‘Good Love’– Track Review–
For a duo that can rely a little too much on toilet humour, they do proper rock rather very well.
Availability: ‘Good Love’ is available online at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7UwexvYodg
They may be a new name, ringing to your ears…
but are well worth checking out. I have been subject to a lot of diverse and serotonin syndrome-espousing acts from all around the country- as well as good old Australia. They have ranged in styles; from dub-step, through jazz, and all the way to blues rock. I have had to maintain a level of objectivity and detach myself enough to give the artists a fair hearing. What I have heard is a collection of incredibly memorable and commendable artists. It has been difficult locating a lot of them, often relying upon word of mouth and chance happenings. The majority of the acts have been in the demographic of 18-30, and have had little long-term, exposure and experience.
The Whitaker Brothers, are Tim and Simon, and blend acoustic guitars with steel drums. To see them would to think they have just completed a round the world tour as part of a heavy metal band of the ’70s. They smile with golden locks, earrings and boast that they can blend deep lyrics with “harmonious rock vocals”. I was made aware of their prescience by an old comrade of mine, who was eager that I check them out. They have toured locally for a long time, but have touring and playing since the late ’70s and divide their time between performing and promoting new acts. Their current album, ‘Animated’ raised my eyebrows. Some reviewers have ignobly compared it to lipid residue; highlighting a couple of choice cuts but being rather sardonic and cut-throat in their extrapolations. Online magazine Sonic Shocks described it (album), as something that “can’t help to feel connected”, adding that the majority of the album was “ego stroking”. Some reviews lauded the inclusion of toilet humour and cheap jokes. Unless you are Spinal Tap, it is generally quite unacceptable to overtly humorise music. It is a risky business, and rarely hits the mark. Parody artists and comedians can do it with aplomb, but for musicians who have an impressive catalogue, it is perhaps unwise. Sifting further there were many rays of lights. Sputnik Music were more praise-worthy, noting that the record is a “good listen”. The trouble with music is that, like most art forms and sectors of entertainment, it is very subjective. Seemingly great albums are met with haughty derision, whilst sub-par nonsense is often elevated aloft a critical pulpit. The most salient tactic, when faced with music, is to remain open-minded and sit sentient. Absorb it, write your thoughts, and be as constructive as possible.
I have heard the song ‘Good Love’ referred to as ‘mainstream’. That word can be a poisoned chalice if not appropriately apportioned. It is hard to describe whether that term is good or not. Bands such as The Strokes have suffered a nadir and downward trajectory in their career, with their latest album suffering from French millennial cusp, indelicate self-flagellation and threadbare algorithms. The band are concerned to be on the nucleus of the mainstream: floating aloft, seemingly too cool and credible to be tattooed with such a derivative and execrable term. Upon experiencing the initial seconds of ‘Good Love’, any misappropriation is laid to rest. Introducing its presence with a brief tambourine shake, and a shit-kicking electronic thud, it is impactful but not too heavy-handed. In the same way that all of the best rock bands of today- Queens of the Stone Age, Arctic Monkeys etc.- are able to grab your attention in a mere few seconds, this song achieves the same neat trick. There are shades of Jack White and his voyeuristic misdemeanour as the duo weave a tapestry of neo-psychedelia and primal lust. There is a memesis of heavy machinery, clattering mechanical zombies hungry for localised flesh. It is primitive and prurient and certain shifts and transposes your organs, as you sway and stagger, mesmerised. There is quite an intention to it. Having a bit of a weird, eidetic ability to detect and incorporate vocal influences, I was curious to hear what the good love vocal would be. Initially there is a wordless tweep and co; soon is tag teams with a wolverine growl. For me it figures high on the Likert Scale, and has pretensions for gut-busting sabre-rattling. There is an expeditious burst of guitar before a cry of ‘good love’, is proclaimed. Perhaps I am analysing the band too retroactively, given their sizeable career. As a newbie, I am detecting classic rock tones in the vocals. Strangely there are vague tones of Lenny Kravitz to the vocals as well, which, co-existing with a workmanlike percussion and sparks of electric guitar, works surprisingly well. The lyrics mix old-fashioned romantic sentiment with a slightly politicised edge: “Who knows the future/When the wind is changing?”. I guess- rather despairingly- ineptitude of political parties is always current and ripe for a criticism, passim or otherwise. Here is it added to the mix sparingly, intended to punctuate rather than antogonise. There are sprinklings of motivational coda, the likes of which mid-career Bon Jovi or Marillion might employ. “Hold your head up high” and “Sing your song out loud”, are perhaps a little cliched and stereotyped: hardly the work of Juvenalis. It hardly matters, mind, as the words are incorporated to invoke fist-raising and chanting; one suspects it will be a live staple, and has a festival-ready charm to it. Just as you are prepared for perhaps another about-face there is guitar stutter, before ‘good love’ is sang, the ‘love’ part elongated and hung in the air for 1-Mississippi, 2-Mississippi; well in fact for a long, long time. It was still going by the time I had come back from town with some shopping. There is a fraction of silence, and some Hendrix-worthy posturing and playfulness is dispatched to ratchet the tension and induce maximum emotional anxiety. There is quite a palpable and re-collective aura of ’60s psychedelia and experimentation, as well as flavours of the heavy metal messiahs of the ’80s and ’90s- Judas Priest, Queensryche, Tool, Guns ‘N Roses, et al. The chugging and spluttering riff has no deciduous quality, instead announcing itself with a omnia vincit amor spirit. It doesn’t need to change tone or direction. It is simple in its power and lust; it is a potent brew! Before you become immersed with the pyrotechnic miasma, the front-man returns to provide some love proclamations of the affirmative kind. There are more inspirational mandates to be heard: “Good love puts you in first place/Doesn’t matter even if you lose the race”. The positive waves continue as the band implore good vibes and an unashamed lack of self-control. It is infectious in its way, and on a base level, it will instill a smile in your heart. With nary a concern for expectations, the song is brought down to Earth, via a metaphase of guitar spanking and jubilant abandon.
