Heart Won’t Beat
Hands Inside The Dark
Heart Won’t Beat is available from:
Hands Inside The Dark is available from:
E.P.-1 is available at:
They have been on a steady trajectory (as-of-late). It seems that this year will see the London boys transcend from the underground, to the echelons of the big contenders. Make sure you familiarise yourself now; they will be big news soon.
IT has been a few days since we had to sit through another round of Brit Awards anemia.
I have always been a bit ambivalent- at best- when it comes to music awards. Sure, they are necessary, in order to reward the most deserving of musicians. The trouble is this: they don’t. I have always thought that the likes of The Grammy Awards was nothing more than showcases for controversy, attention-seeking and celebrity: where the nature and meaning of music becomes distilled amongst a flash of camera bulbs. Flimsy and pathetic events like The M.T.V. Music Awards are even worse offenders. If you like your music nauseating, anodyne and pop-based, then they are the awards for you. The highlights of these events usually consist of some anorexic pop waste of space, cavorting with a moronic male solo artist- not that I am referring to any specifics! There is plenty on offer if you want to see degraded acts flash their bare cheeks; if you want to see awards doled out to the ridiculous and untalented. The nature of award shows is misleading and puzzling. There are too many events which celebrate a certain sector of music: the teenage pop market. If one wants to see the true musicians and greatest acts fulfilled, then it is slim pickings. There was a time when music award shows used to focus upon these acts, yet I suspect that the infiltration of boy bands, flimsy solo acts and trite offerings has somewhat buried any gold. I am perhaps a little biased- being a fan of Rock, Indie and the like- yet feel that I am not displaying ignorance or any form of narrow interest. Having been raised in the ’80s and ’90s, I have seen a shift and move from New Romantics, through to Mancunian Rock; via Dance and the advent of Britpop. My formative and infant years were spent awash a myriad of vibrant and exciting sounds. One day would be spent absorbed in The Smiths or Blur; the next may be dedicated to the likes of The Chemical Brothers or The Stone Roses. The music was never boring or stagnated. Even the worst and most mediocre of bands or acts at least gave it the old college try. My point is not tangential to the main theme, as it shows that times and taste have changed a lot. Of course you cannot recapture the past or expect a glorious era to continue on and on, yet it seems that there has been a sharp decline. I am always looking out for something new and exciting. I love Rock and Metal as much as I enjoy classic Soul and Reggae. I feel that there is still a subjugation and ignorance when it comes to the most ambitious and promising acts. Celebrity and scandal are as predominant as ever, and an autosomal dominant trait of mother music. Headlines are being grabbed for the wrong reason, and it seems that there has been a deflection away from great music- and towards titration and pointless journalism. I keep harking on about how many great acts I reviewed last year (as well as this year), and my excitement is tinged with anger. A lot of these acts are starting from the ground level; raising their own money and working their backsides off in order to record just a single song. They gig endlessly, sweat and toil, in order to achieve a glimmer of the attention that so many ‘mainstream’ acts garner. It seems strange, and I have been wracking my brain try to figure out why (this is the case). I shall return to that theme in due course, yet I want to circle back to The Brit Awards. I watched it, and you know what: I bloody hated it. Not all of it, to be fair. It is refreshing that this year saw the celebration of some truly deserving and brilliant acts- a paradigm shift away from recent years. In algebraic terms, one should expect there to be a mix of great acts rubbing shoulders with plastic nobodies- one cannot dictate the pace and colour scheme of the music industry. David Bowie is a stalwart and godfather of music, and was rightly acknowledged as such. Daft Punk picked up an award and I was not too disappointed as a whole. In terms of pure frivolity and drivel, there was, however, still too much. The