The late Seventies, here in UK, was the place to be if you enjoyed variety of musical genres. For me as a kid, I graduated through Glam Rock to Heavy Rock to Punk to Reggae and then Rock ‘n’Roll / Rockabilly. I’m glad to say, these were not just whimsical fads I was passing through – they still form the basis of my record collection and listening pleasure to this day.
It’s easy to see then why I was drawn to this track.
Based in Vancouver, Canada, Rich Chambers was determined from a very early age that he was going to be a rock ‘n’ roll star. However, several years of touring the local toilet circuit for the sake of a pint or two of the local craft lager made him re-consider. For a while.
He returned to his studies and gained a degree in English and latterly, a Masters in Humanities. But the music still burned within him, and actually the hook to the chorus of this song came about rather randomly as he walked to his car in the parking lot for the University.
Although the harmonies had been brewing for many years, it is only now, with a bit more ‘life perspective,’ that Rich has been able to match the tune to a reflection of High School experiences and use that as a metaphor for how we perceive our dreams and innocence of youth.
This three minute rock ‘n’ roller has been billed as Buddy Holly mixing it with Green Day; rock ‘n’ roll with a bit of added modern spike.
Me? I’m reminded of the vibrato tremble of The Undertones’ Feargal Sharkey‘s voice and the melody and fun attitude of The Vandals. And there’s certainly a bit of old school punk bounce to the bassline, if you listen.
The lyrics may take a slightly cynical look at the missed opportunities of our youth and how decisions taken so young can impinge on the rest of our lives, but hey ….. it’s fun tune!One to put a smile on your face and get your feet moving.
At long last, the UK music scene is awakening from its pandemic induced torpor. Studios are re-opening and gig venues are once again being filled with happy and enthusiastic punters.
Unsigned bands up and down the length and breadth of the UK can once again load their gear into whatever battered mode of transport is available and travel across town, disgorging their instruments into the next s****ole venue on the ‘toilet circuit.’
These are the bands celebrated at LOUD HORIZON: the underplayed, the underpaid and the under appreciated.’
One such band is Hollow Doors, from Scunthorpe, in North Lincolnshire, England. The alternative / indie / rock four piece formed in 2017 and quickly gained a loyal local following. With their support, the band have financed the writing and recording of a set of singles, recorded at the spanking new Woodley Moss Studios in Normanby, which will be self-released over the coming months.
The first of these is this, ‘Fake Style,’ a video of which is in course of being produced. Local radio stations, including BBC Lincolnshire, have already picked up on the track.
As far as reference points go (which I’m afraid I have to provide – it’s the law, you know) I’d say there’s a wee bit channeling early Franz Ferdinand going on here? That’s meant as a compliment, by the way – no need for hate mail or severed horse heads through the post, thank you.
From what I’ve heard, I like the sound of Hollow Doors and their DIY attitude. I’m sensing a little bit similarity in vibe, to one of Radio 6Music presenter, Steve Lamaq’s favourite bands, Theatre Royal – whose first national exposure many years ago came via …. oh, I’m far too modest to say.
There’s a long way to go yet, and a lot of hollow doors to be knocked upon – but who knows? Why the hell not?
From a young age, we’re advised not to ‘judge a book by its cover.’ By the same token, as we grow older, we must learn not to judge a musician by their back catalogue.
Case in point would be Glaswegian, Ewan MacFarlane.
As a long time member of electo rockers Apollo 440 he would strut, sing, shout and dance on stages across the world, firing up crowds numbering in their thousands.
As front-man of The Grim Northern Social, Ewan was the main songwriter of the critically acclaimed but regretfully short-lived band, whose debut album in 2003 was voted one of the year’s best by Rolling Stone magazine.
For a while during 2015 / 2016, he would liaise via the internet with Filip Rasch from southern Norway, to collaborate on a series of releases under the name of Mennska.
And now ….?
Nobody can really afford to stand still in the music industry. (Well, certain artists do, but in general they’re totally pants.) Some of the most successful continually re-invent themselves as they age, David Bowie being the prime example.
