Fresh from an illustrious set at the Isle of Wight Festival, the London-based four-piece present a track ready-made for summer. Let the good times rock.
Time is available at:
I have been banging on about London being a bit slack…
when it comes to proffering new and exciting bands. Just yesterday, I was extolling the virtues of certain counties- Yorkshire specifically- when it comes to producing the best current music. The band market is a lucrative currency, but the exchange rate varies greatly: depending on which area you are located in. In extension of my music website/social media idea/rant- there should be an all-inclusive and decent music website out there- it would be interesting to see a map; documenting the different music of the U.K.: highlighting what type of music is played where; and how many bands are playing it- because it would be interesting to find out. As I stated yesterday (with my review of Newcastle’s Crooked Hands), certain counties do certain music. Greater Manchester seem to be the U.K.’s leading Indie purveyors. There are some great solo acts, as well as varied bands; yet it seems that the majority of new bands we hear from here, tend to be very similar-sounding (and a bit predictable); it is probably the busiest county as well- even if it is largely Indie-centric. Yorkshire is the most agile and diverse when it comes to different sounds and flavours. Where else in Britain do you hear doo-wop and swing artists mingling with U.S. blues rock and soul? Cities such as Leeds and Wakefield are especially busy: producing a startling range of artists. Aside from the big counties and big cities, there is some diversity to be found; yet one thing bothered me: where are London in all of this? Bands based in the capital have been a little quiet- it is not too often that the media gets excited about a new act from London. I have theorised the reasons behind this (a lot as it happens), so will not go into it; but suffice it say, a resurgence is needed. The bustle and chaos of our capital seems to be supressing ambition and intention- a greater space is needed it seems. Saying this; acts and bands that originate in other parts, before relocating to London, seem to be more successful (than those whom originate here). One of the problems that a lot of groups have (aside from being too predictable with their sound), is lack of variability within their ranks. Most groups form out of mutual friendships. They may have gone to school together, or worked together: forming a bond based on a shared love of music. The members have similar tastes in music; they grew up in the same area, and the ensuing musical creations are enforced by a combination of local sounds, and shared idols- which is fine, up until a point. Issues arise when you have too many similar bands in the same areas. Sounds, songs and sensations mix in and out of one another; they blend and merge into one: causing a homogenised and overfamiliar scene. Diversification and differences between band members goes to strengthen the overall sound. A tight sound and kinship can just as well be formed; but because the members come from different parts- and have varying tastes and preferences- the overall sound and ambition is predominantly stronger; and quite different-sounding as well. I have reviewed some various bands recently, that prove my point. HighFields are a multi-nationality group (members hail from Norway, Singapore and Jersey, to name a few); whom draw together their different personalities and national sounds into a glorious boiling pot. Outside of the North West of England, bands from the likes of Scotland, Yorkshire, Brighton and the U.S. are composed of geographical diversity; different music tastes and varying ambitions. It is not a coincidence that these groups are trying to do things different; insisting on forging a very individual sound. I feel that at the moment, there is too much insistence and reliance on trying to sound like pre-existing artists. There is originality to be heard, but predominantly, groups stray too closely to familiar artists: coming off as copycat and uninspired. The media do not help too much either: they draw instant comparisons and foster the band’s mind-set, rather than offer constructive guidance and caution. I am not sure whether it is a fear of seeming inferior, or an awareness that the music scene can be fickle- journalists may not like you if you sound too ‘different. Either way, I have heard too many bands that sound like someone else; too many acts that are trying to be ‘The Next So-And-So’: rather than being themselves, and trying to topple and best their influences and idols. Those brave bands (or forward-thinking), whom incorporate influence into their sounds; yet do not lean too heavily on it (whilst injecting a heap of intention); are the ones whom have the brightest futures, and are more sought-after and demanded.
