easy to speak with those online but I wonder whether that is a substitute for real-life contact and interaction. Every moment of the day, we hear other people’s woes, success and experiences; every minutes and movement of the day is revealed and it can be suffocating for the average consumer. I wonder how healthy it is being online and living in a world more and more dependent on social media. Alongside social media, we have mass consumerism and marketing where we have adverts and products on the screen. Every page we visit seems to promote something or other and we are all vulnerable to the attack and obsessive campaigning or advertisers.
I grow weary of all the adverts and demands put upon me. More and more, it is getting harder to get some freedom and you can feel very vulnerable being online. Your identity and personal details are out there so you never know who is using your information and how safe you are. Maybe security is tighter now than past years but the more addicted we become to social media the weaker we become. I think we all need to break away from the daily routine of being on social media and living our lives there. 10 O’Clock Chemical investigate how social media and the Internet are controlling what we do and how much time we are spending on there. There is social isolation and endless advertising; we are all being monitored and watched wherever we go and censorship is tightening. I wonder whether we are free to express ourselves and be a human in this day and age. We live through others and there is this rather inward-looking approach to life where we do not really have our own identities and minds. In a way, we are becoming more insular and anxious, even though the planet is growing and more and more people are coming through. Are we able to break away from the screen, go outside and feel like we are safe and able to communicate with others freely?! It is an odd time of our lives when consumer culture and social media plays a bigger role than anything else. There are some of us that are not beholden to the screen but the addictiveness of the format gets us all in the end. It is good hearing artists explore all of this and provide a balance of wit and judgement. They are never accusatory or harsh: the lyrics provide observation and humour but there is anger and a sense of exasperation emerging. I hope they continue to uncover elements of the modern time that musicians do not really cover. Their E.P., Favours for the Wicked, looks deeply at modern life and how things are changing.
I will come back to themes examined by 10 O’Clock Chemical and why they are a band to watch. I love what they do because they seem to splice the unusual and familiar. I have met Muse but you get bits of Daft Punk, Foo Fighters and The Prodigy. That might seem like an impossible blend but it all works and the band make it pop. The guys have been celebrated around Staffordshire and the Midlands but their success and popularity extend around the country. I have been following them for a while and know they will continue to grow and build their fanbase. They have their own label, Gritpop (maybe it is in upper-case lettering), and that sound they have honed means a lot to them. Every listener will have their own interpretation of what Gritpop is and what it is all about. It is a spikier and more evocative sense of music that, oddly, is meant to unite us all. If Britpop acts like Blur and Pulp aimed to get us all singing and thinking through uplifting and light music; Gritpop seems to reflect the modern-day version of Britpop. By that, how society is changing and what bonds us all. If Oasis were speaking about living forever and embracing youth; now, we are living through our screens and living in a rather synthetic, closed society. Rather than spotlight this rather hard-hitting and upsetting area of life, the band bring a sense of energy and experimentation to these words. Their music has a sense of dance and invigoration to the party and never puts you in a bad mood. I like how the band have their own label and style and have found their niche. Many artists are looking for their own path but latch onto someone else and never really show originality. It is exciting discovering a group that invents a style of music that is so instant, relatable and interesting. I love the various sounds and influences they throw into the pot and how tight they sound now.
Before I move onto a new subject; it is worth looking at sound and how important it is. Although the band’s lyrics are incredible and thought-provoking; they put together compositions that compel different parts of the body. It is essential you marry sound and words together and have that balance. They could easily squander their narratives and observations with a rather lacklustre and insipid sound. They throw Kasabian into the inspiration pot but, thankfully, do not take too heavily from them. I am not a fan of the band and feel they are pretty overrated and past it. Maybe their earlier work was okay but they have turned into plodding and boring players who have no grit and purpose. Our guys, instead, have much more power and potential in their ranks. I hear a combination of Muse and Funk that gets the body motivated and the spirit swaggering. They do provide some darker times but there is a degree of relief and openness that gets under the skin. Like I said before; if they had matched rather heavy lyrics with a haunted sound and something tense then that would drain you and put off the listener. It is the way they balance things and create something focused and nuanced that gets to me. I mentioned, too, how the band has made changes in the ranks but I do not feel that has damaged them too much. It remains to be seen how future gigs and recordings sound with the new line-up but I feel they are as strong and promising as ever. I am not sure what the circumstances are behind the change but every band experiences some loss and alteration at points in their careers. The guys have been playing for a while but revealed their debut single back in February. Babylon Is Fallen was released through their GRITPOP label and met with great acclaim. Since then, the band have been playing locally and garnering plaudits from radio and the media. How often do we look at artists outside of London these days?!