So, what’s led Ewan MacFarlane from the dance culture to the softer, (possibly Del Amitri inspired?) Americana infused melodic Rock of this post’s opening video – his latest single, ‘Underneath Your Spell‘?
“Its high time I stepped out and made the music I always needed to make,” he says.
The single is the second to be lifted from his forthcoming (October 29th) debut solo album, ‘Always Everlong,’ following hard on the heels of the brilliant ‘Stirrin’ In The City,’ which is posted below.
‘Always Everlong,‘ tells tales of tension with pledges of eternal love. It’s an expression of his hopes and fears, emboldened by a personable approach to classic rock writing as Ewan bares his soul by putting pen to paper, unafraid of the consequences.
In his own words, “It’s both about a lust and love for life and for each other. It’s about endless boundaries, about taking the good with the bad, the happy with the sad, the laughter and the tears, but not least it’s about kicking down the walls of constraint and living life exactly how you choose. Free to be what you want to be without judgement.”
To my eternal shame, despite owning four Apollo 440 singles and living in the same Dear Green Place as Ewan I never made the connection between him, them, and The Grim Northern Social. I was probably too obsessed with hardcore punk at that time.
Taking a leaf from Ewan’s book, I think now is the time to re-invent the listener in me.
Who’s to stop me loving hardcore punk and melodic rock?
Back in the mid-Seventies, I was all over Southern Rock; Lynyrd Skynyrd (obviously!); The Outlaws; Marshall Tucker Band;Grinderswitch, and others all found a place in my record collection.
Then, along came Punk.
I always was a fickle kid, and though my love of these bands did not exactly fade, their albums would make much less frequent visits to the turntable.
In recent years though, having been forced by my wife to endure hour upon hour of American Idol, my interest in country based sounds has been reignited. And when I listen to likes of Robert Jon & The Wreck, I realise now what I’ve been missing.
‘Shine A Light On Me Brother,‘(released on 3rd September 2021) is the result of enforced ‘downtime’ during the Covid pandemic, and will be the band’s sixth studio album. With a couple of EPs / CD Live recordings thrown in since their inception ten years ago in Orange County, California, then by today’s standards, I guess they’d fall into the prolific bracket.
Their hard-working ethics have seen them tour coast to coast in their homeland, as well as travelling the world and playing before huge sell-out crowds when supporting likes of Joe Bonamassa, Buddy Guy, Living Colour, Walter Trout, Black Stone Cherry and the Chris Robinson Band.
It’s funny that last name came up. Bands, I’m sure, must hate it when folks like me draw similarities between them and other artists. It’s not ‘lazy journalism,’ it’s simply observation in trying to give the reader an inkling of what to expect from an artist / recording. So yeah, overall, though there are variations throughout, I can hear a bit of semblance to the Black Crows at points along the album’s ten track duration.
The opening, title and lead single, ‘Shine A Light On Me Brother’ can be heard at the beginning of this post. I love the incorporation of a horns section with this southern rock belter. Their blend with the guitar solo and racing piano give the song a feel of, dare I say it, The Allman Brothers mashing it up with The Blues Brothers band. (Oh, if only that were possible!)
Here’s track number two, ‘Everyday,‘ for you decide upon. A real toe-tapper with a shuffling beat, neat, zippy, guitar work and an overall. gospel feel.
‘Ain’t No Young Love Song’ opens with a stomping beat that’s maintained throughout. The piano is swapped for the hammond organ which is given some prominence and there’s the prerequisite guitar solo of course. The chorus has a real big hook and I think you’d file this one under ‘anthemic.’
