Worry is available at:
HAVING just reviewed a run of artists releasing fairly-new material…
I am taking my mind back a couple of years to review music by an excellent up-and-coming band. Before I get to my featured act, I have been thinking about music’s variety; the quality of music emanating from Scotland- in addition to the importance of keeping Rock burning bright. I think there are quite a few issues when it comes to music. The mainstream seems to be too fixated with certain kind of artists/sounds- when it comes to promoting. The best albums from last year (in the mainstream) came from Kendrick Lamar, Jamie xx and Courtney Barnett- all very unique and different artists. To my mind, their music and rise was less focused-upon than the likes of Coldplay, Adele and The Libertines- acts who produced very so-so albums; yet were a lot more radio-friendly and commercial. It seems the best and brightest always have to fight harder to get acclaim- and are scandalously overlooked by the mainstream media- and do not get just reward. If it were not for a few end-of-year lists I would not have discovered Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly or Courtney Barnett’s Sometimes I Just Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit. Aside from its unwieldy title, the latter is among the most urgent and stunning Rock albums for many years. The humour and surrealism sits alongside nuanced tracks that reveal fresh beauty after every listen- every track hits straight for the brain. Whilst topping polls and ‘best of’ lists; the albums received comparatively little mainstream focus- compared with the unspectacular offerings from artists who should be doing better. It seems all the most genuine and inspiring music is being overlooked and ignored to an extent. In terms of new music, there are some great acts and bands coming through- a lot of music publications are still concentrating too heavily on those who will be popular; rather than those who will provide exceptional music. If you look hard enough, you get to discover some genuinely amazing artists- those that have potential to be big names in future years. One of the (other) issues with new music is its sheer size and numbers- almost impossible to confine, organise and compartmentalise it. Before raising some new points, let me introduce my featured act:
Vocals/Rhythm Guitar – Mark McSween
Rhythm Guitar/Backing Vocals– Alan Burgess
Lead Guitar – Lloyd McAllister
Bass – James McSherry
Drums – Allen Hopkinson
Glasgow based Rock ‘n’ Roll band formed February 2013, started gigging in June 2013. Playing currently in venues around Scotland”.
Over the last few months I have become fatigued and a little disenchanted by some of the groups coming out. What you get from solo artists is mobility and diversity. They can perform Soul, Pop, Rock, Electro. – pretty much anything they want. I have always found bands to be more restrictive when it comes to their sounds- a lot tend to blend into each other. Those that do stick out are few and far between; luckily one such band is The Fables. It is no surprise to see Glasgow producing another great band (the city has a great reputation). The ‘Fables boys seem like honest and genuine musicians: The type that would rather see their music on C.D. and produce a physical product; rather than be online-only. Fewer people are actually buying music in shops anymore- favouring the ease and facelessness of digital downloads and streaming. The Fables are a band that put me in mind of the classic ‘70s Hard-Rock bands- the type that have followed music’s greats and want to follow in their footsteps. Of course the Glasgow boys have to conform to social media and music-streaming sites- but have that genuine Rock ‘n’ Roll spirit to them. Glasgow is a city that often gets overlooked compared to Edinburgh- when people think of new Scottish bands they often head there. Whilst the two cities are very different; when it comes to music, I think Glasgow might be edging it. Over the past few years, the likes of Deathcats and The Yawns have emerged into public consciousness. Neon Waltz, Machines in Heaven; Babystrange and The Amazing Snakeheads are all going to be making moves this year. I find bands elsewhere in the U.K. – from London to Manchester- tend not to have as much personality and charm as Scotland’s finest. Glasgow is producing some terrific bands that are rebelling against the rather predictable and crowd-following examples emerging further south. The Fables are very much indebted to Rock and its glorious history. The boys have the classic four-piece line-up; they LOOK like a Rock band- not pre-pubescents with dodgy hair; high street fashion and fake attitude- that are making music because it means the world to them- not to get their faces smothered on magazines; Radio One drooling over their latest single. Having formed a few years ago, the lads have barely stopped for breath. Many commentators have speculated Rock is all-but dead; it is not as potent and qualitative as it should be. Whilst there is some true Rock has lost some of its edge- due to the sheer number of bands throwing their name into the ring- there are some great bands out there who are doing new things; away from the mainstream-attention-seeking behavior of some acts. The genre has seen so many representatives come through over the last decade; it is getting harder and harder to discover true Rock acts- those reinventing and reviving the genre. I mentioned Courtney Barnett earlier as she was celebrated for giving Rock a fresh lease- putting wit, pathos and personality into her extraordinary music. She did not have to reinvent it and change it too much- just be different and original. The Fables have a love for older-days Rock ‘n’ Roll but do not wear their influences too heavily on their sleeves. What you get is a band with an original sound that also infuses essence of past-days bands. Having toured last year the boys are lining up gigs for the year ahead. It would be great to see an E.P. come through to show the music world where they are now. With a few fantastic tracks under their belt it would be the time to get some more tunes out there- as 2016 looks to hot-up pretty damn quickly. I am sure the guys are planning their next move; it will be fascinating to see where they head next- hopefully they will do some tour dates further south (hitting London at some point).
