Gorilla Punch Radio
No Retreat is available from iTunes on 7th August, 2015
Indie-Rock; Alternative; Rock
IT is time to say hello to one of the most…
uniquely-titled bands in the world. The pronunciation of their name conjures everything from tropical radio stations to violent primates- their music, weirdly, mixes the two. I have dealt with the Leeds-based band before: the tail-end of last year I got to say ‘hi’ and check out what they are about. At the moment, the group is preparing to launch No Retreat: their huge single that is gaining radio-play and huge plaudits. Before I delve more into the band, I want to raise an important point: getting acts together/social media compartmentalisation. In the course of my ‘duties’ I get to hear some varied acts; hear a lot of great new music- you often wonder whether they could do better. I don’t mean in the sense of quality; more quantity: can their social media numbers be boosted honestly? I have managed to connect a few acts- through #FF-ing on Twitter; sharing stuff on Facebook- yet there is still some division- lots of similar bands are missing out (on one another). It is good to be back in Leeds- at one point most of my reviews were set in Yorkshire- and a growing band with a great sound. I am organizing a charity music day/night in November- at a local music venue- and getting bands together: Gorilla Punch Radio would make a perfect addition (to the line-up). Like Goldbirds- another young act in their first stages- Gorilla’ make hot and heavy sounds- hardly a shock given their name- and birth colossal riffs and epic soar. Working in a bar (as a D.J., among other duties) I get to do a Monday night slot I review four albums: one of them has to be brand-new; one ‘older’ (1985 and earlier) one of my choice- the final one has to be influential. From the likes of Los and the Deadlines to Gorilla Punch Radio, Foo Fighters are a big influence. In fact, this Monday night, as part of my album reviews- Sly and the Family Stone, Radiohead and Sleaford Mods are included- is Foo Fighters (and their seminal album The Colour and the Shape). That album has compelled a lot of new acts- songs like Everlong and Monkey Wrench cannot be ignored for their impact and effect- and G.P.R. have taken this on board- their sounds under Foo Fighters’ riff-age and update it. No Retreat is abound with Grohl-esque vocal; seductive slink and ferocious arpeggio jams; brutal to-the-bone pummel- tied around lyrics of alienation and against-the-odds f***-you mentality. Returning to my original point, Gorilla Punch Radio has stablemates and hombres: bands that play a similar sound; have that same spark and booze-flecked abandon. Hopefully I can get Gorilla Punch Radio to the south- come November time- along with Los and the Deadlines, Goldbirds, Bi:Lingual and Allusondrugs- to my mind, some of the most essential Indie/Rock bands coming through. Yorkshire is producing (and has done for a while) some quintessential acts- a county cannot stop giving birth to some good-looking babies- and continues to do so- few county-mates sound like Gorilla’. Before I wrap-up the point, let’s have a look into the band’s biography:
“Gorilla Punch Radio, an exciting new alternative rock band from Leeds, are proud to announce the release of their debut single ‘No Retreat’.
After touring extensively in support of artists such as The Struts, The Pigeon Detectives and New City Kings with his former band Titans Troubadours, guitarist and singer Paul James decided to pursue his own sound and formed Gorilla Punch Radio in late 2014.
Mixed by the acclaimed engineer/producer Elliot Vaughan, whose previous clients include: Pulled Apart by Horses, Frank Turner and They Fell from the Sky, ‘No Retreat’ kicks off with an explosive guitar riff that’s sure to have fans banging their heads and punching the air.
The song’s theme focuses around the gritty realities of standing up in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds, with lyrics that are designed to inspire courage and a refusal to back down.
“We’re really excited about this song as it has taken a while to craft and perfect. Elliot has successfully captured the energy of Gorilla Punch Radio in this recording, and we can’t wait to share it with everybody!” – Paul James of Gorilla Punch Radio.
The radio-beating gorillas- I will ask them one day the genesis of their band moniker- have not been wasting time- instead honing their sound and making their new single the best it can be. The band is coming into the market at the perfect time: the likes of Royal Blood and Drenge have redefined Alternative-Rock- that sort of White Stripes-cum-Led Zeppelin-via-Queens of the Stone Age jam. Gorilla Punch Radio has a range of influences- mainly U.S.-led- and distills this in their unique brand of music. The boys are looking ahead to 2016: who knows what is to come from the group; just what a potential album will sound like.