awards are still synonymous with celebrating the underwhelming and I feel some deserving acts walked away with nothing. Sure Rita Ora looked great, but is an act I do not want to hear at all- for many different reasons. I have always felt that Ellie Goulding is an endearing and wonderfully down-to-earth figure- and one of the most beautiful women in the world- yet it seemed odd she scooped a gong. Her last album was out two years ago and hardly caught the attentions and minds of many new fans. The night also saw perennial soon-to-be-Macdonalds-employees One Direction hoisted onto the stage. I think they won an award for Best Video- which goes to show that my previous post about music videos raised some genuine concerns. As much as a fiasco and insult as that was- to video directors and artists- they also gathered attention for their music itself. I understand that you cannot force-feed good taste into the young, yet the likes of One Direction do nothing to promote the good name of British music. They are tabloid fodder, and are the most noxious form of music acts. Just as I was about to vomit a crimson stream of bile towards my flast-screen, and burn myself with a cigarette lighter, up steps one man: Alex Turner. Technically it was several men, but not let us get caught up in semantics. The voice and lead anchor of Sheffield’s Arctic Monkeys took to the microphone. Perhaps the L.A. sun and U.S. air had mutated his northern drawl, yet the man has lost none of his insight and vitriol. Turner’s speech has gathered a lot of social media attention- both good and bad- and whatever you think of the man, his point and thesis is right on the money. I am a fan of Arctic Monkeys, and have always found them to be a cut above their contemporaries; interchangeable and mobile over the space of an album, they are adept at keeping their sound fresh and intoxicating. Turner- for me- is the best lyricist on the block, and seems endlessly talented. His speech and words were not intended to herald and uphold his personal merits and intentions; it was a ubiquitous and universal point: Rock will always be here and there is nothing you can do about it. I was desperately hoping that those words would make Harry Styles choke on his Ribena, but alas, no. It was not the odd single line that did the shouting; it was the entire speech. There is a genuine fear and consensus that Rock is in danger of being overwhelmed by the spate of Pop and Soft Pop participants. Turner not only allayed fears, but sent out a mission statement for the coming year…
Amongst the towns and cities of the U.K., there are a wealth of hungry and agile acts whom mean serious business. I have seen and heard some terrific examples lately, and am constantly surprised by the range and different between the acts, Last week I reviewed solo artist Alison Levi, whom impressed me not only with her incredible music, but so much more. Her voice put me in mind of Eva Cassidy as well as other all-time greats, yet it was her personality that really struck me. She is a humble and witty figure whom enlivens her Twitter feed with humorous and amusing one liners. As a package she ticks all the boxes, and is a down-to-earth and gorgeous woman. Her music is focused and filled with nuance and she is someone whom will go very far. Away from the likes of Levi,there has been some great U.S. electro; brilliant Canadian Rock/Funk- as well as a great deal of homegrown talent. Rock bands have featured heavily in my iterations, and the likes of Los & The Deadlines have particularly impressed me. They are a London-based band, yet their members hail from countries and nations far and wide. With a nod to the likes of Led Zeppelin, the boys are putting the capital back on the map. Over the past few months I have been worried by the lack of talent and furtive music emanating from London- wondering what exactly was going on. Most of my features- with regards to U.K. talent- have looked at artists in the north, as well as Scotland, and there has been scant summation of capital bliss. Crystal Seagulls are a band I have reviewed a couple of times before. Back in May I reviewed their track Yours For As Long As You Keep Me (https://musicmusingsandsuch.