Whilst Worry has its own charm and direction; if you want a full picture of The Fables, then it is worth comparing it to Like I Do. Whilst the band keeps their sound and tightness strong; the two songs are very different beasts. Like I Do begins with a swinging and swaggering introduction. The bass gives the song a funky and feet-kicking push that perfectly melts with the hissing percussion- before the guitar comes winding in like a cobra. Pulsating and scintillating; you get a hell of a slam from the first moments. Our front-man has embers of Joe Strummer when at his rawest; shades of Tom Petty in there too- whilst keeping that native accent pure and unfettered. The song looks at deceit and double-cross; “foot on the other shoe” and being bled dry. Maybe this song recounts a past love and bond- one that has now hit the skids. Having bled our man dry; you get that anger and recrimination coming out- backed by a drunken and avalanche riff. The song has such a great (and pure) Punk spirit; straight from 1974, you could imagine the likes of Sex Pistols loving this one- whilst the song has a contemporary vibe to it. The band never polishes their songs; ensuring that emotion, masculinity and Rock spirit is unadorned and pure. A wonderfully measured and controlled lead vocal ensures the track resonates and sticks in the mind- it is not rushed or unintelligible; it is beautifully projected and controlled. Whilst the heroine’s hazy eyes are turning blue; unleashed is a spiraling and tornado riff- one that twists and contorts with malevolent glee. One of the most boisterous and addictive guitar performances I have heard; it makes the tracks hugely impressive and grand. A clear made-for-the-live-crowds slam; it is a song that gets better with each passing moment. The poisonous-tongued heroine and events transpiring provoke vivid images and wonderful scenes. By the final moments you wish the song would continue and linger a little longer- the band keep things economical and tight.
What is consistent- through every song they produce- is how tight the performances are; they are completely in-step at every stage. Like I Do and Worry should the band are agile songwriters and do not just stick to one sound- both tracks have contrasts and very different skins. The consistency in each relates to the performances and determination. The boys never miss a step and sound completely together- without making their music sound too rehearsed; keeping things natural, live and edgy. With too many bands coming across overly-rehearsed and far too clinical. Were the likes of The Ramones, Sex Pistols or The Clash to sound fake, polished and unnatural they would not have lasting careers and respect- something more bands should take note of. With a couple of gems online- others making their way into set-lists- it will be fascinating to see how these tracks gel-together in a future release.
The opening moments of Worry show some Bluesy and emotional strings- a trickle and semi-cascade of notes- that gets the song off to a flying start. Soon enough our hero is at the microphone and the song kicks up a gear; lyrics about anxieties and everyday woes. Our man lets it known there are worries on his mind- things that plague him all the time- and there is a weight on his shoulder. There is a brilliant ‘60s vibe to the melody/music- shades of The Beatles and their Power-Pop contemporaries- melted with some ‘70s Punk undertones. Our lead lets his voice project those inner-doubts and fears. It is not said what exactly causes this woes- whether a relationship has broken down or life is becoming too heavy- but you can hear that angst and disappointment in the vocal. Worries are attributed and represented in various different way. Is our hero worrying too much? Is he worrying enough? He is/should be/might worry about his girl- his head a centrifuge of mixed emotions and uncertainty. Speculating and questioning life; he wonders whether things will be better today. It is clear our boy has gone through a lot and has taken a burden on- maybe things are not going as well as they should. Whereas Like I Do has a gritty Punk slam to it; Worry has more melody and a more uplifted composition- without becoming too Pop-y and mainstream. It shows a wonderful side to the band- and proves how adaptable and diverse they are- and portrays some real emotions. As the song progresses, you wonder who the song is directed at- whether it is a lover or friend- as the song is a confession of sorts. With all these doubts and worries on his mind; there is a need and desperation to offload them and find his way back to safe land- be the man he used to be. The panic that is inside is “freaking me out”; our hero is enraptured in a storm of confusion and stress. You are always wondering exactly what has inspired the song- whether there is a heartbreaking split or a lack of finance; fights with friends or the pressures of the music industry. At every stage the mind imagines and tries to dig to the bottom of things. Perhaps life used to be more prosperous and better; it is at a stage where things have turned around and soured- that need for betterment and improvement is evident. As our hero lets his voice ache and pervade; the band project a subtle and uplifting composition- imbued with ‘60s-Pop; ‘70s-Punk- a beautiful concoction of sensations and genres. The band reemploys lyrics to enforce that sense of urgency and doubt- whether tomorrow will be a better day; if they will change at all- making the track addictive, memorable and singalong. The Fables are masters of crafting songs that