10 O’Clock Chemical are based out of Stoke-on-Trent – not an area we usually associate with a productive music scene and innovation. I know Slash used to live there and I think Robbie Williams is from Stoke. If you did an Internet search of all the great artists to come from Stoke, Staffordshire and that side of the country then it is going to be a rather depressing comeback. There are great local acts but, in terms of the mighty, nothing really pops to the ears. Music venues like The Underground and Band on the Wall mean there are spaces for Stoke-on-Trent artists to play in; there is great local radio and artists emerging who will get into the public mindset in years to come. I admire the band for remaining where they are (for now) and vibing from the local scene. I feel there is a lack of highlight regarding areas outside of London because many assume there is not a lot of treasure elsewhere. 10 O’Clock Chemical are a band who warrant more acclaim and revelation. They have gained success where they are and are being tipped as one of the best acts in the Midlands. I feel they might progress to the bigger cities in years to come but their connection and sound is being felt and appreciated around Stoke-on-Trent. I wonder why we get obsessed with the cities and what is coming from the capital. I know a lot of the media is based in London so it is understandable they focus on what is local and in their vision. It can be harder getting a grip on the full spectrum of music with social media being as it is. We often see the bigger acts promoted but, unless you follow the right people, how are you to know which artists (outside of London) are worth following? It is rather upsetting to see some great musicians overlooked and fight hard because of where they are based.
I will come to look at We Are Digital in a minute but I wanted to see where the band is going and what they have in store. They have released their E.P. and it is collecting praise and press. I know the guys will want to hit the road and take their music as far as possible. For the Wicked was produced by Matt Johnson and mixed by Adrian Bushby. Between them, they have won awards and worked with some terrific artists. I can hear the quality throughout and know that the boys will get a lot of love and respect. They will, as said, want to tour widely and reach as many people as they can. Their local reputation is clear but I fancy they’ll want to come to other parts of the U.K. and see some great places. I feel they could be a big hit in areas like Glasgow and London and there is a big market out there for them. I am excited to see how far they can go and where their music will take them. I feel, given what they talk about, fans around the world will bond with the music. Maybe there is a possibility of dates in the U.S. and Canada. I mention those nations because I am hearing similar artists coming from there – who can bet against 10 O’Clock Chemical getting kudos over there? I am looking ahead but I know the band are ambitious and want to get as much coverage for their music as possible. Even though there have been alterations in their ranks; they will continue to go on and, maybe, recruit a new member in time. I have not seen them live but I know they have gathered great reviews from the stage and are well worth checking out! I will come to looking at We Are Digital and a song, I feel, defines For the Wicked. The boys have created a cracking and compelling song that seems to offer caution and concern.
A rising, grumbling electronic coda opens We Are Digital. In many ways, you are expecting the Doctor Who theme to crack out. It has that same spacey sound and gallop but, rather than breaking out the theremin and getting all weird; the song continues down a darker road for a bit. Before long, the song cracks out some funk and the direction changes. Our hero comes to microphone and looks at a chromium queen and computer addiction that seems to have taken hold. The band gets us dancing and moving right away and you hear bubbles of Muse and The Prodigy mixed alongside one another. The lyrics have the nature of a love song and personal confession but look at digital means and vicarious experiences. You get brilliant, high-pitched backing vocals and it is impossible not to be drawn into the song and its sense of style. You get an instant hit and are intoxicated by the smoothness, sexiness and effusive sense of wiggle. The smooth and seductive tones, as I said, could be scoring a love song and a rapturous coming together. In many ways, We Are Digital is a bit of a flirtation – one where the hero is not going to be sucked in and controlled. In many ways, the song is a sort of ersatz passion where he (the hero) has more attachment to other people he does not know and digital messages. He sees how people are reacting and interacting and seems troubled by the trend. We are becoming lonelier and more isolated and that is something we need to be aware of. I love the sound the band whip up when the lyrics are being projected. You can hear funkiness and soulful strut and there are grittier guitars and stabs. It is a brilliant blend of older sounds and fresh ideas; brilliantly produced and mixed so that all the sounds and elements unite perfectly. The vocal stands out but is never too dominant: the band get their say and create a wonderful harmony and sense of support.