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/crystal-seagulls-yours-for-as-long-as-you-keep-me-track-review/). I mentioned that track had elements of Britpop explosion. It bridged and galvanised the divisive camps of 1994/5 Oasis and Blur- tying together their different sounds whilst circumventing any direct comparisons. I summed up the song’s finale, thus: “The final line reads: “Be here by my side, I’m still here waiting for you”. It is a graceful and romantic coda, that encapsulates the song’s majesty“. A month later, I got my hands on their track, Time (https://musicmusingsandsuch.wordpress.com/2013/06/29/crystal-seagulls-time-track-review/). It is a song that features on their new E.P.- which I shall get to- yet I was impressed by many facets of the song. It was ambitious as well as focused; memorable yet lovable louche and romantic. I surveyed it proudly, writing: “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)...”. In fact, I reviewed the boys for a third outing December (https://musicmusingsandsuch.wordpress.com/2013/12/01/feature-crystal-seagulls/). I may have to go in a brief Crystal Seagulls detox through the spring and summer, yet I always find myself surprised each time I encounter their music. Today perhaps sees the summation of their recent ambitions, as they unveil their E.P. It has been on the market for a fe weeks, and already is gaining praise and new fandom. It is called- appropriately and pithily- E.P.-1, and provides as much mystery as it does honesty. This is reflected in the songs contained within; over the quartet of numbers, the London men display all of their grit, wit, heart and blood: saying a hell of a lot of the course of twelve or so minutes. Included in the E.P. is two songs I have reviewed previously: Toetapper and Time. You can tell- from reviews of those tracks- that I was impressed, not only by the quality of the music, but also by the emotional and sonic range. The band have their own clear identity and mandate, yet are able to augment their central core in varying directions. If you are unfamiliar with the Crystal Seagulls boys- shame on you- they are (as described on their Facebook page): “… an unsigned young four-piece indie rock band consisting of Jim (vox/rhythm guitar), John (vox/bass), Elz (backing vox/lead guitar) and Ben (drums/poster boy)“. Although the band members hail from different counties, their home is London, yet when it comes to sourcing their sounds, there are international touches. As well as displaying an authoritative knowledge and love of the ’90s masters such as Oasis and The Stone Roses, they have Beatle-esque psychedelic edges; Queens of the Stone Age primal urges, as well as summery jangle and sunshine edges. The boys have an endeavouring and pioneering spirit with their music, and are restless when it comes to diversity and acuity, As much as their have flavours of different acts and eras, at their heart is a solid and unique foundation, which is a rarity of the modern age. A lot of current Rock acts- away from the mainstream- tend to borrow too heavily from colleagues and idols. I have mentioned Arctic Monkeys, and this is a band whom inspire many facsimiles. Too many- mainly northern- Rock bands are a little too concerned with trying to replicate Turner’s mob; their sound and sensation- ignorant to the fact that they cannot get to within spitting distance. It is great when bands inspire others, but in a competitive and crowded market, it is individuality and personality which wins you fans, stripes and album sales. Crystal Seagulls have been playing and plugging hard over the last year, enjoying some illustrious gigs as well as keen attention. Their Facebook and Twitter pages are filled with happy memories, photographs and proud declensions. “The band have performed a fair few gigs all over the country, notably headlining venues such as Barfly, The Water Rats, Proud, The Troubadour, The Notting Hill Arts Club, and their stage at 2012’s sell out Brisfest. Last Year they played The Big Top stage at the Isle of Wight Festival, where their music was used as the soundtrack for the entire weekend“. Over the first month of this year, the boys have been completing their E.P. Elz and Jim have been interviewing and promoting hard; the band have played across London, ensuring their music is heard by as many people as possible- the E.P. is result of many months of hard work. I shall go into more depth about the E.P. in the conclusion, but for now I must alert you to two of the tracks from the release: Heart Won’t Beat and Hands Inside The Dark.