If you are new to Gorilla Punch Radio, there are a few acts that are good starting points- to see who has influenced the Leeds four-piece. In terms of U.S. examples, I would say Nirvana and Foo Fighters count as idols (and to a degree our version of Nirvana, Allusondrugs). Like their Leeds contemporaries Allusondrugs, Gorilla Punch Radio has their ear on ‘90s Grunge. In terms of album comparisons- for Nirvana and Foo Fighters- I would select Bleach and The Colour and the Shape. Nirvana’s debut was filled with rough and loose-sounding jams; Kurt Cobain’s burgeoning songwriting talent; a keen eye for social commentary and romantic rage- a perfect mix of meaty riffs and superb band interplay. In terms of attack and lunge, The Colour and the Shape may not be in the Foo’s top 3; however, the album remains influential and inspirational. Its Post-Grunge production values/sound inspired legions of bands and followers. The powerful rushes and big hooks defined that Post-Grunge era; it comes through in Gorilla Punch Radio’s single- you can hear little bits of Up in Arms and Monkey Wrench. Like Grohl, Gorilla Punch Radio has a graveled and masculine voice: a powerful set of pipes that shred through the material- no sense of cadence or fatigue throughout. I would say- in terms of U.K. influence- you’d look at Royal Blood and Muse. Royal Blood- themselves not long in this world- have created quite a furor; critics are salivating over their innovative sound. Of course Royal Blood employ no guitars- getting that ‘guitar sound’ from bass only- but their straight-ahead attacks; mandates on love and broken hopes have been extrapolated by Gorilla’: the boys have aspects of Royal Blood’s debut- that same endeavor and ambition; the epic riffs and huge choruses. Listen to the likes of Figure It Out and Out of the Black and you can hear a bit of No Retreat: the trip, duck and dive; the groove and head-rush; that immense carnivorous bite- all backed with some pretty cutting lyrics. The production values are quite similar too: both bands come across as both live-sounding and polished. Words and utterances do not get over-bleached or drowned; the vocals do not get pushed down and suppressed- it is all up-front and elemental. At the same time, there is a great ragged edge to things: Gorilla Punch Radio wants their music to sound like it is in your face- no studio tinsel and needless overproduction here, thanks! When comparing Gorilla Punch Radio to Muse, you’d go back to their ‘glory days’- the 1-2-3 of Origins of Symmetry, Absolution and Black Holes and Revelations. Nowadays (and as was evident with Drones) Matt Bellamy has been getting his crayons out; scribbling pseudo-political lyrics with a surprising amount of juvenilia and homoeroticism- Bellamy is more Chad Kroeger than Bob Dylan when it comes to penning a line. Among the over-serious attacks and lyrical retardation, the riffs and bat-shit-crazy goofiness remains- the likes of Repears, Defector and The Handler are among their best tracks. Muse hit their peak (in my opinion) on Black Holes and Revelations. That album saw their riffs at their sharpest- with Assassin and Map of the Problematique right up there- and the emotion at its most earnest (songs like Soldier’s Poem and Supermassive Black Hole are delightful). Gorilla Punch Radio take that ‘overblown’ aspect and mute it slightly: they have retained the sharp and face-slicing riffs; the operatic and dramatic vocals; the made-for-the-U.S.A. sound. What is most evident- and the best comparison- is the craft and production. On Black Holes’, Muse sound fully-realised and equal- in previous releases it was The Matt Bellamy Show. With No Retreat, Gorilla Punch Radio sound equal and in-step; each member pulls their weight impressively and there is no sense of imbalance- each instrument gains equal footing to add to the overall quality and force.
