‘Smack Me In the Face’
West London quartet have a sterling ethos and Wildean wit; they’re capable of kicking from the gutters… and hitting the stars.
Availability: ‘Smack Me In the Face’ is available via http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=En5V6knnje8
Following a somewhat fruitless and unappreciated/unseen review…
of Queens of the Stone Age’s new single, I return to the reliably nice, and appreciative market of the new act/band. They are predominantly filled with thanks and kudos, and most are touched that someone takes the time to listen to their music, and write down their thoughts. It is invigorating, and makes up for that small number who never both to get in touch- compelled to do beneath the absolute bare minimum. No matter; you can’t please everyone, and there is rife egotism and cold shoulder personalities within the music industry. I prefer to remain a casual listener, and judge on the strength of music, alone. Personality often spoils good acts. Although the nicest and sweetest people, make you feel proud, and I was compelled by the friendly banter, all-inclusive spirit, and bros-before-foes attitude. I shall speak more about the band, shortly. It is a turbulent tide that sweeps bands in, and a cruel and unforgiving sea, that can pull them under. There is- at the moment- a dissipated range and girth of bands. They are like colour samples. There are your base colours; the obvious blues, oranges, greens, reds, purples etc. But, being the 21st century, people in the paint industry got bored and decided we need 250 variations of each colour- each with pretentious or stupid names. It might be a man’s perspective coming through, but although choice is good; there doesn’t need to be so much choice. Sometimes, when you offer too much of a similar colour or product, instead of making things easier, it can just be confusing and needless. If we extend the colour parable, to the music industry, there is an even more fervent extension and continuation of the principle. For every original or established act, there are clans of new, eager bands, essentially who say the same thing, but in a muted or subsidiary way. If you are influenced by, or similar to a classic or established act, you need to subtract or equate a proportion of their aesthetic, in order to become new and unique; simply restating or painting on a similar canvas, with lighter transmutations is not enough.
Refreshingly, there is no karaoke sub-par referencing, or too-close-to-the-bone fakery amongst the ranks of The Cornerstones. Oh no; far from it. Richard, Daniel, Karl and Ryan, are the collective, and have been gigging and gelling and cementing their sound for a while, now. They are based out of west London, and are one of a few bands currently emanating from these parts. For all the diverse geography and areas of prosperity in the west of the capital, most of London’s music originates from the south or east. With thousands of followers and fans between Facebook and Twitter, they have had some prestigious radio play, exposure, and a lot of people talking about their music. With a comparative scarcity of personal information about the band members or their influences, they keep some cards close to their chests; choosing to let the songs themselves do the talking. They are a group who understand the importance of substance and style over any social media celebrity or over-exposure- they are at once mysterious and populist. The boys already have a full-length album to their name: ‘Begin To End- Vol. 1’ It displays a mixture of their trademarks sound, with a relentless energy and experimentation, and gained them many new supporters, eager to sea the tracks performed at a venue near them.
