Category: single review


57311697_10156480013124387_9210045779832471552_nThere is no shortage of bands who deserve the moniker “funky.” Equally, blues bands are in no short supply, slide players are still easy to find and infectious music is two-a-penny. And you can’t throw a mandolin these days without it hitting a band revelling in descriptions such as roots or Americana. What is harder to find these days is a band which is able to mix all those qualities into one hypnotic, happening and hip (‘scuse the pun)  tune. Hard, but not impossible, as the latest sonic slice from Hip Route deftly shows.

The band have made quite a name for themselves by cleverly blending these often mutually exclusive musical traits into wonderfully energetic, easily accessible, sassy and sultry tunes. It is also a testament to their treatment of the subject matter that when you break the music down it seems built up of pieces of long lost classic blues but the end result is something new, shiny and perfectly packaged for the modern pop picker, better still, it arrives without anything in the way of compromise or cash in, or any deference made to fad or fashion. 

Rather than try to repackage the past they just act to remind us that such fervently funky grooves, such deft delta vibes, gorgeously growled vocals, pulsing bass lines and sumptuous sonics have never gone away, they just need a bit of a polish from time to time. Sinking Down is the sound of those past sounds being polished to a point of perfection

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56157865_261311031482248_7217821986947334144_nBefore you even find yourself engaging with the song itself, what really grabs you about Brainshake is the over arching sound that the band cloak themselves in. There is something wonderfully ethereal and slightly hazy woven into the sonic DNA, something that you expect from explorers of a more dream-pop or cosmic Americana sound but which is wholly unexpected considering the confident strides and punchy attack at the core of the song are essentially a young, British, indie-pop sound.

But pop, rock, indie…call it what you will, genres are largely a thing of the past any way…has to evolve to stay relevant and this is the sound of that process in action. The clever thing is that Stay Lunar have remained true to all the essential pop ingredients, infectiousness and accessibility, as well as rocks groove and drive, all the while hopping generic demarcations to plunder from other genres to build this new take.

And it is that blend of the familiar and the forward-thinking, of short, sharp and to the point songwriting mixed with an expansion of what mainstream music can be that enables them to play both cultish and commercial cards. The underground tastemakers and scene setters will be all over this but so too will the massed ranks of pop-pickers and indie kids. The best of both worlds! How cool is that?

unnamedA wise man once said, “Fashions and fads are for fools and freeloaders.” Okay, it wasn’t a wise man, it was me, just now, I just made it up. But I stand by the sentiment. If you are a young band looking to make a name for yourself you can either take the obvious route and follow the pack and hope that somehow you manage to stand out in a sea of conformity or you can look for inspiration elsewhere. Elsewhere, in the case of The Licks, is back into a bluesier, rockier and sleazier, era, a time when music seemed to be made by sonic shamans, was tribal, even primal in essence, when gods named Morrison and Hendrix still walked amongst us.

White Monster is a sultry and slowly grooving tune, it struts where others rock, it slinks when less well crafted songs stomp, it links 60s free festivals with 90’s blues revivals and West Coast vibes with Ladbroke Grove squat gigs. It oozes riffs and pulses bass lines to voodoo beats. Twin Peaks therefore comes as a real change of pace, initially sitting between a pastoral piano ballad and spaced out experimental indie before strapping on the blues guitars and firing off Floyd-esque salvos into the night.

One Trick Pony is the sprint finish, and whilst many will chose old school references such as Cream or their modern offspring Royal Blood  to try to pin The Licks sound on this one, I find the rhythm, drive and the straight down the line blues progression put me in mind of the oft-overlooked Burning Tree. (Check out their debut album, its awesome)

The Licks are a breath of fresh air. Whilst many bands taking such a nostalgic route forward, most are exploring the same bluesy sonics and seem to miss the point, play it too straight, too clean. Now its possible that the rawness and garage rock vibe I’m loving here is as a result of available budget but I implore The Licks to never loose that edge. There is nothing worse than a band who, having being able to afford to get into a decent studio, proceeds to polish their sound beyond recognition. The Blues needs to be rough, raw, lived in, ragged and most of all sexy. As a wise man once said, “Why be smart when you can be sexy?”

Yes, that was one of mine again. Sorry.

27858290_1987478481505007_4204404359649383129_nIt’s been great watching The Harlers evolve and grow, from a basic two-piece of drums and guitar, through various sound enhancing, multi-amp, sonic manoeuvring to finally settle on the classic three-piece line up that they have now become. And whilst the bands delivery may have been subject to a few changes, the music that they deliver has stayed very much on focus – in your face, incendiary, blues-infused, garage rock.

Like many bands in the broad alt-rock genre that is today’s rock’n’roll weapon of choice The Harlers reference some classic bands, everything from modern purveyors such as Royal Blood, through such obscurities as Burning Tree and iconic outfits such as Cream, and a whole host of scuzzy, outsider guitar slingers from the golden age. Heart of Gold sees them ploughing the same rock furrow, not every band has to break down barriers or explore new sonic playgrounds but neither is this merely re-inventing the wheel either. The Harlers are torch bearers, the sound of classic rock and roll being carried through to a modern audience, and it is safe to say that they do it better than most.