Liverpool’s four-piece have an energy and excitement, that is almost near-forgotten in today’s sounds; and could pave the way for big future success.
Cracks is available at:
The E.P. Roads is available at:
LIVERPOOL and the band market at the forefront of my mind today.
For a long time now, I have been suggesting/banging on that there are issues with new music- depending on what region that act originate from. This year, I have seen a resurgence and rise from Scotland; the likes of which has not been seen: it appears that the best and brightest are to be found in Scotland. The freedom to roam; lack of city constraints, and a blasé attitude of the media, has given the talent here room to move; as well as a desire to impress. Focus seems to be honed on London: it has been for decades now. With every passing month, the media waits with baited breath, watching to see what wonderful music the capital will produce- yet it never really seems to materialise. I shall not riff on my over-worn theme, but it is still noteworthy that there is an obsessive need to put London above every other region. With an expanding market, that largely consists of bands, in all parts of the U.K.; differing and diverse groups are springing up. Manchester has produced a great deal of these new acts, but to my mind, the talent there seems to be stuck in a rut: with a lot of the bands hanging onto another group’s influence. The swathe of Arctic Monkey/Oasis-type bands has left be a little annoyed frankly. I appreciate the appeal of these bands; and find that they are going to be relevant for many years to come, yet do not see the point of emulating them that closely. Originality and diversity is as much an issue now as it has ever been. During the ’90s there was some over-familiarity; yet when you consider the range of music, it is alarming at just how much was on offer. With the likes of Oasis and Blur doing battle, Britpop’s warning parents were inspiring like-minded acts to strike up their own majesty, with the likes of Suede and Pulp churning out some unbeatable anthems. Dance and trance music was being cemented and solidified. Massive Attack were creating dangerous and exhilarating sounds; fusing genres and producing music that will remain timeless. Those boys paved the way for late-’90s/early-’00s dance and trance artists such as Spiller, Sonique and Groove Armada- as well as a liberal assault of one-hit wonders. Legends and older idols were still going strong, and pop music in general was in a good state. Bands were capturing the spirit and fever of the time, and infusing that energy with relevant shades of the past: drawing in some ’60s majesty, as well as ’70s and ’80s touches. Today, we the public- as well as the aspiring musicians- are faced with a bit of a glut. It is the more established acts whom are producing the finest sounds, and the new act are faced with daunting challenges. Because of the comparative lack of excitement, difference and epoch-defining music, the overall scene is stuck somewhat. There is a diversity; yet not one that contains as many dissociative and unique strands; but worse still, is that the ambition is not there. With the sheer number of groups (as well as solo acts) forming- seemingly there are several dozen new bands by the week- there are artists out there, whom are capable of instilling a sense of resurgence. When we look to cities and towns where this may happen, one consideration has to be Liverpool. Whilst Manchester is lacking behind Yorkshire and Scotland’s diversity and potency, Liverpool is making waves. From the early-’60s, when the likes of The Beatles called it home, the city has been capable of turning out some gems. Through The Zutons, The La’s; right across to Cast, Lightning Seeds, as well as Miles Kane and The Coral, Liverpool (as well as The Wirral) has been at the forefront. As well as producing some of the best acts of the ’90s, and ’00s; the city is playing host to some of the strongest acts of the moment; those whom are capable of bringing about a sea change: dragging music back to the ’90s, when it was genuinely inspiring and exciting to hear what was on offer. I’m not entirely bereft of compassion for current music- far from it in fact. It is just baffling, that in a year that is modernised and developed as any we have ever seen; with the resources and retrospect on hand; that so few new acts are making huge impressions. I have theorised that the sheer quantity of numbers has been responsible for distilling and subjugating a lot of potential, yet it seems that there is still opportunity. As well as a lack and unfocused media scene, poor and under-used chains in social media; lack of appropriate music sites, and a repressive market; it is a tough chore for sure. If you hold out long enough, you find some potentiality.
The Castro’s intrigued me, by their name alone. I am never a huge fan of bands that begin with ‘The’: there have been too many past, and too many present. That said, The Castro’s- with their intriguingly-placed apostrophe- do draw images to mind. If you Google ‘Castro’s’ you will get some ‘interesting’ search results; and to my mind it sounds like a Cuban bar or curious haunt one would find in the underground of London. Evocations of dark and smoky doorways, strange-looking patrons, and a red and blue neon lights bring to mind a charming, if volatile location. Cigars would be on tap; Latin music would be on the jukebox; and bearded barmen would nod as you walked in. Perhaps I am over-thinking things, but the band’s name, as well as their music (and song titles) draw to mind so many oblique and filmic images, that they create fascination with nary a note being elicited. Our Liverpool quartet, consisting of Mike, Peter, Daniel and Oliver have the classic formation: each member has their instrument and does their role; keeping a true and rock/indie sound at their core; whilst never over-stuffing their sound with needless wallpaper or trinkets. Perhaps it is Fidel Castro’s ethics and ethos that has inspired about a comparative musical drive and aggression. The boys have been heralded by critics, whom state that their sound is ahead of its years; their live performances are tight and energy-packed, and they are a group whom are ear-marked for future fame. On their Facebook page, the four-piece claim their interests include ‘Music, chicken, drink & girls’. Maybe my Cuban-themed bar parable is not too far-fetched: the boys seem like they would be right at home there. The list of influences that the band have, is wide and varied; including the likes of Gary Numan, Kasabian and The White Stripes. It is the variations and energies that the different influences have, that The Castro’s infuse into their sound. Over the past few weeks and months, the boys have been busy indeed. The E.P. Roads, has gained a lot of attention and praise. A sense of keen design and imagery is important to the guys; their covers are awash with quaint and humorous imagery: Cuban themes, charming scenes, and plenty of appeal. Their songs too possess such strengths and swathes, and it is these pillars that has seen them build a sturdy foundation. The E.P. 3 tracks surmount and capture the band’s ambitions and sound perfectly; whilst paving the way for some exciting future moves and potential. Whatever axiom, aphorism or statement you can levy at the band, the one thing that rings true, above all else is: how tight and alive their music is. It is a component and facet that is not overly-evident in the current scene; and something that should be noted by any up-and-coming band/act.