When the band released their self-titled debut album- at the end of last year- tracks like Bragging Rights stood out- that song was appropriate in its declarations. The immediacy and intuition was evident from the off; the song was filled with passion and urgency. On No Retreat the boys sound even more confident and assured- from the earliest seconds, they have improved their sound; come on since their earliest days. From the get-go, the riff is snaking and poisonous: it snakes and jives its way through the speakers; a concoction of threads and notes- fizzing and popping with energy and potential. Flecks of Foo Fighters and Royal Blood unite to create something fascinating and teasing- the listen has their interest and imagination pricked instantaneously. Clattering and rumbling, the band unites tight and fiercely. The boys are up the task at hand: the percussion is particularly dominant (in the early exchanges) as the Gorilla boys whip an epic and grand-standing introduction. When our man gets to the microphone, you can feel the anxiety and hostility. Pressure is building; the strain is coming- like “acid dripping in an open wound”- and he is pressure-bound and all-consumed. Whatever has compelled this feeling- whether the stresses of modern life or high expectations- there is an unnerving degree of anger and explosion. The fires are burning; the tensions are building: our man is overcoming the odds against some rather stringent forces. In terms of the mixing and production, the vocal is given a good chance to shine and focus- it is not buried low and crowded by the instruments. That said, the mix also allows plenty of instrumental swagger and prevalence- the band members never let up their energy and motivation. With some Grohl-esque growl, the sense of balkanisation is evident: either rallying against life’s pressures- or people who are letting him down- our hero is putting up his armour (and suggesting sides are being picked). Just after the 1:00 mark- and after the initial round of anxiety- the band crank out a spiraling riff; prabond their instruments in a flurry of fist-pump and shout- making sure the listener’s attention does not wane or wander. In the same way Royal Blood slam and punch- not to belabour a point or compare the band to them too much- the Gorilla boys have that same raw and relentless sound; the mixture of ‘90s Grunge/Indie with something unique- an insight into the struggles the band face. Defiant in the face of adversity, the lads are faced with fist-raising enemies- these gorillas are waiting in the mist- and detractors. Both youthful and mature, the band is waiting for submission: they will not be beaten and put-down; they are here for the long-run. Whether a declaration to the music industry- the band will not be overcome and overlooked- or something personal, that determined and relentless voice cannot be overlooked. In fact, at the mid-way point, the guitar work shines brightest: a delirious and whacked-out grumbling riff burrows through the concrete; conspiring with drum and bass, the band reaches their heavy best. Beefy and British- a fuse of contemporary ‘Blood and ‘80s Judas Priest- the fretwork is both exhausting and exhilarating; it keeps the mind guessing and the ears hooked. When our man is back at the microphone, his burden is no less extinct- that insatiable chorus comes round to root. Melodic and sing-along, forceful and bolshie, you cannot help but chant in support- the bitterness and side-choosing; rebellion and masculinity. The lines have been drawn- as we find out by this stage- and the vocal becomes malevolent and cooing (down to a whisper at this stage) as the lines “have been drawn” and another has come; there is that tangible sense of warfare- sides coming together in an explosive riot. The Muse comparisons may not be too far off (at this stage) as there is some tremendous vocal work- something operatic and high-pitched is unleashed in the background- and the riffs have that Absolution sound (Plug In Baby and The Small Print especially) – the lads expertly walk the line of genuine honesty and intergalactic epic-ness (a combination not even Muse can the hang of these days- one suspects Matt Bellamy needs to find a good woman and read some Aldous Huxley). By the end, the boys join vocals; the heat is well and truly on- the song becomes a sprinting bull; a wild and horny monster (the extent of the emotions involved is combustible). The final notes are a guitar hold: a final note is struck and it is held; floating in the musical cosmos. This a good move as not only do you get a very vivid picture- imagine the boys downing instruments and walking off with triumph to applause- but it allows some calm and consistency (although a nice, sharp ending may have been better: think Out of The Black and Loose Change is we want to go Royal Blood again).