seem ready-made for the live crowds and gangs. Whereas most new bands tend to aim for arenas with their sound- all heavy riffs with no direction or personality- The Fables go for something more intimate and genuine. Their songs are destined for the vintage and gilded music venues- the type that attract genuine music lovers- and you can hear the attention, affection and detail in their music. Worry breaks at the half-way point to elicit an emotive and glistening guitar solo- something that continues the story and fully represents the emotions of the song. It is at this stage the band come fully together in song; the instruments blend wonderfully and intuitively- summoning up plenty of colour, panache and power. After the speculative and intriguing early-verse words, you get reminiscence and back story- as our hero comes back to the microphone. Harking back to glory days- when he used to hang around with friends in the day- there is that desire to go back there and recapture that spark. Perhaps the magic has run dry but our hero is not through yet- just going through a bad spell. The song is one that so many people can identify with. If you are going through an uncertain period; there is that desire to return to childhood days- perhaps a time when things were simpler and uncomplicated. I wonder whether our hero has encountered a break-up; whether success is not as ready perhaps as they should- those memories of better days come flooding in. Perhaps the ‘good old days’; yet they tend to saw fights erupt and the law called- the proclivities and follies of youth, I guess. You get a real insight into Glasgow and the sounds/sights of the streets- how our hero ran with the boys and stayed up late; didn’t think about tomorrow- just lived for the day. With The Libertines passed their best; Worry is the kind of song that could have slotted onto Up the Bracket or The Libertines– a testament of youthfulness and the responsibilities of growing older. The vocal always compels with its whiskey-soaked ravage and emotive sound- able to elicit sadness and regret alongside anger and regret without missing a beat. In the final stages the band unites once more in the composition- a much edgier and stinging riff emerges this time. (Like) Like I Do; The Fables are expert when it comes to those catchy and nuanced riffs- that strike you upon first listen but compel you to listen over again. Caught in the haze and spinning beauty the song isn’t done seducing and inspiring- the final seconds see the song book-ended (reintroducing that introduction sound) to calm things down; bring the song to a soft conclusion.
Having produced a few smashers in their time; the Glasgow boys are onto something wonderful- music that stands aside from everything else out there. For the music-lover you get archived hints of The Clash and their heyday; aside from that you get an original and unique act with a clear discipline- they betray a debt to nobody. Congratulations must be provided to the mixing and producing first. So many musicians squander their potential by over-producing songs and rinsing them out completely. I hate a song that sounds too polished and clinical. It takes so much away from the music you wonder why they bother in the first place- that desire to be ready-for-radio translates into music that is fake and plastic. The band that have their eyes on the live crowds- and are not hung-up on playlists and plaudits- are those that produce the best sounds. Worry has plenty of rough-and-ready charm to it- it sounds like a live-sounding track to be fair- whilst containing professionalism and consideration. That vocal is allowed leverage and space up front- it is never mixed-down and dulled- meaning the words, emotions and intensity. Mark McSween singles himself out as one of the music world’s most impressive and study-worthy singers. I suggested embers of Joe Strummer early on; always intended as a compliment- not sure if our hero is a fan of The Clash. A performance full of real emotion and nuance; I cannot wait to hear that voice expanded and spread throughout an E.P. or album. With his rhythm guitar sparring beautifully with Lloyd McAllister’s stunning lead. That lead guitar works wonders throughout the track: From the scratchy and gravelly riffs- via flourishing arpeggio- to the arena-seized soloing; you get a guitarist with so many sides and shades- one of the most nimble and natural performers around. James McSherry is a stunning bass player that has plenty of melody, rhythm and leadership to his performance. Infusing so much energy and life into the mix- whilst guiding the song and keeping it level- you get a player that holds the band together and keeps everything disciplined. Alan Burgess comes into the band- one of the two new members- and provides stunning backing vocals and rythmn guitar. His guitar work fits superbly in the band; fusing with his band-mates to create plenty of drama and wonder. Naturally fitting into the fold; it will be great to see how he develops across the recordings. Adding some stunning and emotive backing vocals into the track; you get a versatile band member who is a very valuable asset. At the back, Allen Hopkinson (the band’s new drummer) ensures Worry has plenty of punch and swagger to it. Crackling and strong-armed; supportive and level-headed- a percussionist who ensures the song is always enthralling and mesmeric. The entire band combines superbly and is as tight as any other out there. It will be wonderful to see more songs come through this year- 2016 will be an exciting year for the Glasgow boys.