On their Facebook page, the lads describe Heart Won’t Beat as: “A song where groove, pop and rock are married polygamously together in harmony“. That sense of polygamy and mellifluous cohabitation is evidenced right from the off. The pulsing and slinking intro. immediately puts your mind to attention. It has a whiff of Bill Withers’ Lovely Day; a smidge of Another One Bites The Dust– as well a relationship of menace and melody. The snaking coda certainly has plenty of groove; it has a kiss of funk that you could imagine Prince snapping up. The lads subtly layer in the audio intrigue. There is a crackling of electric guitar with a heartbeat of bass. Building on top of the foundations, the mood and pace becomes a little more enlivened. Guitar spars with drum and the two merrily dance alongside one another. It is a pleasing and sun-kissed introduction that borders Reaggae, Funk and Soul, as well as having some modern-day Rock promise too. Before any words have been uttered, you are already compelled and sucked in. After a 30-second parable of foreplay, our hero steps to the mic. Initial implore bids: “Please close the door“. There is evidently some dislocation or dissatisfaction at the core of the track; an entangled love story is concluding, as- with metronome precision- it is said: “My heart won’t beat for you“. Whilst our hero prefers to leave the love scenes “for the movies” it is clear that he moving on; picking up his things and heading off. Right from the early iterations and supplications, the band are tight and taut. Each note and passage perfectly blends with one another, and a subtle yet potent jam is elicited. The harmony and intuition between the quartet gives the track an additional shimmer. Although the track’s themes tell of romance-gone-wrong and incongruity, the words are delivered with an air of bonhomie. The lines are not spat or drawled; instead perfectly delivered and paced that you are sucked in and rooting for our hero. Even the most evocative lines (“Just scream for absolution“) seem catchy and calm when backed by the dizzying and solid backing. As the vocal becomes more impassioned and enraptured the mood is still kept controlled; it creates a sense of drama and light-heartedness that pull your brain and heart in different directions. Whilst our hero advises his former sweetheart: “Let go/’Cause you’ll never know“, the band strike and pervade; ramping up the momentum and introducing some new and invigorating guitar and bass lines. As the vocal rises to a falsetto the taut-ness starts to slack, allowing the mellifluous jam to swing and dance. The song has a danceable quality that is hard to shake off. Your head and feet with start to sway and nod and the track implores you to get up and move. You almost forget that at the core some soul-searching and finger-pointing is being dished out- so entrancing is the intoxicating groove. Our frontman lets his disgraced subject know how he feels; it seems that ever second and hour “decays (my) mind“. There is perhaps an evocation of Biffy Clyro in the way that the powerful and impassioned vocals- combined with a polygamous sonic line- creates something epic and anthemic. The boys whip up a final storm; re-introducing the scornful chorus as the song comes to a close. Just as you feel they are coming back for one more attack, the track is laid to rest with a wordless falsetto coo. By the final second you are left wanting more, yet still ensconced within the words and images that have been presented. The four-piece manage to melt Pop, Rock and Funk into every stage of the song; keeping it focused and tight- and constantly intriguing and mobile. Whomever has earned the disrespect of our Seagulls is being put to rights. A lot of songs deal with the purveyance of a broken relationship, yet few do it with so much aplomb and energy. Rather than unleash a track that is too overpowering and negative, the lads seamlessly pair a bright and elliptical sonic score with direct and powerful vocal-and-lyrics combo- the effect is impressive and stunning. As opening tracks go, they could not have done a better job. It is one that will capture listeners and strike their mind: it is a perfect opening salvo, yet stands alone in terms of its sound and storyline. I have already reviewed tracks two and four from the E.P., so we leapfrog from Heart Won’t Beat, along to Hands Inside The Dark. Whilst Sol Invictus presided over our previous track, Neptune rules over Hands Inside The Dark. Crystal Seagulls shift through the gears and unveil an interdiction. The introduction is a lot heavier and harder than Heart‘ and it is apt that the band describe the track as “A rocky, raw and raunchy