It seems like our man is fighting against the urges of being sucked into the machine and going down the same road as everyone else. The Devil is coming, as it is said, and we are all becoming slaves to the hold and lure of the digital. The choruses have a sexiness and seriousness and you are in a distinct headspace. One follows the lyrics and imagines someone at a computer and the sort of addiction they have. Our man is seeing people live their lives through others and not having that human connection. The chorus is one of the biggest and brightest I have heard in a long time. I was moved, literally, by the addictiveness and catchiness of the chorus. One hears a bit of Prince when the band breaks out the funkiness and move their hips. The hero talks about everyone being digital and drawn to something rather isolated and detached. We are all moving far apart and it is amazing how we have got to this point in time. They mean we are all too hooked on something that doesn’t exist and not really in touch with our fellow human. Although the lyrics are quite tense and foreboding; the music and vocals are fizzing, dynamic and colourful. You are compelled to move your body and sing along with the song. It never goes into mainstream Pop territory and always retains its sense of cool. The chorus changes course and moves; there are little guitar bits here and there; some strange electronic breakdowns and a great beat. The eclectic potion the band stirs get into the nose and you will be hooked before you know it! If anything, I hear touches of the 1980s in the song. We Are Digital has that classic sound and catchiness but never gets cheesy. The band have managed to create something that lodges in the heart but is distinctly their own. You get excited when the chorus comes around the second time and are prepared for the rush! I went away from the song compelled to listen to the Favours for the Wicked E.P. and dig into the band’s story. I can imagine the music sound exceptional on the stage and I would love to see how they translate from the studio to the live setting. I have heard We Are Digital a few times and get a different hit and impression each time around. Make sure you investigate 10 O’Clock Chemical’s smash and experience a band that are among the freshest and most exciting around. They have a very alluring and seductive call that you would be foolish to resist. As much as anything, you take lessons away and (I hope) are compelled to think harder about the way you live and the role technology plays in your life – that is a hard trick to pull off in music.
It has been an extraordinary and successful year for 10 O’Clock Chemical. I interviewed them earlier in the year and wanted to know what sort of music they are inspired by and where they are headed. What struck me, when conducting the interview, was how passionate they were and the effort they put into the music. You can hear all the passion and intelligence put into their sound; the E.P. they have released goes beyond what we’d expect from a band and seems more like a modern political statement. The band looks at modern society and what we have become. Although I do not have time to review the whole E.P.; I have highlighted a song that means a lot to me. Social media is becoming more dominant in our lives and we are becoming too dependent on it. I wonder whether we can break away from the lure of the screen and digital communication. Alongside social media, we have advertising bombarding us and we are all being watched. Alongside this, we are more vulnerable and unsafe than ever and it seems like life has changed drastically. I was born in the 1980s so have lived and experienced a time before the Internet and a simplicity that is lacking today. I have seen the Internet and social media come and how different I am as a human. In many ways, we are more connected and have opportunities that were not there before. We can reach new parts of the world and experiences sights and sounds that were impossible before the Internet. In other ways, we are less sociable and seem more addicted to false and electronic outlets. Maybe we have come too far to reverse but I feel each of us can reverse the trend and start to break away from the drug. If we dedicate more time to the outside world and becoming less reliant on computers, we can become richer and more connected. 10 O’Clock Chemical look at the state of the modern world and how we interact and are seen. It is impressive and revealing music that provides a sense of education and guidance. You hear Favours for the Wicked and you are engrossed in the sounds. The guys have penned a remarkable work that gets to the head and heart as much as it does the body and spirit. I think the band are going to go on to big things and, before too long, will be taking their evocative music…
TO the world stage.
Follow 10 O’Clock Chemical