The pace slows for ‘Chicago,’ which takes a more soulful turn, with the horns giving a bit of a Stax sound. The vocals are BIG, but beautifully controlled and mellow. The sax solo leads into what I think should be a few bars of hand clapping … I was off and running only to feel rather sheepish a moment or two later. (I bet when played ‘live’ the crowds will all do the raised hand-claps as the sax solo ends. You mark my words. )
‘Hurricane,‘ slows the tempo right own. I don’t normally go for slower, acoustic based songs, but I found myself totally immersed in this one. It would be quite easy to drift off (in a complimentary way) to this as the song gently rises and falls like waves on an idyllic beach. My one observation, as if it counts, coming from someone who can’t play a note on anything, is that perhaps instead of the short guitar burst, use of a pedal steel guitar could have been made? Just sayin’ … like, what do I know?
‘Desert Sun’ is another that will have the listener singing along. Medium paced, with a buzz-like guitar and piano prominent throughout, it just has a sort of lazy, warm, sultry feel to it – perhaps influenced by the title, of course.
‘Movin’ ‘ opens with a bit of a dark and threatening rumble of a riff. It’s lifted with the vocals and piano. The bass line and riff remind me of Bryan Ferry‘s version of ‘The Price of Love‘ and I kept wanting to sing the chorus to Tina Turner‘s version of ‘Proud Mary’ come the chorus – but hey! That’s no bad thing, is it?
‘Anna Maria‘ is a grower. Almost five minutes in length, I wondered where it was going for the first minute and a half, but it builds into a resounding and swirling track with a pretty cool break-down around midpoint that lasts a minute or so before rising to the final crescendo.
The penultimate track ‘Brother,’ sounds so sad, but absolutely captivating. It sounds like it was truly sung from the heart.
And so to the final track, ‘Radio.‘ In a complete contrast to the mood of the previous song, this one bounces through its three minute duration. It’s a really ‘busy’ track with so much going on. Each time I listen I hear something I missed the previous time. If this doesn’t have you dancing your socks off, then you must have flippers for feet.
Yeah – this is some album. Good, strong songs and musicianship throughout, it’s predominately upbeat and / or anthemic. It has a warm, Californian desert feel to it, and one I’d sure like to see performed live.
I must say, I had never heard of this Robert Jon & The Wreck before this landed on my desk. I have to say, I’ll definitely be checking out their back catalogue, now.
***(Robert Jon & The Wreck will be touring UK in late September, 2021. Dates and ticket links can be found on the NEWS PAGE.)***
ROBERT JON & THE WRECK
Robert Jon Burrison – Lead Vocals / Guitar Andrew Espantman – Drums / Vocals Steve Maggiora – Keyboards / Vocals Harry James – Lead Guitar / Vocals Warren Murrel – Bass / Vocals
Bad Mary are a four piece punk outfit, playing out of Long Island, New York. They have been together eleven years, recording since 2013, and have gigged at some of the city’s most iconic venues, The Knitting Factory and The Bowery Electric among them. They have also played on the bill at The Warped Tour, and completed a very successful mini-tour of Japan.
Their music is generally fast and bouncy, danceable punk; music to get everyone moving in those intimate, sweaty venues. They sure bring a fun vibe to their music – which for me, is just what music in general is all about.
They have released three EPs and two albums, the latest of which, ‘The Return of Space Girl,‘ debuted in 2019. It’s a punk-rock space-opera about a robot from space who has a few things she needs to teach the world. Yeah. It really is!
The album is a real belter, musically. Thirteen furiously pounding but melodic songs in thirty-three minutes – true old school punk style. Check out ‘I, Robot,’ is my recommendation.
They declare themselves as a punk band, inspired by Seventies punk luminaries such as The Ramones and Blondie, but blending their sound and fun attitude with that of second wave punk bands such as Green Day and Paramore. ( I can actually hear a similarity in Amanda’s vocal delivery to Hayley’s.)
However, I see and hear much more than that.
Bad Mary are prolific in posting videos and from what I’ve seen, they could equally head off down a more gothic route (White Rabbit – which I’m unable to post here) or even artrock avenue, (Theme From Daria.)
(I love this video / track.)
As with bands the world over, these past eighteen months have been a bit of a nightmare with no live shows, but in addition to adding to their You Tube channel, Bad Mary have been streaming short live gigs on a weekly basis during the pandemic.