Each member of the band has expounded a lot of effort and time: No Retreat is testament to a lot of craft and discussion; some dry-runs and rehearsal- a song that sounds as loose as it does honed and studied. The exceptional production values and tremendous mixing means every note is decipherable and crystalline- yet instilled with some dents and cracks (to give it a great live sound). The lyrics remain simple yet personal; nuanced and open for interpretation: the band are fighting forces of suppression; trying to battle the odds- yet you are never 100% sure if they are battling particular people (or just the state of the world). This means, not only can listeners fill in the gaps, but the song appeals to a wider audience- if it were too insular and personal its appeal would be finite and mortal. As it is, their single has all the mainstream appeal or your Royal Bloods, yet is ready-made for the underground pits- the sweat-flailing floors of the country’s best music venues. Arms aloft and fist-pumping in its criteria, the Leeds collective have crafted something both classic and current- yet they do not sound too like anyone else; only themselves. The guitar work is exceptional and ferocious for large parts. When it needs to be controlled and calm, it always bubbles with intent: threatening to punch you in the jaw at any provocation. The bass work guides and glides in the calmer moments; frantic and driving when the song explodes. Similarly the drums provide a constant heartbeat and sense of primeval beat: always making the song sound Jurassic and masculine in every moment. Together, the instruments create a Rock symphony; a concrete-aiming kick to the senses- and it succeeds in achieving its aims. With vocal work that has suggestions of Dave Grohl and the Grunge greats, we have a forceful and powerful voice: something that makes No Retreat such a terrific song.
It is hard to point at any negatives or suggestions. At points, I would suggest making the vocal even fiercer and wracked: adding in a primal call and scream; adding extra intensity in the chorus perhaps- matching the passion and fervency of the instrumentation. With regards the mixing- although it is exceptional indeed- perhaps putting the percussion higher up the mix. No Retreat is a song that demands a huge beat and clear kick- putting the drum further up; clarifying and defining its quality and the song would have a punchier and harder sound (that its lyrics cry out for). They are minor suggestions, and in reality, I cannot fault the song for any reason. The Leeds collective has not only unleashed a superb stand-along single, but a taste of the future: if they produce an album with songs like his, they will be festival booked in a second. Primed and born for both underground venues and large stages, the boys should prime themselves for the future- they are sure to be big names before you know it.
Having dealt with the band before (and their music) I knew what to expect to a degree- No Retreat blows away any cobwebs of expectation. No mere Foo Fighters wannabe, the lads inject their own cocktail of force and relevance: a song that speaks to the listener whilst kicking them square in the nuts. Cranking the volume all the way to 12 (even Spinal Tap couldn’t kick it that far) the Leeds brotherhood has unleashed a snarling cross-breed: the teeth and snarl of a British bulldog; the heart of and hunt instinct of an American Fox Hound. Together, you have an unbeatable combination: edges of American greats with some home-grown honesty. The band has taken every care to ensure No Retreat is a supreme thing; it is polished and ragged; rough-and-ready around the edges. Let’s hope new music embraces the potential of Gorilla Punch Radio: the band is no mere one-trick ponies; they have a lot more to say. When I reviewed Goldbirds- and their brilliant new music- I was confident they will go onto great things- I have no hesitations here. Radio stations are embracing Gorilla Punch Radio; their fan-base is starting to climb- their social media ranks will be expanding and diversifying. One day we will discover a social media platform for music- takes away the needless aspects of Facebook and Twitter- and dedicate something to music/musicians. That way, not only will venues be aware of ideal/perfect bands (for their venue) but other musicians will be able to connect- fans will be able to find their type of music without serendipity. ReverbNation and their ilk do okay but there is nothing comprehensive and fully-fledged. At the moment, we have to rely on luck and good fortune: the mainstream media cannot uncover every great act out there; it is a hell of a challenge. I hope the lads get some more sounds out there; get a full SoundCloud and YouTube account set up- at the moment, it is quite hard to locate their music. In time- and when they have more songs out there- they will be readily available. Their Facebook and Twitter accounts are well-maintained and full; they want to make sure they are updated and full- plenty of people will want to keep abreast of all their news. What more can one say then? Well, it seems new music is producing plenty of variety; some terrific acts are coming through- I wish Gorilla Punch Radio all the best. The Indie/Rock/Alternative mould is starting to fill up; the competition and range is quite immense- everyone fighting for those future festival dates. If the band keep crafting gems like No Retreat, then they will be assured: the likes of Los’ and The Goldbirds have shown what can be achieved if you get your sound right. Personal and unique; contemporary and familiar in places, the Leeds clan should be very proud- make sure you do not overlook what they have to offer. In a year that has provided some great acts; songs that stick in the mind, No Retreat is right up with them. I have a feeling…
2016 will be a great year for the band.
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