Don’t Come Knockin’
Wirral-based quintet have the gravity of a recent Glastonbury performance to their name; judging by their sonic lustre, they will be future festival main-stayers.
Don’t Come Knockin’ is available at:
MY reticence about the band market (and its qualitative issues) has…
been enflamed as of late, by the sheer number of Indie-based bands. A lot of my recent reviews have focused upon the bands of North West England- Manchester, Liverpool etc.- and the relative homogenised nature of the scene. As much as I like band music- and feel that it is essential to the music industry- I have had a bit of a frown on my face as of late: something that has been hard to shift as well. Diversification and range has been apparent when looking towards the music of Yorkshire, Scotland and the North East- yet in the North West there has not been a comparable quality coming through. Many bands have taken on the mantle of Arctic Monkeys/Oasis (regular readers will be familiar with what I am about to say); sticking too literally to their sound and essence. I can understand the appeal of appropriating a well-known band’s sound, and incorporating familiar sounds into the mix: it will mean your songs are relatable and will be crowd-pleasing. My concerns arise because of this: a lack of originality is the worst crime a new band can commit. I have reviewed a great deal of acts (over the months); and the strongest examples are those whom employ and inject some familiar tones into their music; yet have an abiding air of originality and pioneer. Given what we have experienced over the last 60+ years- in terms of music- there are plenty of options available (to the new artist) when looking for some integrated sounds. Bands such as Arctic Monkeys are still operating and recording, and by clinging too closely to their coattails, many bands come off as copycats: which alienates and frustrates people like me. I guess this one specific issue has clouded my view of the entire new music scene: there are plenty of worthy acts out there doing things their own way. I mention Yorkshire and although there is a heavy leaning towards solo artists, the band market has also impressed me. A lot of U.S. blues sounds; country rock and ’70s alternative movements are being presented: mixed together with the modern-day sounds of the county. Newcastle and Sunderland are offering some bold rock acts: heavier sounds, reminiscent of the ’60s and ’70s masters such as Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd- yet only containing a hint of the aforementioned. It is Manchester- or the Mancunian scene- that has perturbed me the most. Historically, it is not a city that has exactly been dragging its heels (with regards to presenting superb music). Considering obvious modern examples, a lot of the all-time great bands- The Smiths, The Stone Roses etc.- have called Manchester home. Entire movements and waves have formed from the city’s artists, and was- rather than is- a mecca of wonderful and inspirational music. In 2013- as well as over the last few years- there has been a bit of a cessation of diversity; a weakening of ambition and difference. The influence of the current Indie champions is being taken to heart too literally: rather than having feint shades taken from them. Away from original and striking champions such as The 1975; the area is playing host to too many so-so and like-minded groups- most of whom have a one-dimensional quality to them. As much as I have been bemoaning the lack of motivation (in the North West); I have been extolling the virtues of past sounds. Artists whom I have recently featured, have managed to dip into the ’90s and ’70s: taking bits and pieces from the decades; and infusing that into their sound. I always admire a group whom have an appreciation for the old masters- and wonderful music of the past- as their majesty and potency is just as relevant today as it always has been. It is not a surprise- or shouldn’t be- that a lot of foreign acts are making big strides. From the rock acts of the U.S., through to the disco and electronic groups of Sweden; I have been stunned by the fortitude and variation that has been offered up. In particular, the softer and more seductive sounds of Sweden (and the Nordic countries) has struck my mind the hardest. The artists and talent there tend to be a bit more experimental and daring when it comes to their music: their songs are infused with unexpected twists and euphoric touches. I have postulated that another issue we have in the U.K, regards the role of the media (and the music press). A lot of the time, the imputes and direction a new band takes, is enforced by the proferrings and reviews of the music press. A lot of modern publications have been focusing too solely on British music; the new acts and artists we have here- without offering alternatives. As it is important to highlight U.K. talent, it is also necessary to bring international talent to our attentions. Some of the best music of the moment is being recorded in Europe, Australia and North America: how would you ever hear of it were it not for the media and social media sources? Sources such as The Guardian and The Girls Are bring to my attention (regularly) terrific music from across the world: yet there seems to be few others doing this. If new acts in this country are not made aware of what is happening elsewhere, then is an inherent danger that a lot of potential influence is being missed out on. I would have regretted missing out on great acts such as Say Lou Lou, Club 8, HighField and The Open Feel- terrific international talent, whom I feel can provide fresh energy and inspiration to the U.K. scene. Homogenisation and lack of variation is an issue that has been apparent for quite a few years, and I have been wondering whether some areas (geographical) will ever break away from their bad habits? As much as Manchester has been holding itself back, I have been pleasantly surprised by talent from Liverpool and the Wirral. There seems to be a more diverse and expansive palette- and a different work ethic- that has made me excited for the future.
