I’m not entirely sure where I’m headed with this review. The question is not whether listening to ‘Sugar For My Soul’ is an enjoyable way of spending fifty-four minutes of my time -it is that – but what is it that makes it enjoyable?
Dublin based four-piece SWEET JANE seem to me to side astride a couple of musical genres. However, they have too much ‘balls’ to be classed as ‘Indie,’ but perhaps lack a little of the harder edge that would have wizened old Rockers beating a hasty path to their shows.
So maybe they have invented their own little niche in today’s overcrowded music scene? They’ve certainly managed to produce an album that successfully crosses the divide between general pop sensibility and credible rock credentials.
The album opens with a couple of songs that were on the band’s EP release earlier this year. ‘Bleed’ is first up with its driving beats and siren sounding guitars. There are slight ‘darkwave’ influences lurking beneath the surface what with the metronomic drums and resonating bass lines. This is one of my favourite tracks on the album and proves that SWEET JANE really can kick it. It prompts me to think of a female fronted Jesus and Mary Chain!
‘Close Your Eyes’ was the earlier single / lead track on the EP, and as I said at the time reminds me in places of early Oasis. This is mainly due to the sneered vocal style of Lydia des Dolles, holding tightly onto that final syllable of each line as if Liam himself were trying to prise it away. Like many of their songs, SWEET JANE build in a sort of anthemic feel with the chorus, this time by means of big ‘whoa-whoa-whoa’ backing chants over the pounding, incessant beat and jangly guitars.
(While talking about the guitars, I should mention that all throughout the album the sound is clear and concise, with the solos intricate enough, but not to the point of extravagance.)
‘I’ve Been Waitin’’ shows a more Blues infused side of the band while ‘Black Eyes,’ has a slightly haunted feel to it with the vocals and harmonies drenched in reverb. It reminds me a little of Australian band Howling Bells – as do a couple of other tracks, as it happens.
‘Texas Tears’ gets the album back into a rocking vibe, with Lydia taking more of a backseat on the vocals, this time lending more to the backing. If anything there is a ring of Teenage Fanclub to this track – though why I or anyone should feel it necessary to throw in any comparisons at all, I don’t know. (Must be a reviewer’s curse or something!)
‘Something For My Soul,’ is another of my favourites on the album; perhaps because it does not draw direct comparison to other bands (though if someone said that they could hear a little bit of The Charlatans in there, I wouldn’t argue to vehemently) but also because it has that really big, ‘epic’ feel to it. It incorporates some lovely ‘psyche’ influences, with some great hazy, fuggy guitar solos laid over the top of reverb-enhanced vocals a general Spector-esque ‘Wall of Sound’ feel. At almost five and a half minutes, it’s probably just about the right length, but I’d have been equally happy to sit through another three or four minutes! Brilliant!
‘Save A Little Place,’ like most of the tracks, has a recurring guitar hook that embeds itself in you head. Again, this one is slower and more on a Blues tip; really nice though. ‘Where’s Your Money?’ has a Sixties feel, due in no small part to the vocal delivery and especially the drumming style. And yet again, a feature of the song is a nice, clean guitar solo.
‘You’re Making This Hard,’ heralds a return to the Jesus and Mary Chain sound – one that I think works spectacularly well for SWEET JANE. The dark and scuzzy sound seems to sit so well. ‘War Cry’ has that haunting feel again and ‘Don’t Hold Your Head So Low,’ really pares back on the pace, with a moody rendition from Lydia reminding us once again of that distinct Phil Spector sound as the guitar noise builds in the background, forever threatening to take over.
‘Fade To My Heartbreak’ closes the album by injecting a bit more bounce, but for me the album should have finished with the previous song.
I’d say you should be listening to this album with a completely open mind. To have it filed neatly in your subconscious by some review or other as either ‘rock’ or ‘indie’ or whatever, could lead to confusion and possibly unsatisfied expectations.
All you need to know I guess, is that it’s bloody good!
(Released through Reekus Records on 2nd May 2011)
(8.5 / 10)