My different thesis and points dovetail, when examining Crystal Seagulls. I have reviewed them once before- when their song Yours For As Long As You Keep Me was released- and was impressed by their passion, fortitude and innovation. It is not an opinion held only by me (far from it!); as the boys have just returned from playing at the Isle of Wight Festival. They were afforded the opportunity, after winning a prestigious unsigned music competition: beating off scores of other bands, and making them the envy of many an act! The band consists of Jim Lawton; John Armstrong; Elliot Whitty and Ben Heliczer- our intrepid quartet. They are a galvanised and gleaming band of men; invigorating the Indie/Rock realm, and making quite a serious name for themselves. The lads are based in London, yet their four members all hail from different realms. Like musical Knights of the Round Table, they travelled from London, Birmingham, Cheshire and Hertfordshire; bonded their individual talents, to create the band they are today. I was impressed by the band’s attention to detail. Few contemporaries spend a lot of consideration towards online representation and information. I have encountered too many new acts whom present the bare minimum: a brief Facebook page (with little information); a Twitter and/or SoundCloud page- and precious-little else. Crystal Seagulls have a full and informative portfolio. They provide plenty of links to reviews and articles: making it easy for the likes of me to learn about them. Their music is readily available, and the band have an acute awareness that it is important to give potential fans plenty of information: but not give too much away. With an original and unique sound, the boys don’t need to worry about being compared to anyone too obvious; but do not list their influences and idols too heavily. If long lists of influences and heroes are mentioned on a group’s social media site, it can make a band seem too disposable: as well as focusing your thoughts too heavily on those (listed) acts. The guys are in good spirits following their stay at the Isle of Wight Festival: galvanised and bolstered from the plaudits and praise they received. They are still in their infancy, yet show signs that they intend to be around for a long while to come. Having amassed a respectable following on Twitter and Facebook; their online stock is growing, and they are attracting a great deal of media attention: from in-depth articles, through to reviews. Personally, I am impressed by their entire package. Their lyrics are sharp and interesting. They manage to mix haunting and nightmarish imagery (“Saline drip my dreams/Reconstruction from the bleed”- from Yours For As Long As You Keep Me) and pure-hearted tenderness (“Lull me off to sleep”- again from Yours’). In fact if you one were to survey the contents of Yours For As Long As You Keep Me; it is awash with ripe and attention-worthy snippets and scenes- something that one does not often say about bands. Contemporaries seem intent on the force of sound and pure projection; sometimes negating the importance of words and themes. The guys’ band name suggest something both divine and beautiful; yet loud and intimidating. According to the band themselves, they make music that is “Everything and nothing you’ve heard before”; but produce sounds that are “Sexy Sexy Love Music”. Our quartet have already had a busy start to their (fledgling) careers. Since 2012 they have released one single; performed at over 20 gigs; as well as having been played on a multitude of radio stations- including three BBC stations. New festivals and gigs are imminent; and it is hardly hard to see why! Whereas you will hear a lot of bands sticking very much to the Arctic Monkeys/Oasis paradigm (if going heavier); the four-piece deftly weave the infectiousness of the ’60s; and helm it together to a ’90s swagger-cum-modern-day urgency: a blend which has won over fans and critics alike. In the U.K. we have had an uncertain (read: traditional) mix of uncertain weather: never really knowing what season we are in from day-to-day. Firmly ensconced within summer, ears and eyes are on the search for ‘summery’ sounds: step up Time. With a breeziness and fresh sound, it is a song that can blow away the cobwebs of wet weather; making you forget about your woes, whilst becoming immersed within the song’s core.
The opening of Time is a vocal interjection; the band get straight down to business. Urgency and first impressions are key; Lawton steps up to the mic., imploring to an unnamed beau: “Don’t tell me to make you stop”. Our hero (backed by a lightly strummed electric guitar), implores and announces: “I’ve been here waiting all this time”. Before the atmosphere is bolstered and emphasised, the front-man calls out; he is clearly wracked with affection and longing for a woman-a mysterious heroine-; causing him to ask: “Stay with me tonight”. Our hero steps away from the mic. (briefly), as the band enter the fray: summoning up a romantic and energised kick. Guitar and bass produce a weaving; dancing and swaying coda: possessed of pure Indie flavours, but distinctly individualised and personalised because of the group’s energy and authoritative nature. From an initial jangling guitar line, the sound builds and expands. A twirling guitar arpeggio tumbles and swaggers: displaying affection for the great sounds of the ’90s, whilst having some hints of ’60s power pop. In spite of lyrical longing- maybe hiding a lot of secret pain- the smiling atmosphere that is elicited makes you forget about any anxieties. In the space of a few seconds, the band have added colour and shades of light into the canvas; producing some summer sun and urging you to move your feet (and body). When the energised dance is brought down (briefly), our front-man arrives back up front. With a verse that begins with “Don’t tell me to make you stop”; and “Attention craved/Intent forgot”, further signs of the band’s way with words is displayed. Lines are thoughts are weaved together; building up a picture in your mind. Whomever the anonymous woman is, she is causing a stir in our hero; whom repeats his mandate: “I’ve been waiting here all this time”. As the pleasing and light-hearted composition announces and twirls in the background, up front there are words of apprehension and exhaustion. It seems that there is a lot of history between the two- many days and scenes have unfolded around this relationship- yet it seems that entropy has put things to a stop: “this time we’ve reached the line”. There is no dark musical backing, nor matter-of-fact glibness; everything balances out perfectly. Our hero’s voice is authoritative and intent (yet not overwrought); and the band provide a delicate yet punchy backing: giving the song its