When considering new bands (and solo artists), it is always difficult to mark out and differentiate quality. Most artists start out at the bottom: playing local gigs, recording their tracks; trying to spread the word as wide as possible. With such a crowded and bustling scene being formed, it is difficult and near-impossible for new acts to rise above the rest; get into your thoughts and remain there- it is something that established acts are better at. I have reviewed a lot of new talent, and most are campaigning for support; trying to get as many people to listen as possible, and above all, attempting to make sure they have longevity and a future-demand. Even if your sound is fresh and alive; infused with originality and essentiality, it is still incredibly difficult to make yourselves knows. The Sundowners are already a few steps ahead of most. Their striking talent should be examined (I will mentioned it shortly); yet a recent appearance at The Glastonbury Festival has surely provided them with fresh urgency and patronage. They have recently played the BBC Introducing Stage: showcasing their diverse and gripping songs to a host of new (and existing) fans- and gaining a lot of critical praise in the process. It is axiomatic to say that the band have got themselves there with their talent; yet it can’t be ignored that such a lucrative and high-profile performance will draw in legions of supporters: making them a band that will be much demanded amongst festival organisers of the future. With a newly-augmented C.V., the group have an excitement and passion for their future careers: which will make their next steps and sounds very exciting indeed. The Sundowners are a five-piece act whom hail from the Wirral. Composed of siblings Alfie and Fiona Skelly, as well as Niamh Rowe, Tim Cunningham and Jim Sharrock; our endeavouring band are setting their sights on what is to come: ensuring that their current sounds are heard as much as possible. Given that the name ‘Skelly’ appears in the band line-up, it is hardly a shock that The Coral rank amongst the group’s influences. The band have already supported James Skelly & The Intenders: joining them whilst they played gigs in the U.K. I have always been a huge fan of The Coral, and I see them as one of the most under-rated bands of our time. One of my all-time favourite albums is Magic and Medicine, and I have always been enamoured of that L.P.’s myriad sounds and inflections. Many critics consider The Coral to be a bit ‘far-out’ and an acquired taste, yet it is their exceptional songwriter and unique music that cannot be faulted. Few other modern bands have been as ambitious and striking as them; many reviewers and fans are talking about The Sundowners with the same excitement and fervency. It is the close-knit kinship that the five members have, that can heard in their songs. Each of them has affection and complete respect for the other; they teach each other new skills; support them in their troubles and come across more like five siblings (that a band). A lot of current groups (and defunct acts) have tumultuous and fractious lives together. If you have a genuine and strong affection and respect for one another, then your future together will be more prosperous: this strength through joy is also reflected in the songs- which will bring in more fans as well. The likes of NME and John Leckie have poured praise on the band: highlighting their clear identity and impressive ambition. Aside from the high-profile fans and effusive praise, the main reason why The Sundowners command such attention, is their unique sound. In a scene (and part of the U.K.) that still favours Indie-centric flair and familiar sounds, our quintet have a different approach. The acts and musicians that are included as influences range from Fleetwood Mac through to Tom Petty. It is the mix of U.K. and U.S. influences from the ’60s and ’70s that can be detected in their boiling pot. Sharp edges and sense of electricity are key to the five, yet it is aspects of melody and musicality that set them apart: like their idols they have a soulful and soft emotional core, as well as a keen ear for melody, evocation and remembrance. Too many bands go fro pure force and unadulterated punch: negating the need for something more restrained and impressive. I have long gone on (very long in fact) about the importance of retrospect and reinvigoration in music: adding tones and colours of past wonders into your songs. Whilst it is admirable to portray a modern and essential energy to music (in order to sound unique and fresh); I feel that combining this with some older influence maximises your overall sound, potential and appeal. Aside from striking this balance just right; our amiable and talented five-piece have a deft talent for image and projection as well. If you consider their name- The Sundowners- one is already intrigued. The 1960 film (of the same name) was set in Australia; focusing on the Carmody family- whom resided in the Outback and were sheep drovers. Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr starred, and it is a film that- although not an all-time classic- was well-received and regarded- even if many people will not have heard of it. I am not sure if our North West quintet were influenced by this film- or are fans of it- but one cannot help but smile when hearing their band name; knowing that its namesake is a charming (if slightly boring) Australian film. Apart from their intriguing name, the five-piece are all very sharp and stunning. The boys are cool, handsome and clean-cut (dark secrets may lurk): possessed of awesome heads of hair and a detached and far-off look that suggests they know how cool they are. Likewise the girls are striking: stunning beautiful, but coming across as your girl-next-door idols (again they may have dark underbellies). One gets the impression that the band are a band of the people: humble and hard-working; whom want their music to do the talking, as opposed to controversy. Too many modern idols (I’m looking at you Liam Gallagher) spend too much time bad-mouthing and insulting others: knowing that their best musical days are behind them. Our quintet are an all-imposing and all-inclusive group whom have a lot of respect for their contemporaries; as well as a fond affection foe the market. They want to succeed and play for many years to come, and as well as a memorable stay at Glastonbury, they will be enjoying a lot of touring and demand- I for one would love to catch them in London as soon as possible. There is no excuse for not turning yourself on to the group: they have an impressive and comprehensive online portfolio, including a great official website (http://www.thesundowners.co.uk/).
A lot of talk and praise has been heaped on the band’s previous efforts; the likes of Roll the Dice and Wild As The Season have been received with acclaim and adulation; with many critics and fans hungry to hear more. I was not in the crowd for their recent Glastonbury performance, yet can imagine that their songs were fantastically received. Having investigated their previous tracks, I can attest that their sound is filled with intrigue, nuances and memorability- they are songs which stick long in the memory. As well as the quality of the music itself, their range is also impressive: they have their signature sound, yet show such a mobility and adaptability that they constantly catch you by surprise. With so much love and admiration being paid to Shifting Sands– the B-Side to Don’t Come Knockin’– it goes to show how much quality is evident throughout their music. It is with considered and hungry ears (and eyes) that I approached their single- eager to hear what moves and surprises the band could offer up. With a brief hint of electric feedback and a heady rush of guitar, we are under way (and instantly hooked). It is the initial hook-up between Skelly (Alfie) and Sharrock that is most present. With that evocative and enthralling electric guitar work- which snakes and sparkles with heavy and heady undertones- it is the drum work that makes the biggest (early) noise. Sharrock unveils a hard-hitting, punchy and impressive percussive line: one which stands you to attention and blends beautifully with Skelly’s guitar work. Before too long, the influence of Skelly (James) can be heard as a Coral-esque coda is let loose. The guitar wobbles and buzzes with jubilant energy: displaying some of debut album-era The Coral (Skeleton Key and Spanish Main can be detected). As is a key (and obvious) hallmark with any great band: the influence is there, but it is not obvious. The way that the swaggering and rambunctious intro. gets into your head is something that is intoxicating; making you hum and tap your feet along in time- and wondering what is going to come next. Guitar, drum and bass work is impressively endeavouring (from each member), and it is the way that they combine that gilds and cements their incredible confidence. Instantly you notice how tight the sound is; how well rehearsed the song is, and how much intuition and affection is present within the bands ranks: the blending of individual parts is seamless. With an infectious introduction- which takes in ’70s U.S. elements as well as ’60s U.K. ones- you are settled in, and on board with whatever comes next. One of the things that impressed me is that the band is female-lead. It may sound like a weird thing to say, but most modern bands- and a majority of northern groups- have male leads: in fact a majority of modern bands are all-male. When you hear of inter-gender groups (a rarity in the U.K.) there is often one female voice- or the male takes the lead- which often sounds superb, but one wishes there was an additional voice to bolster the overall sound. I have encountered a few new U.K. bands (whom are composed of boys and girls) whom have a female lead. I find that the combination of incredible and impassioned music and a striking female voice, provide the best (and most intriguing) music. A lot of male voices (especially within bands) come off as a little harsh: lacking in real emotion; a lack of seductive and sex appeal; too hard sounding. The female voice has always struck me hardest, as I feel that the tones and qualities they can display adds greater weight to songs as a whole- especially bands and their music. Whilst the boys inject the mood with some impassioned and rumbling sounds; a wordless vocal is introduced by Rowe and Skelly (Fiona). There is a fundamental and unswaying energy that is detectable; and is something that continues for a while: the song’s fledgling moments are a myriad of sing-along vocals; an endeavouring and intoxicating composition, and a abiding and heady rush. As the wordlessness abates, and a spiralling and tumbling guitar line is deployed; the song settles down to business. Early words speak of “In the deep of the night” and “In the arms of solitude”; our heroine imploring: “You hear my call”. Whomever is being addressed- a current love; an ex-paramour; a friend- is all alone and by himself, as he does not come knocking; he has resigned himself to a lonelier lot in life. Our heroine’s voice has harsher and strong edges that enforce and reinforce her words; yet there is an honest and openness as well. Sonic evocation is an important facet and weapon for the band. As much as the scene-setting and winding intro. sparks your imagination and gets the blood rushing; the band punctuate the verses with similarly-exhilarating rushes. No sooner have the initial words been proffered and laid bare; then we are witness to another buzzing, fizzing and pulsating guitar coda: the words “Knockin’ no more” are chorused and deployed with alacrity. The way that the insatiable guitar parable plays off of the vocal, is impressive indeed: the voice is composed but potent, where as the guitar work is bursting with vigour and expression. When our heroine’s voice comes back in, there is a little bit of Alison Moyet and Stevie Nicks to be heard (a similar weight and comparable power can be detected). Those are probably not names that get attached to many other modern singers (so is a pleasure to hear), but it is the way that a striking originality is tied together with some legendary edges, that makes the vocal performance so impressive: alive with passion and energy as it is. The band never let the pace slip or the energy relent; going from guitar-heavy jam, through to percussive pummel. At the 1:11 mark, a rumbling drum layer is introduced- it succeeds the guitar fuzz and introduces a line stage/movement to the track. As the drum kicks and dances lower in the mix, a new- and more potent- guitar attack comes in: it buzzes, warbles, wails and thrashes; pulling you into its sights and not letting go. The tribal call-and-response that opens itself up is the most immediate and potent part of the track (so far). Each band members adds to the mood, as a veritable sonic storm is whipped up: guitars and bass rain, clash and strike like lightning as percussive thunder and wind adds additional majesty. It is quite a brave move for any act (established or new) to unveil a fairly extensive musical line (rather than fill each moment with vocals). Groups such as The Coral were masters of it (able to intoxicate with their mastery), so it may be the Skelly influence/effect that has influenced Don’t Come Knockin’. A sense of atmosphere and gravity is unveiled- the lead guitar wails and howls demonically at one point- saying an immense amount (without a word being sung). You cannot help but let yourself be mesmerised by the twirling and psychotropic fireworks. Evocations of the ’60s and ’70s masters can be heard, from Hendrix and Clapton-esque guitar weight, through to Fairport Convention swathes and colours: it is as essentially modern as it is effortlessly classical. One cannot help but smile when listening to the track, gleefully caught up in the rush and primal urges the music proffers. The song could just as easily soundtrack a taut and tense thriller as it could a balls-to-the-wall action blockbuster: it has that ubiquitous and utilitarian quality and strength to it. As the musical coda continues (unabated) and the swaggering bonhomie and confidence has played its part, another wordless vocal is introduced (bookending the track quite neatly). The girls melt their voices together; projecting as much muster and kick as the sonic parable it follows. As our heroine proffers for one last time; addressing the anonymous beau- amidst a sway of consequence and circumstance, conspiring to make a “fool out of you”. As a final sonic plunder is evoked, the song comes to an end- and a chance to catch your breath, and reorganise your thoughts.