tale of infidelity with a touch of the psychedelic“. It is clear that the song takes its belt off and starts to unbutton long before any words have been sung. Whilst the mood is not entirely oppressive and dark, there is plenty of force and intention offered forth. It has the feel of classic rock tracks/bands of the ’60s and ’70s, yet has a vibrancy and off-the-moment sound that puts you in mind of the likes of Foo Fighters and Arctic Monkeys. It is an embryonic scene-setter that strikes and punches; the guitar retreats and fires, twangs and pulverizes; the percussion slams and there is something else: a touch of the Blues. I detected an evocation of De Stijl-era The White Stripes. This remembrance is solidified in the vocal line that follows. In the way that a young Jack White ran riot over a ’00s-circa-’30s Blues jam, our boys update the sound- with an injection of modern-day London. Initial signs take us, once more, to the shores of romantic recrimination (“How can you love and lie/At the same time?“). Not all is well in the palace of Crystal Seagulls. Our man steps to the mic. to tear the flesh from a guilty beau (whether it is the same from Heart Won’t Beat or another, I am not sure). Although further revelations suggest that flesh is perhaps not being torn; more tempted and teased. The ‘heroine’ is the queen, whilst our protagonist is “(your) concubine”. Roses and poetry feature seldom in a tableaux that depicts kingdoms and dungeons: there is clearly some sweat and raw sexuality at the core of the track. As the track kicks up a notch before the 1:00 mark, there is an energy rush that puts me in mind of early-period Oasis. There is an air of Cigarettes and Alcohol/Morning Glory Gallagher. Whereas most of the Definitely Maybe/What’s The Story (Morning Glory) regency examined more heartfelt themes, here there is a bit more fire, spit and lust. I love the way that there is a stitch-less parabond of U.S. Blues and Britpop-esque Manchester running throughout. In the verses, the vocal is argumentative and authoritative; the composition is masculine and swaggering. When our hero steps away from the mic., the boys calm things down- but never let the potent-o-meter drop. The percussion snakes and slithers, whilst the guitar cooly shakes its hips. It is a slower and more languid vibe, but one that is crammed-full of cool, cockiness and toothpick-chewing f***-you attitude. Perhaps my dewy-eyed diversions of love and possible-romance were premature. The start of the second verse suggests that events are taking a twist: “Your double life is catching up/I saw your friend creep out the closest in the room“. In this tale, our hero questions and probes his guilty subject. It seems she has been sneaking about; enraptured in a double life, where she is having her cake- and very much eating it. When the chorus rides into view, our hero surveys the scene: “With your hands inside the dark/Like strangers in the park“. The lines are delivered with a gusto and passion that is hard to match (or fault)- again giving a strange and wonderful quality to some less-than-romantic lamentations. Whereas song such as Heart Won’t Beat has a linear- yet perambulating itinerary, here the pace and sound is shape-shifting and unpredictable. Just as you have been swept up in the rush and momentum of the previous few seconds, the energy abates. Sonic picture-painting replaces vocals as the boys summon up a curious coda. Guitars bait-and-switch; a string of electric guitar bites snake-like; rhythm guitar and bass create a wave- accompanied by heavy-hearted percussion- before the tone and theme changes once more. At the 2:06 marker, I hear some scents of early Blur. Rarely can a band marry elements of polar bands such as Oasis and Blur (as well as retaining their original personality and core), yet it is seamlessly achieved, here. I picked up on some The Great Escape/Blur-era Blur; little flecks of Charmless Man/Country House/Beetlebum/The Universal mingling in the notes. Hard Rock mutated into epic Rock/Indie; morphs into gleeful Britpop, and comes back to land- all before the 2:15 mark. Just as the atmosphere lifts into the stratosphere, we are back under the feet of the chorus as our hero comes back to the fore. The vocal by-play that comes into effect is hugely atmospheric and memorable. Voices blend and weave inside of one another to create an emotional and effective crescendo. As the song reaches its embers, the pace and relentless force starts to desist. You catch your breath, and stand back from the wreckage. Another sonic gem has been unleashed: one that differs greatly from Heart Won’t Beat– yet contain’s the band’s elementary cores and values.