great and impressive edge. Sometimes it is obvious to draw comparisons with a new band and an obvious influence; yet Crystal Seagulls seem intent on producing an original and effusive energy all of their own. In the way that they have a cross-pollination that draws ’60s and ’90s elements together; you would be hard pressed to liken them to any other acts: there are tiny flecks of other acts, but no large chunks. It is said (by our hero): “I can’t stop time for you”; his voice rising and powering high; making the words stick in your brain. Further words of defensiveness, guilt and subversion unfold; the lines and thoughts are syncopated and tumble: running into one another and producing a breathless and frantic rush. When our front-man is calmed, he puts it out there: “So tell me a different story”. Where Time is autobiographical (or more fictionalised), it seems that hope is fading, and too much has been seen and done- our hero is at the end of his tether. Such is the song’s intent and potency, that you second-guess yourself- wondering if your initial interpretations are correct. Just before the 2:30 mark, a heavier punch is brought in. A harder-hitting guitar strike is unveiled; which leads into a stormy and persuasive riff. Bass keeps tight and intently, as percussion clashes and strikes heavily. A vocal chorus is unleashed; it is both laddish, yet has a heart and tenderness to it as well; as it is championed: “Let’s go if we wanna go”. The guitar work during this phase is particularly impressive, with edges of U.S. groups such as Green Day and Foo Fighters; together with some ’90s U.K. edges. Such is the awareness of the band, that they keep the energy and intrigue of the song constant: without losing rigidity and potency. The track is at once epic-worthy and sing-along: filled with crowd-uniting uplift; and the next it becomes more introverted and mandated. I guess the guys will keep cards close to chest; yet it is clear that the song’s themes are enforced by personal experience. The heroine is never named; yet is seems that she is both worthy of admiration and passion; yet is causing some negative feelings in our hero’s mind. Where as previous efforts from the four-piece have presented oblique and indirect words: fascinating and intelligent as they are; here they are more direct; focusing on the vicissitudes and anxieties of love. It is not known how the story ended: whether a satisfactory resolution was arrived at- yet with the infectious and uplifting sound it never bothers you; instead it just carries you away.
Fascination is built around the group’s future. They have a core and cemented sound that marries ’60s and ’90s swathes; tying them together neatly; built around their striking individuality. If the Isle of Wight Festival is a career-high, they will have a lot more to come. I have long-said that the band market is the busiest and most hotly-contested sector. The northern plains of England are probably producing the majority of new bands (Manchester especially), yet it is refreshing that a London-based group; and one that have a keen ear for uniqueness, are doing so well. The band sector- as opposed to the solo market- is always going to present the best and brightest sounds; and it is perhaps the U.S. that are doing the best at the moment. Legends such as The National and Queens of the Stone Age have produced possibly the two finest albums this year (Laura Marling is not far behind); and it seems that the new artists there are making strides to have their names etched into history. It seems that outside of the U.K. there is a commitment to diversification, quality and huge ambition. In this country, a lot of potential is being squandered because bands try to emulate an existing act. A huge crush and waves of new acts are being witnesses (by the week it seems), so it is near-imposisble when trying to pick out some genuingly exciting and worthy talent. As much as I have been featuring some great bands, I have also been stating how difficult it can be to come across them. The social media channels (and music webistes) are only effective if you are well placed: you often stumble across terrific music by accident. It is so difficult to easily connect with great sounds and acts. My desire for a website that takes care of everything is still strong: is all-encompassing; has an exhaustive list of music (seperated by genre and location); connects bands to fans, band-seekers with band members; ties together everything from existing sites and offers a hell of a lot more. Until the day comes (will it ever?), I am glad that I can experience groups such as Crystal Seagulls. I was impressed greatly by Yours For As Long As You Keep Me– its intention, qualities and effect- and have been similar inspired by Time. Our endeavouring quartet have a clear public approval, and have found inspiration in this. Let’s hope that there is an L.P. imminent: something that will showcase all the ranges and moves that they have to offer. It is clear that each member brings to the band their own personality and experience. The group are consistently tight and mannered: able to whip up a great deal of emotion, curiosity and quality. Jim, John, Elliot and Ben are intent on making their prescence felt- they are here for the long run. As time goes on, a great many new acts will come onto the scene; yet Crystal Seagull should not worry at all. Tracks such as Time are a timely-reminder (no pun intended) that if you begin with some great quality, then you are already ahead of the current crowd. It is not simply good enough to throw together a few guys (or girls); put some so-so songs together, hoping that that will be enough- and then sit back and assume that success will come your way. Hard work, persistence, an impressive online coverage; as well as diversity, quality and festival time are required: otherwise your lifespan will be limited. It is still the early days for Crystal Seagulls, yet they have the manner of a band that have no intention of letting quality and ambition slip: future tracks will pay testament to that, I am sure. I am not certain whether an E.P., L.P. or another single are top of the band’s priorities, but I hope that they are making some big plans. I said that Time has a summer-ready feel to it; and strangely it does. Although the strains-and-games-of-love central motif is apparent; the light and breeziness of the composition will have you smiling and kicking your feet: rooting for our hero and following his plight. Keep abreast, follow their going-ons; and keep your eyes on their social media sites (for song/album news). A lot of (new) bands will arrive in the coming months- yet few will stick long in the memory. With the London four-piece that…
WILL not be an issue. Watch them rise on and on.