The overall impression one is left with is one of surprise. For a while now I have postulating as to the reasons why a lot of northern-based music has been in a funk: too limited and unmoving. I have heard of a few Liverpool acts whom are making some impressive steps, yet with the majority of focus still aimed towards Mancunian shores, I am relieved that a band from the Wirral are inspiring my thoughts. The five-piece have proven themselves to be a formidable and potent musical force; impressive given that they are still in their infancy. The Glastonbury aftermath will see a lot of new subscribers and followers flock to the feet of The Sundowners- our quintet should prepare for a busy and jam-packed future schedule. As well as the incredible and original sounds that the group proffer, it is their image and presentation that makes its marks. The boys have a cool and charismatic look, whilst the girls are stunning and alluring. When you tie the two together, the band seem ready-made for the modern scene; as well as being steeped in authoritative edges that the likes of Fleetwood Mac and Tom Petty are synonymous with. With a handful of songs to their name, the group are still in the early stages, yet have won over so many minds and made such impressive steps, that their careers will be very long indeed. The close ties the band have can be heard in the music; everything is constantly engaging and tight- displaying a fond affection for one another. In a modern scene where the majority of new acts take a long time to make an impression; the quintet have already achieved a hell of a lot- making them the envy of their contemporaries. The influence and patronage of The Coral can be heard in the band’s music, which contains a comparable intrigue and enthralling sound. Don’t Come Knockin’ has swathes of fascinating guitar lines; primal drums; taut and tight bass, and sharp and alluring vocals (which blend beautifully). The quintet have managed to introduce and infuse their influences into their sound, and married it with an essential and urgent original voice- one that is a rarity these days. I have been down on Manchester bands as-of-late; wondering whether there was going to be anything that could soothe and ease my mind. The Sundowners will go a long way to restoring my faith in the modern scene: I am keen and excited to see where they go from here. It has been a frenetic and spellbinding last couple of weeks for the group, whom have been awash with Glastonbury preparation; festival chaos- now they are focusing on the future. I am not sure what moves the five-piece are planning to make: whether an E.P., L.P. or future singles are favoured? I would love to hear an album from them (but it may be a while off); although an E.P. would be just as tantalising. There is going to be a lot of demand and fervency aimed at them: fans will be hungry to hear as much from the group as possible; so it is going to be interesting to see what happens. Don’t Come Knockin’ is a bold and potent signal from the band; and is a song which is untraditional and innovative. Few groups would give more ground to the music (compared with the vocal); yet the way that the song is balanced works perfectly. There are not too many needless interjections; no unwarranted diversions: everything is balanced and employed to maximum effect. The vocals are both authoritatively strong and alluring too: at once emotional and at the next quite punchy. Guitar, bass and percussion layers are unexpected, memorable and heady: the combinations and various representations are quite spellbinding. I am sure that the five-piece will be playing Glastonbury in the future- perhaps making to the Main Stage. Festival bookings are a very real prospect for the future, and swathes of fans will want to catch the group in person. Plenty of plaudits have been aimed towards them, and I hope that the quintet have some big plans afoot. Few new acts have the luxury of being able to carefully consider their next moves (although I am sure the group are taking things very seriously). Whatever is going to arrive in 2013: another single; an E.P.; plans of an album; I am convinced that The Sundowners will be in receipt of a lot of new followers and supporters. They have shown how good they are- and what they can accomplish- so many eyes will be trained in their directions. With so many new musicians coming across as second-rate versions of existing acts, it is a breath of fresh air that a unique and passionate voice is breaking through. Take your seats; absorb the music being offered up and…
BRACE yourself for what is to come.