‘To The Gallows’ & ‘Five Days Time’
9.9/10.0 & 9.8/10.0
They have some familiar Mancunian tones, and look poised to be as big as a certain northern band…
Availability: ‘To The Gallows’ and ‘Five Days Time’ both available at http://www.youtube.com/user/TheCastellers?feature=watch
There is actually another track of theirs on YouTube at the moment…
but I feel obliged to save it aside for another day, lest this review take 20 minutes to read. The fact that they have but a small sprinkling of tracks, yet have managed to sparked and captivated my imagination so much, is a stunning testament to their focus, youthful vigour and combined talent. The Great North is fast becoming a veritable cauldron of Gothic ingredients. There are spells, potions, curious body parts and credulous talisman, all bubbling ominously; combined creating a hallucinogenic and overwhelming smoke. There has been a lot of recent activity from Leeds and Yorkshire; bands, artists and acts have been bearing forth thick and fast, from the likes of Jonnythefirth, to Rose and the Howling North. I have been vastly impressed by the range of sounds, from such a homogeneous geographical area. Further west, there has been a, perhaps less vociferous, but no less impressive outpouring of declaration. Just recently I came across Rubberbear, a great new band that look positively flammable; curating a sound that could well be ardently played ’til kingdom come on all of the most credible and noteworthy radio stations.
We get to My New Favourite Band of 2013. I have kind of being remiss in giving props to a lot of new bands. There is a lot of secrecy and limitations around new music. I have been lucky enough to connect with people who have made me aware of great new talent. I often wonder, if it weren’t for them, when at all I’d ever hear about their existence. It is such a shame, but seems to be a contradictory and laudable sign of these times. Social media focuses too solely on personal gratification and self-obsession. Unless you are promoting a charity or whatever, there seems to be a confusing sublimation and rationing of altruism. Music is a huge, burgeoning market, and it is important to promote worthy talent breaking through. I hope that reviews such as this will invoke a sea change and reappropriation amongst the social masses. The 4-piece gang, The Catsellers, are respectively, Paul, Alex, Ryan and Russell. They have the classic aggregation and formation: one singer, one drums, one on bass, and a guitarists. In an era where there seems to be a trend towards a front man picking up a guitar or expanding bands needlessly to include too many instruments, there is already a focus and classic attire to the group. This gives Ryan a chance to concentrate on singing. Some of the most historic groups of all time had a singer who did just that- The Rolling Stones, The Doors, The Smiths, Queen (to a large extent). It is perhaps not a coincidence that they happen to be some of the greatest bands of all time. The band are influenced by a lot of these groups, as well as The Jam, The Coral, Bob Dylan and Jake Bugg. The unintentional elephant in the room is Oasis. After viewing publicity photos of the group, many may well draw direct comparisons without hearing a note of The Castellers. I shall go into more detail in due course. They have an ambition to recreate and recapitulate the sounds of the classic ’60s bands, and their mandate is to create a “rapture for the beholders of enlightened musical soul”. Poetic and tough words. These contradictory bywords, are intriguingly weaved within their coda. In spite of having a sound of Manchester, they hail from Liverpool, and manage to integrate the two clatches together in their songs as well as infusing a little bit of London in there as well.
To business, then. With a mere 964 views on YouTube, which in itself is enough to make me vomit blood in rage, comes ‘To The Gallows’. With a few seconds of silent seduction, the atmosphere is ignited by a wandering and speculative guitar parable. Already there are tones of The Who, The Jam, and yes, a little bit of Oasis. I mention the latter again, but only in the sense that our boys have the potential to overhaul and overtake Oasis in terms of quality and potential. There is a brief steel toe-capped stomp of drums, before a guitar line weaves in merrily, with the spirit of The Beatles, Rolling Stones and REM. There is a real ’60s spirit being unleashed. It is evocative and authentic, and captures you straight away. The rollicking glee of percussion co-mingles with symphonic guitars, bubbling with static, magic and psychotropic trippyness. The vocal is incomparable to the trained ear. There is little of the expect Liam Gallagher snarl, or Paul Weller growl. If I were to draw initial comparisons, I would suggest a young, somewhat less sybaritic version of Jim Morrison can be heard. There is a similar lust and bare-chested intent. The lines are fed to you, give you time to digest, before another is delivered. This mannered and unexpected delivery is striking. It gives you time to absorb the words, and enjoy the music, without having to separate the two in your head. The lyrics speak of weariness and boredom: “You know it’s all been said”, as our hero surveys the scenes of love and relations as well as personal doubt and revocation. There is a wonderful harmony and spirit elevation as the line “I’ve seen it in her eyes” is repeated and crackles with a nod to 1960s Liverpool. In the guitar break that follows, there is a smattering of The White Stripes as well as The Hives. Maybe a bit of Iggy Pop as well. This audio polymath kicks up your arms and feet and will roll back the years and tension without need for surgery, medication or rebirth. It gives you spirit and confidence in equal, un-abatable measures. The vocal is passionately delivered during the verses, imbued with tension, manful pride as well as evocating scenes of broken lives and emotion. It is told that when our protagnosist goes to the gallows; “she always follows”. The salient literature and effusive and youthful vigour of the percussive backing gives the song a combinative youthfulness as well as maturity. There is no autocracy: each member is on a par, and the 4-4-2 formation of delineation works perfectly. Around 2:30 the guitars and bass splutter and pull over for a power nap, as the drums roll and flail beautifully. There is a bit of ‘Moby Dick’ Led Zeppelin at one point, where the drums roll and bait. Then the conjoined revelry is reinstated, perhaps a bit of The Who’s ‘Substitute’ masquerades under the song’s skin. The riff is continued to the end, as a partnership with a pontificating and eager guitar line, forms. The sonic trail starts to dissipate, and with a canned chuckle from our front man, this a killer peacock, is provided an intriguing swansong.