Roads’ second track Cracks, is a song that spares no time in getting under the skin. From a frantic and tumbling percussion clatter, it kicks off straight away, sparking with energy and invigoration. The drum beat has a jerking and dancing energy; and when the guitar joins the scene, the combination provides a big rush of excitement; providing a memorable and striking intro. With a brief hint of debut album-Arctic Monkeys, the sound has indie roots, and marries the quality of the Sheffield boys, yet contains its own drive and potency: something that a lot of Manchester-based bands have neglected to do. The guitar rattles and rumbles, rising and braying at intervals; backed by bass and percussion which are solid and foreboding too; with so much relentless force and energy, that a calming vocal influence is needed. When our front-man comes to the mic., his voice is strong and infused with a natural energy, yet never overwrought. Themes such as “we’ve got nobody” are unveiled; our hero and an unnamed companion also are not making problems for anyone either. It is the sheer rush and momentum of the track that grabs you; as the guys keep the mood very much alive throughout. Our front-man sings with confidence and conviction, and has “nothing to lose”. I suspect that the theme and intention of the song is to portray a relationship paradigm. An anonymous beau is present in the song’s themes, standing beside the hero: the two of them fighting against the world and fending for themselves. Ward’s voice has tones of the U.S.; both present and past, and tying that together with a sonic rush that is very much U.K.-based, the combination is very affective. His voice has some shades of Eddie Vedder and his Pearl Jam work. There is a similar sound to the voice as well as a comparative passion and strength. Ward’s fellows give a sense of urgency and electricity through, providing a rampant and overwhelming roll and rock throughout. The key themes and mandates about having “nothing to lose”; and having “nobody” are employed throughout, providing a sense of anxiety as well as free-spirit, that at once has you rooting for the front-man and his plight; and at the next wondering where he is going and what will happen. If there was ever a sense of uncertainty and doubt in some of the lyrics, then the way that they are presented, give the impression that there is little fear or reticence in our hero’s heart. The Castro’s do not waste words or change course needlessly, keeping true to the song’s core and making sure that the words strike you hard, and stay with you. The song is a little over 2 minutes, and it leaves you wanting more. From an intro. that throws so much weight into the pot so early on, the pace and energy never abate; instead the song has elements of Grunge and Detroit blues rock; where artists would never let the momentum drop: think about The White Stripe’s Fell in Love with a Girl. There is a little bit of eponymous- album- The Libertines, as well as Pearl Jam, yet there are only the faintest of touches. Above all the song does not stand on anyone else’s coattails; choosing boldness and originality as the key themes. The track wins you with the tight and focused composition. Each of the boys are superb and unwavering, and give the track so much muscle and spark; backing up our front-man whose pure tones and gravelled edges add emotional weight into the mix. If I had one reservation it would be that, at times, the vocal was hard to understand, and some of the words got lost. Whether it is a production issue, or the sound around Ward became too imposing I am not sure, but it is a tiny niggle. The merits and huge strengths of the song, far outweigh any drawbacks at all, and Cracks is a song that, as mentioned, will leave you wanting more of the same. The band tease the listener by not expanding it out, yet if it were any longer its impressions would not be as large: thus ensuring that the absolute perfect balance has been struck.
I am always encouraged by bands that are willing to be different, as well as ambitious. Too often one or the other are achieved, and the second is neglected. It seems that Liverpool has a similar ambition to that of Yorkshire and Scotland, with regards to producing the brightest new talent. There seems to be little restriction or barriers that are being faced, and the bands and acts are showing that it is possible to make great music; without having to compromise, or pretend to be someone else. The Castro’s reputation is growing, and it is not surprising to see why. Their live performances are packed with power, energy and authority, and the band are tight and memorable. Their sound is not one that you will hear a lot. Indie and rock movements are being made, but it is the way that different sounds and styles are seamlessly fused; creating a stunning whole, that is very much belonging to our four-piece. A future of stardom and vast popularity awaits, and it would be good to see the guys take on an L.P. It will be intriguing to see what they would do with 7 or 8 tracks more. Vedder comparisons are not unjustified, and whether there would be any emotional, yet epic anthems in the boys’ back pockets, is to be seen. They would be able to enliven the scene, and keep their fans dedicated and excited with such diversions, but of course the choice is all theirs. The band market is becoming more packed by the week, with each competitor promising much: with very few managing to remain in the mind for too long. Our boys have laid some impressive groundwork, and will be building on it this year. Their E.P. is abound with confidence and ideas, and shows that they have plenty of options when it comes to future releases. I hope that I get to see them as well, as their live reputation has been well documented. Summer is going to promise meteorological and musical uncertainty; so it is best you do yourself a favour; not be fair-weather, and stick to a group whom will always…
GIVE what the public want.