Let’s get the negatives and constructive criticisms done with first. I am always baffled when listening to Queen’s ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’. I always strain my ears because during the early stages of the song, Mercury’s vocal is barely decipherable, mixed so low that it is hard to hear. Whether that was intended as a dramatic device or was a whimsical band decision I have never understood why they did it. There are times during ‘Good Love’ where the vocal is buried too low in the mix, amidst the clatter and cacophony of guitar and percussion. With no lyrics sheet online available, I had a mare of a time encrypting some of the semi-audible words. The vocal is clearly defined during the chorus and towards the end of the track, but suffers from some poor production decisions, during its initial third. It is quite an impediment, and quite disappointing for someone such as myself who is obsessed with vocals. I suspect that the band were concerned with projecting a tangible tension and clout with the music, that the vocals were sublimated in order to make way. The group have a reputation for sterling and intelligent lyrics, and there is some clear evidence of this during the song. However, there are times when they seem like they are trying to post ‘motivational’ messages on Facebook. Snatches of some of the lyrics did make me wince slightly, and seemed a little juvenile and frugal. The lyrical tone of love, and rebelling; getting up and fighting, is a little stayed at times, and was a pertinent subject matter during the band’s heyday. It seems like a product of the past and seems to be gridlocked in the mid-80s. There is a semblance of modernity and credibility here and there, but some of the time the band are guilty of being cloying and looks-obsessed.
There are, however, many more positives to recommend. The entire track seems very tight and very blue chip in its business aesthete. The group have been dogs of war and stalwarts of the musical business for a while, and know how to chisel concise chef d’oeuvres. Lesser groups would stray into Prog Rock territory and allow the song to pitch and wallow for 5 or 6 minutes longer. The song is catchy and, in spite of some of its derivations, is left-wing and all conquering in its ubiquity. There is no over-complications; the brothers have managed to inject such fun, energy and overt electioneering spirit within one track that it is impossible not to embrace and take to heart. Perhaps the fact that the song seems to be of a bygone era is a positive. In a current climate where the most credible acts are concerned mostly with introspection and emotion, The Whitaker Brothers have a rebellious disregard for topical and populism, and have written and created a track that speaks to the privileged elite who appreciate the value of good old-fashion song-craft and spirit. It supersedes your mood and lifts you up, guaranteeing a smile on the stoniest of faces. There is a youthful vigor still burning in the loins of the band, and they have not lost too many steps along the way. In spite of their combined years, they have as much right to be on a festival stage with the cream of the modern crop. I was impressed by the concoction of so many different genres and sounds. They is a strong and solid rock skin, that supports organisms of reggae, soul, heavy metal, ’60s pop and island rhythm. Befitting of an act who have been performing together for so many years, they have a low-yield potential. Songs like this will push them beyond the pub rooms of Surrey and the Home Counties, and will guarantee an osmosis of their banner nationally, as well as trans-continental. Finally special commendation should go to the vocal and musical combination. The singing is captivating and pioneering. Many a time I can trace the lineage of a singer’s voice to several other acts or artists. In the case of The Whitaker Brothers, there is a refreshing individuality and niche appeal to them. The guitar playing is exemplary, showing influences of the guitar gods like Hendrix, Page and Clapton, and modern Wunderkinds Jack White and Matt Bellamy.
The reticence that many reviewers displayed towards the duo’s album may be well-founded. Whether you view the group as an esoterica or revivalists may colour your judgment. In the same way that I mentioned music was a subjective sticking point, the same can be true or certain acts and styles of music. I am actually looking forward to hearing their release, and what they have to offer. Based on the strength of this song, I am sure that it is not a fluke or serendipitous happening. I will be sure to catch the lads when they are performing in Surrey, before they get recruited to perform the festival circuit. I would advise that any preconceptions or malaise you have before hand, you set aside, and view the song on its own merits, circular to any reviews or similar acts. What you will find is a genuine feelgood song, with a sensitivity as well as a keen insight and hard backbone. The Whitaker Brothers are new news to me, but am determined that through the remainder of 2013…
… I will spread their gospel further afield.