The first thing that thrills you about ‘Smack Me In the Face’, is the thrill. The intro builds from a slight echo, that leads to a riff that is hard and has some scratchier, tougher metal tones to it. It is the sort of thing Nirvana, Soundgarden or Judas Priest might produce. There is a lot of blood and sweat, and a whole lot of intrigue and danger. The rumbling guitar capitulates as a softer electronic and drum duet begins. The guitar is pointed but rhythmic; it is kept simple to set the mood, and provide a stark counterbalance, from the hectic and bustling atmosphere. The drum thuds at intervals; every 3 seconds or so; employed, one suspects, as a metaphysical punch, or sense of violence. As the guitar mutates, to a more confident and strutting beast (it remains soft, but audibly skips and walks; skips and walks); the vocal comes in. There are imploring tones in some of the initial words: “Take me from this place”. There are tones of Mancunian legends Brown, Gallagher, Ashcroft, and as well as a hint of The Bluetones. I also picked out hints of Lennon in places too. Above it all the vocal is a hard one to pin to any other singer; it has its own strong independence, whilst infusing some edges from some of the greats. The combination of emotional and strong vocals, combined with effective lyrics and a classic rock/hard rock musical template and curiosity, it is an invigorating and exciting start. Curiously there may be a hint of Bowie, as at 0:35, as the studied and consistent arpeggio of guitars, turns to a romantic flourish. Any tension that was there, has been breathed out, and the musical mood is more of a meditative mantra. I detected a sound of, perhaps, Crowded House, when the words: “Is this really love?/Is this really life?”. After the melodic and choired pre-chorus hum, the signature and structure changes; as we are back with “smack my in the face” protestations. Our protagonist has intentions and ambitions to be taken far away, and get away from the mess and sheer chaos that seems to be unfolding. There is never any brooding or violent mood; everything is kept level and composed. The music switches from a ’90s pop/’60s-’70s classic template the one moment, before seamlessly swapping it for the more haunted simplicity. The tone of being isolated and being suspended, helplessly in space; a metaphor for emotional uncertainty and loneliness. When the words “I hope I find my way back down to Earth” are sung, they are down so with elongation and syncopation; it increases the sense of longing and hope. Things are in a little disarray, and whatever preceded the heartache and sadness, there is a sense of wanting to return to status quo; or what is considered ‘safe’ or ‘secure’. It is a refreshing tactility that the band employ. There is no needless cluttering when it comes to instrumentation and articulation. The vocal is strong and endeavouring, and the band support that, conjuring a combination of classical, pop and rock. I mentioned elements of Crowded House; there is a little bit of their populist and heart-warming spirit, circa-‘Woodface’. There are little bits of ‘It’s Only Natural’ and ‘Chocolate Cake’. There is a pleasing edge of the brothers Finn in the harmony vocals, and The Cornerstones manage to employ an Antipodean warmth and live up to their band name, by being able to bring together and intersect a tri-continental influence; with shades of the U.S. being heard previously during the verses. When the line “send me into space”, is unfurled and impassioned, there are smacks of Suede in the vocal belt and sway. It is exciting the way that so many slight hints of classic singers can be incorporated so deftly; there is never any sense of misappropriation or pilfering; that voice is pleasingly original and fresh, in a time where there is too much mimicry and senseless second-rate tribute. This is an exhausted bliss; a drop, after 2:15, when the sound of- I am wondering if it is electric guitar or piano- plays romantically, with intention. There is some echo and effect, and the drum tees up and heralds the arrival of an emotional and sonic obsolescence. The ghostly, broken machine howls, as the vocal returns and takes us into land- or leaves us floating in space?
I have known of the existence of The Cornerstones for a while. A friend of mine has been promoting and extolling the virtues of the band; compelling me to have a close listen to ‘Smack Me In the Face’. It is a track that will stick in your head for a while. Whether it was the band’s intention, but it is the music itself that hits hardest. The combination of percussion, guitar, bass and piano (if there is no piano, forgive me!). It the simple but effective composition that grips me. It changes pace and style, but always moves the song along, and holds you in its grasp. The vocals are strong, memorable and extremely modern and authoritative, yet has shades of past masters and legends as well. The band have a kinship and tightness. They know each other so well, that there is no sense of nerves or mistrust. They emphasis one another, and blend their sounds and parts together superbly. The structure of the song is unexpected. Most bands may plump for a verse-chorus-verse style, but here there are shifts and changes. A lot of words and phrases are repeated, and is the decision to focus on the quality of a few lyrics, rather than fill the track with several verses, that hits the high notes. They have a combustible energy, as well as a tender soul, and know how to pattern a song so they can be as potent as possible, in the shortest times. I have said that many bands rely too much on a lot of guitar noise, attitude, and a hailstorm of lyrics. Effectively making sure that they throw everything against the wall, sacrificing quality and discipline. I have listened to the band’s catalogue and a lot of different song. It is stunning to see the range of sounds and moves they make with each track. If you are a new fan, or simply are unaware of this song, check them out today. Because it’s safe to say…
original and memorable bands are a rare commodity.