It may be a fair few months before I get my hands upon any new Crystal Seagulls material. I feel like I have been watching and writing about them from the start, but in actuality is has been less than a year. The boys have crammed so much in over the months, that it has been quite dizzying. The credit and plaudits they have already received is well-deserved and has given them ammunition to create a brilliant E.P. I have witnessed and reviewed each of the four songs at different stages, and am always amazed by the one constant: the quality. Each of the four tracks on E.P.-1 is different and offers a new sound and theme. The boys describe Time as: “A dancey summery jam which brings sunshine to the winter months by evoking reminiscence of the summer months“. Toetapper is summarises as being, “A fast-paced, primal rampage of sex, drugs and rock n roll in its purest form“. Between those two tracks, one could not imagine any common thread. Such is the ambition and range of the boys that they can seamlessly master lascivious and primitive rollicking; as well as creating paens to summer in its purest form. Those two tracks appeal to a wide sector of music-lover, including lovers of the psychedelic bliss of the ’60s; the glorious sunshine Rock of the ’90s- as well as diehards of legends such as AC/DC and Led Zeppelin. Within Heart Won’t Beat and Hands Inside The Dark are two big- and differing- steps. There is groove and grime; sex and peace; polygamy and the pusillanimous. Many newer bands and artists tend to make their E.P.s somewhat safe and androgynous. As much as anything, the releases tend to be quite restrained and un-challenging. It is okay to have some songs that sound similar, yet if you have an E.P. with three or four very familiar tracks, then you are going to grab the attention of a small minority. Crystal Seagulls understand the importance of vitality and range. As much as I keep harking back on this subject, but one of the greatest musical events of last year was ..Like Clockwork. The latest L.P. from Queens of the Stone Age is still in my head now. The album hit me so hard because of the unexpectedness of it all. They are one of my favourite bands of any, yet I was not sure they had much in the tank after Era Vulgaris. That album was a little tame when compared with their previous works, and I was concerned that Homme and crew were in danger of early retirement. When …Like Clockwork was unleashed, it was business as usual- and some. There was the traditional and mesmeric Rock of My God Is The Sun; the sex-driven groove of Smooth Sailing. The album’s title track was a beautiful and tender swan-sgong, whereas cuts such as I Appear Missing offered something unexplainable. It was the range and diversity within the album that was so engaging. The best albums and tracks from any year will always be judged on their quality, as well as the ground they cover. Queens of the Stone Age produced the year’s best album, because there as no filler: just a whole bunch of kick-ass glory. Crystal Seagulls have produced a similar trick- with a slight truncation. They can blend and melt sun-kissed slingers alongside sweat dripping sexual amor; brutal kicks spar with delirious licks and within four tracks they manage to summon up a multitude of sin and smile. I’m sure I will be affiliated with Crystal Seagulls again sometime this year, but for now, I will leave you with a few key observations. Alex Turner was right when he said that rock was always lurking in the mud; always working away in the background and a threat that you cannot deter. It is something that is elemental and historical; more inspiring and evocative than any other form of music. Our London boys are going to be a band whom will enjoy a long regency. Their lyrics, music and vocals are consistently brilliant and skillful, and their songs bursting with electricity and a unique je ne sais quoi. The crystalline sea-scavengers have been flying high for months now, and their E.P. demonstrates just what a talent they are. I always recommend that listeners and music-lovers get on board a band (or act) in the embryonic stages- leet they be seen as fair-weather fans. The future will promise further E.P.s, albums and tours, but for now the boys can comfort themselves with the fact that they will be playing some very key venues very soon. I have seen lesser talents be adored and applauded across the U.S.; newer acts go on to play some of the best venues across London. It seems that Crystal Seagulls will be able to take their pick, and the spring and summer will be jam-packed and eventful. Their Instagram and Facebook feeds show how much fun the lads are having, and how much their music means to people. They are having a blast making music, and this energy is reciprocated within their music; the alacrity and drive they inject into each song marks them out as major future stars. If the likes of Alex Turner are telling this generation exactly how things are, then it will not be long until the likes of Crystal Seagulls are doing likewise. Sadly, there will always be a need to eviscerate and educate naive and impotent minds, yet so long as fantastic acts play hard and loud, then it is a small price to pay. I am not sure what is the calendars for Crystal Seagulls (with regards to follow-up music), yet they can be certain of one thing:
THEIR lives are about to get a lot busier and more prosperous.
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