The atmosphere is congregated and resplendent, as an ‘Omm Papa’ guitar thread weaves its reverence and ecumenical authority over the initial stage. Were one to close their eyes and think what comes to mind when hearing the proceeding few seconds, a couple of things pop to mind. There is an evocative spirit of the ’60s for sure, but also a bit of The Stooges and Jake Bugg in equal measures. When the vocal begins I am reminded a little of The Coral, curiously. There seems to be a similar pace to many of the tracks in Magic and Medicine. There is some of James Skelly’s mystery and the likes of Jake Bugg and Miles Kane have already adopted this style and pattern. It is much under-used and under-appreciated, and at the same time as having a genuine Northern heart, it also possesses a ubiquitous soul. The words are treated tenderly, as it begins with a syncopated wink during “Ask me a question”, before transmogrifying to a punctuated tone during “I’ll give you an answer”. One sense there are ellipses on the lyrics sheet within “In five days time”. During the formative years of this song, there is a bit of ‘Oliver’ to the tone. One suspects that this track could be a show tune. It has a similar understated theatricality and dramatics to it. The music pirouettes and kneels, back up and back down. The vocal continues in its quest, with its waltz time signature. I can imagine the track appearing on ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ or ‘The White Album’. It has that flavour and incandescence to it. Prior to the one-third mark, the pace changes, as there are little The Coral guitar stabs, and the vocal swoons and elongates, as there is a palpable sense of impending change. It is only brief- a sort of deep breath on land, before we go back under water. The psychedelic transgression begins as it started tonally. The lyrics display wit, and the modern Canterbury Tales evoke priests and “cauldrons of peace”, before noting how, in this town: “The youngsters/Have not a place to go”. Sure there is Bugg, Turner, Lennon, Gallagher and Kane, but that the north. That is what people sound like. It as great as the sum of its parts, and does not try to mimic; the band employ their influences perfectly without succumbing to any sort of copycat ideals. It is a modern song for a modern age, and one that will break boundaries and barriers for any undecided voters. In the background there is an arabesque twirl to the percussion and bass. In fact the two enter a non-compete clause and support each other: they punctuate, rise and fall, twirling in a waltz in a smoky, beer-stained street. The errant guitar manifesto has had a lot to drink, and is shouting in doorways and shouts indecipherable non-sequiturs to passers by, before The Filth arrive, and restore jurisdiction. The chorus repeats and we are done here.
A wide girth of a review, you’ll admit. I have been transfixed and spellbound by the tracks. The band show a staggering confidence. They sound like they have been doing the rounds for 10 years or so, but these adolescent savants are nary but saplings. I have been unable to get a word in edge ways into my own summations. I adore the bands that The Castellers are influences by- The Beatles, Oasis, The Jam etc., and perhaps there is a sense of subjective bias in my proffering. There is a universal and unquenchable lust and respect for these groups. On the note of ‘influences’. The band do not ape or wear the colours as fancy dress. They are their own ‘real thing’. I have quite an intuitive ear and write and sing myself, so could spot little snatches of other songs. I did not feel I was listening to anything second-rate and there is no sense of the boys hopping on the bandwagon. The likes of Jake Bugg and Miles Kane are huge and cutting edge vogue right not. Singer Ryan Healy has a bit of Alex Turner to his pronunciation and delivery but it does not stray too close for comfort. The boys have a rare understanding of the past, and are making the near-forgotten-at-times sounds retro and reinvigorated. They have the quality to live up any hyperbole or hype. I am predicting big things for the lads as 2013 progresses. In a current scene where having an acquired taste of a sound may ruin a career, the group have just that. In the sense that they supersede and rises above their peers. There is no auto-tune or vague bland pop nonsense. There is, instead, a leather-clad rock flair, and spirit, and I cannot wait for a future release.
Give these northern guys your full support. In an era of ill-advised political coalitions, admist a rather ‘shaky’ and variable music scene, it is refreshing and enlightening to hear such a stable and unwavering dose of quality and consistency. They make promise and keep every one; they swagger but are not anti social. Above everything else…
… they are bloody wonderful.