‘Tick Tock’ & ‘Laid to Rest’
9.6/10 & 9.4/10
Genre-elusive talents, posses a Siren of a front-woman, and one hell of a sound.
Availability: Tracks available now via https://itunes.apple.com/gb/artist/molotov-jukebox/id398571684
This act have earned their plaudits; and have a busy future ahead of them…
including, rather impressively, a slot at this year’s Glastonbury Festival. There will be some imperious eyebrow-raising from jealous peers, puce with envy, over the band’s successful trajectory. With one of the most evocative and psychotropic names in the music industry, Molotov Jukebox, certainly have an intoxicating sound. Molotov Cocktail, was a name coined by the Finns, during the Winter War. It is, put simply, a bottle filled with gasoline and/or a napalm-like substance, used ostensibly during guerrilla conflicts and protests. They featured prominently during the Spanish Civil War and World War II, and are a highly effective weaponised hatred. You know what a jukebox is. Often the faulty or stuttering kinds were jump-started by a leather-clad Henry Winkler during the ’70s and ’80s. Those are the two playlets that were acted out in my head, when deconstructing the band’s name. Their music, and aesthetic is appropriately variegated and striking.
I was made aware of the band, rather auspiciously by actress Roxanne Mckee, who judging from her unfettered promotion of great new bands, seems to have a keen ear to the ground. I mention it, partly to highlight one of the few upsides to social media. If you are the right place at the right time, you happen upon great things; fascinating people, and terrific new talent. Another point that is rather prescient, would be that being ‘in the right place’ at the ‘right time’, is mathematically and logistically null, and the two are mutually exclusive of one another. I guess, to assuage any anger over this, it is hard to make people aware of every relevant and exciting band in the U.K., but it has inspired me to design and plan an all-encompassing website, in order for it to make chance occurrences a thing of the past. I am glad I have found out about the group, and was intrigued by their design and manifesto. In their own words, they are “genre-dodging”, and imbued with an innate need to make people dance and feel happy. It is a rousing election plea in an era of navel-gazing and hyperbolic introspection in the industry, and a lot of artists are focused too solely on unleashing sensitive emotions and turmoil as interestingly as possible. With a diffuse interest in pure fun, the band are not pure rhetoric; they have the talent to back up their pledges. Flanked and nobly elevated by a tight and mature rhythm section, and possessing a Pandora’s Box of trumpet, violin and accordion, Molotov Jukebox, have a metaphorical arsenal of weaponry, in order to propagate their aspoused theory. Before I get under way reviewing the tracks, I’d like to give a very honourable mention to the group’s front-woman, Natalia Tena. She is a British-born talent, who is best known for her acting work, in, amongst other things, Game of Thrones (where she co-starred with the aforementioned miss Mckee), and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Bands fronted by actresses have ranged from the average (Julliete and the Licks); to the curiously under-appreciated (She & Him); to the plain bloody awful (Wicked Wisdom), it can be a either a curate’s egg or a devil’s advocate-in-disguised. Tena has luxurious and tongue-dropping Hispanic looks. She is gorgeous and stunning, and lends an additional cachet to the band. But those thinking that these diverse chemicals co-mingling will create a Briggs-Rasucher Reaction, rather than a Stellar Black Hole, should think again…
Thankfully haven’t nothing in common (but its title) with Ke$ha’s dreadful racket, ‘Tick Tock’ is a whirling dervish of conviviality. It gestates amidst a studied machine gun riffle of percussion and baggy, swaying electric strings it is a veritable Fibbonaci number of sound and intrigue. The vocal that enters has a great uniqueness. There are smidges of a smoother-edged Lily Allen; a whisper of Caro Emerald and Little Violet. The delivery has a lot in common for the former; the words tumble and spark as they are born forth. The metronome delivery and horlogical-themed lyrics are witty and incisive. Our heroine ascribes how: “But he looks with face/What he collects with his hands”, is sharp, and Bob Dylan/Arctic Monkeys-worthy in its intelligence and unexpectedness. The combination of time-addled wit and a sex, sea, sun and sand burst of carnival horns and brass, engages your brain, mobilises your feet and neutralises your stresses all within the first verse. I was hearing influences of Nelly Futardo, circa-‘Woah, Nelly!’ as well as shadings of Allen. As a singer-songwriter myself, I am constantly trying to expand my voice, as well as hone my lyrics, in order to keep pushing myself. I could see little direct comparison with existing artists. The vocals are worldly and vibrant, with little debt owed to any mainstream band or artist. Natalia has a utilitarian warmth and sexiness to her tones, but also has an edge and street savviness to her delivery. The song deals with how time drags our protagonist down, keeps her up, and takes pleasure in “screwing (me) when I’m fucking late”. Through a breathless and syncopated delivery, the vocal has an urgency and harried sweat to it. As the chorus arrives there is a more relaxed and accepting resignation as it is said that: “You just can’t stop it, so/Dance to it just let go”. Natalia’s band-mates are equally impressive, creating a joyous fiesta during the choruses, and are more reserved and reverent during the verses; expertly punctuating appropriate word and phrases. The middle eight is particularly noteworthy. Through the employment of multi-tracked vocals, staccato brass trumpeting and a taupe mood, the song shifts down a few gears. The word ‘wait’ is deployed as a mantra; repeated and echoed to great effect, injected a sense of unnerve into the bloodstream. Before a padre is dispatched to provide moral council and a much-needed diablo arse-kicking, the chorus restores some clemency. The song will bore deep within your pons and will not shift. It is infectious and heart-warming. It doesn’t need to experimental, angular or left-field. It charms and seduces by its combination of astute and thoughtful lyrics, iscocratic and stunning vocals, as well as a tremendously diverse and uplifting sonic aura.