The Fables have a real gritty sound that harks back to the dawning of Punk- those rebellious and bracing bands that emerged in the ‘70s. Punk may not be entirely dead- there are retro. bands doing their best to keep the flame alive- but Rock is surely not dead. There are too many clinical and clean Rock bands out there- hardly worthy of much investigation and respect. It is true there’s some great young bands coming through; I tend to find the best and most impressive sounds come from slightly older bands (no slam on the ‘Fables boys) that have that experience and maturity. So many Rock bands replicate mainstream acts and put no individuality and kick into their music- it sounds faceless and far too polished. The Fables have a granite sound that is far from under-produced; you get atmosphere and emotion; passion brimming through- it would be good to hear more music sound like this. Worry is a song that sees the Glasgow band embrace Punk and Rock’s legends whilst injecting local sounds and sights- creating a sensational track that signals huge intent. If you check out their SoundCloud page- https://soundcloud.com/thefables- you can hear all the boys have to offer. I will be excited to see how they progress and develop through this year. It would be great if an E.P. were in-the-works; something new from the band- I am sure 2016 will be a great year for them. The Fables have been gigging around Glasgow lately and are enthralling the local crowds. Having supported Space (at Classic Grand) they certainly have momentum, reputation and motivation. The mainstream is struggling to really offer a great Rock/Rock ‘n’ Roll band that sticks in the mind and promises long-term appeal. When you look at the underground (and the bands coming through) you get a lot more quality and intrigue. Lately there has been a slight lag and fatigue; too many new acts trying to sound like someone else- the original and best are those that are themselves and make you sit up. Before finishing up, I wanted to circle back to my original points: The music of Glasgow; Rock and its status and variety in new music. Glasgow and Scotland are producing some of the music world’s best acts. Media and critics tend to focus too heavily on London and England- their eyes and ears rarely stray too far north. It is a shame because Scotland is showcasing some of music’s most innovative and wonderful musicians of-the-moment. When it comes to bands, I would say they (Scotland) are ahead of everyone else- Glasgow is perhaps the city to watch in 2016. Edinburgh (and other parts of Scotland) is impressive for sure- my music chums Universal Thee hail from here- yet Glasgow is really cooking right now. For those of you who keep your eyes trained to London for music- the capital has the best solo artists for sure- and bands ensure you swivel your head to Scotland- this is where the real action is taking place. For too long areas such as Manchester and Liverpool have been getting the spotlight and kudos- they continue to produce tremendous bands- yet there is an over-reliance to turn full attention here. If you want music with depth, grit, passion and energy- Glasgow is a city that will never disappoint. It is vital- when you are launching music/a band- to ensure your songs are varied and developed. Too many acts sound basic and uninspired; keeping their music too limited and cliché- they risk squandering their future and losing possible support. You do not need to throw multiple genres and sounds into the pot; just think outside the envelope and stray away from the pack. The Fables have undergone a slight band rotation- a couple of their members have left- the guys sound solid and completely together. While their SoundCloud account includes only a couple of originals; when they are performing live, other songs are coming through- including Not for Me and Don’t Cry for Me. There is definitely an E.P. inside them so it would be great to hear these tunes- in addition to Worry and Like I Do– appear alongside one another. Across their music you get the sound of a band that do not like to stay still and become predictable- each track covers new ground and says something original and different. If commentators are claiming Rock is dead; there are a few bands out there who are ensuring it goes down swinging. I think a lot of new Rock bands sound uninspired and stilted off the blocks; those that claim the biggest audience share are those who go the extra mile- The Fables are a band well-worth your time and effort. Ensure you investigate a Glasgow band who have made some stride already; their best days are still ahead of them- it is their time to reign. Having been disappointed by a lot of the bands coming through last year; I am confident this year will see a revival and revitalisation. With the likes of The Fables emerging, the music of 2016…
IS in safe hands.
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