‘Laid to Rest’ has arrived from the street party, glitter and ephemera in hair, wine stains on its dress, and a primordial cock in its walk. The intro is the sound of the tired party girl trying to snatch a few winks. The street lights hum with mellifluous ardour; there is a rain swept rhythm pattering the rooftops, and somewhere down in the street, a mysterious man in black stands by the doorway of the local jazz bar. He looks up as the girl closes the curtains and switches the light off, and stubs out his cigarette, before walking to a telephone box, a deceitful glint in his tired eye. As the intro begins, the phone rings in the girl’s apartment, but is hidden under a pile of clothing, stilettos and old books, and is inaudible. Our shadowy enigma slams the receiver down, and leans against the glass, and pulls out a love letter and starts to read. More on that later… The intro begins with a romantic sweep. It is the sort of sound you would hear emanating from a swing/jazz joint from the ’20s and ’30s. Before you can allow your subconscious to relax and drift to a begotten era, a pulsating drumbeat swagger in. A gypsy dance trips with gleeful en dedans; it has touches of Kirsty MacColl and Shakira (but much more credible and authentic). The vocal that beckons, is again somewhat incomparable, and has a reliable warmth and strength to it. There are influences of swing, jazz and ye-ye in the gene pool, and it is that combination which ignites your inner dark recesses and compels you to be upstanding. The lyrics are again pin-sharp and display a shift of emotional turmoil. There’s a sense of desperation: “Please let me stay, please let me stay”, as well as evocations of a loss of spirit: “I had speeches I had scenes”. Whereas ‘Tick Tock’ had a simultaneous submission and ubiquitous stress to its mandate; ‘Laid to Rest’ has a downtrodden, put-upon frown on its face. Own once hopefully and besotted heroin, and wonders where her dreams went: “One more night inside”. The mood modulates and transposes; at once vigorous and charged, it changes to a swoon and introspective candour within a few seconds. The music beautifully conveys the tortured and fractious story that is being narrated. The music has an emotive quality and conviction, creating a tangible reality. The percussion is solid and blue-collared. The blues and brass perpetuate augmented ninths, flamenco blushes and magnetising semi-tones. Special props go to Tena, whose voice is gloriously anomalous. She has an ability to shift from angelic to seductress with ease and could conjure uhthoff’s phenomenon with a mere whisper. Her beatnik beau has pissed her off. She wonders why her paramour is only a man when he has a drink in his hand. The riot act is well and truly read when she says: “I’m bleeding like a soldier/Into your pint of pride”. It is a clever play on words and paints the image of a woman who has given her heart and sweat to a man who has given nothing in return. To return to our parable, the day has broken, and the emotional and literal hangover hits our leading lady. She puts on her clothes, applies her make up, and grabs a cup of coffee. She hears a knock on the door, and on the mat is a love note. The smell of tobacco and whiskey lingers like a refrain, and she scans it, with tears in her eyes. As she reaches the end she holds it to her chest and smiles, relieved. What was written, is all down to your imagination…
The guys and gal of Molotov Jukebox will not need me endorsement and patronage in order to penetrate public consciousness. With a future consisting of intercontinental tour dates, and a prestigious slot at Glastonbury, the future will be very bright. I hope that more people embrace their sound and doctrine. They are confident, tight, and an extremely talented group. Given as I am to stick quite firmly to bands such as Queens of the Stone Age and Radiohead, I would never normally lend too much credence for the band’s style of music. Upon listening to these tracks, as well as several more in their catalogue, a reappropriation of my music attitudes is needed. The best you can ask for in new music, is that it inspires you. Since listening to their tracks, I have made headway as a writer and written a new song, as well as incorporated new sounds into my palette. As a singer I have been compounded to up my game, and re-evaluate my trajectory. If you are a fan of gypsy or samba, you will find much familiar ground. If you are a supporter of stoner rock or heavy metal, then the band will appeal as well. In the way they are ‘genre-less’, they are have a unwavering universality that will speak to you quite potently. If you are unfamiliar with Molotov Jukebox, then sit down…
… and prepare to be inspired.
May 25th, 2013:
Babylon Soundgarden Festival, Kemer Gold and Country Cluib,
Babylon Soundgarden Festival, ODTU Visnelik,
For all future dates and details: