Loud Mouth Machine
Honeycomb is available at:
The E.P., Shades of Blue, is available via:
WE have arrived at the time of year when most of us start to reflect…
on what has come before. If one tries to distill and define this year, in music terms at least, it is a year of two halves. On the one side, we have had a lot of fantastic music come through – both new musicians and established acts producing incredible sounds. On the other side, there has been a lot of tragedy and loss – some of music’s legends have departed us. In essence, 2016 has been one of the most eventful and turbulent in living memory. In that respect, many are looking ahead to 2017 with higher hopes – let’s keep our fingers crossed there will be less tragedy and even more fantastic music. Before I come to my featured act, I want to look at the sounds of 2017 and the artists that deserve bigger respect; a bit about unsigned acts that are on the verge of getting acclaim. Looking at the boys of Loud Mouth Machine and you feel they should be starring in these end-of-year polls that are starting to emerge. I, like many music lovers, waited with baited breath for BBC’s ‘Sounds of 2017’ poll: their assessment of the artists that will be defining next year’s music. Out of the list, you have Grime/Rap and Urban acts – they make up a large proportion of the list. I will not name/dissect every artist on the long-list but there is plenty of foreign talent; a great mixture of male and female – that leaning towards street-wise, hard-hitting solo artists. Last year, winner Jack Garratt was BBC’s choice and someone (they deemed) would make big steps in 2017. Whilst he has released material and produced some incredible live sets – he has just to fruition into the star we thought; it might take a few years to materlaise. Other artists (on that list) including Izzy Bizu were hotly tipped, and whilst her debut album showed glimmers of promise, it was not quite as heady as expected. This year, there is a straying away from chart-ready, radio-friendly acts and emphasis on something more daring, exciting and ‘relevant’.
Turning away from artists who talk of love and personal demons – towards those who address societal issues and what is happening in the modern world. Perhaps that is indicative of the necessities and demands of the modern consumer: they want music that documents what is unfolding and provides guidance; less heavy on personal revelations and more towards politics and street reality. Of course, the 2016 BBC longlist has a few Pop/radio acts that we could be hearing more of – it is hard to say just who will rise and whether any of the acts will make big statements. Last year, long-list includes like Billie Marten impressed me a lot more. She is someone who not only deserved to be shortlisted but, out of the entire longlist, has made the biggest impact this year. That is the way things can go: artists that are not in the ‘top five/ten’ often fare a lot better. My point is it is great seeing these lists – I am in the process of completing a trilogy of feature pieces; the third will feature Loud Mouth Machine – but they should be taken at face value. Even though BBC’s was conducted and compiled by a host of industry experts and musicians – there is a degree of subjectiveness and limitation to the poll. I feel artists like Loud Mouth Machine are worthy of inclusion. Not just because they have been featured on BBC radio – more on that later – but because the band market has taken a critical backseat the last couple of years. It has been a while since BBC-like polls have featured bands – the prominent trait is spotlighting solo talent and duos. Given the talent and originality of some solo artists coming through right now, it seems like kismet tastemakers are featuring them. The public clearly has a taste and affection for these artists so it is only right this demand is reflected appropriately. One should not de-prioritise bands and assume they are less deserving of focus. I have seen few mainstream polls and end-of-year lists that are tipping bands. You get the odd one but it is still solo artist-heavy. Such is the swell and proliferation of musicians emerging it is challenging capturing the best and limiting such polls – which is why I do expansive multi-part ones. The Loud Mouth Machine boys are technically a duo – whether you class that as a band or not – and are one of the sharpest and most determined London acts around. One of the reasons I am featuring them, in addition to promoting their latest material, is to draw attention to a group/duo that WILL be making marks next year. It is not a case of hit-and-miss and trial-and-error: these boys have already been lauded by influential D.J.s and are on a golden course.
I feel, with a pinch of chagrin, musicians like Loud Mouth Machine are not being included in ‘ones to watch’ lists – they are deserving of inclusion for sure. The Camden-based boys have all the ingredients and fabric needed to build a fascinating and sustainable career. Their music has already caught the ears of prominent D.J.s – including Radio 2’s Dermot O’Leary – and gained a lot of praise. It cannot be long until the two-piece is being mentioned in the same breath as the new crop of BBC recommendations. Before getting on to their music, I wanted to look at unsigned acts and how they might fare in the coming year. Over the course of my reviews, I get to look at a lot of unsigned artists. It is hard getting noticed in modern music with the sheer weight and volume of competition. Those that keep resolute should be commended for their tenacity and spirit. Such is the temptation to denounce intentions and retreat from the hot glare of music – the demands and realistic rigours placed on the shoulders of the young and hopeful. Whilst getting a record deal is not the be-all-and-end-all: in order to progress and develop a career, the backing of a record label is needed. In conjunction with my reticence regarding end-of-year polls – how detrimental is non-inclusion to artists looking for a record deal? When it comes to the boys of Loud Mouth Machine, one feels there is a bright and prosperous future awaiting them. Whilst there is scant biography and music online – their current E.P. is their fullest and debut work – the lads have been self-promoting and doing their hardest to get their music heard. In reality, how crucial is securing a record deal? Is an act less likely to get gigs and success were they to charter their own careers? There is a valid argument to suggest those who fly solo are just as likely to realise their full potential. The reason I mention it is because it seems galling Loud Mouth Machine have not been snapped up by a local label. Maybe there are fewer labels or less space available in their ranks – unable to adopt quite as many artists as they’d like. One feels, given a little more time and room, the London act will come to the attention of a label. Their music is as direct and instant as any you care to mention. When dissecting Honeycomb – noted as an E.P. highlight be many reviewers – you get where they are coming from and what they are about. It is a song not just reserved for lovers of Alternative/Indie stylings: a universal revelation that ably seduces every listener. The guys are not making music for the charts and trying to fit into holes – as unique and individual as any. Perhaps I am being a little bias – in a position where I am reviewing them positively – but you feel the guys deserve a record label deal. They will survive and grow with our without it but, and for any P.R. companies reading, shoulder a lot of the promotional duties would free them up to focus on recording and performing. The two-boy, one-man band approach to P.R. is impressive to see – let’s hope they have the energy to keep the momentum going next year. I am thoroughly impressed by the boys’ attitude and faith; the way they put themselves out there and, most importantly, the quality of their music.
Shades of Blue is the best (and only real) record one can assess from Loud Mouth Machine. They have been performing together for a while but their current E.P. is their first, full exploration – and one that has been capturing ears and impressing critics. I will be focusing on Honeycomb but the remaining three tracks are exceptional too. The title track reminds me, like a lot of the E.P., of Steely Dan. It is not a comparison you hear made in modern music and that is a shame. Steely Dan are one of my favourite acts – and authours of my all-time favourite song – but you hear elements of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen throughout. The lead vocal has the same blend of cynical cut and lusciousness Fagen was famed for – that stern and, at times, sarcastic edge; underpinned by a warmth and gracefulness. When you get to the chorus – and the vocals layer into a cascading river – there are hints of Steely Dan’s Aja–Gaucho-era work. Whilst the composition has a comparable Jazz-Rock sound to it, the London boys are very much their own artist. If you dig hard you can hear the odd fleck of other artists but the overall impression of a duo who owe a debt to nobody. The title cut sees a hero (and heroine) bathed in sunshine and woken by the dawn light – almost a rhapsody to the sunlight and crisp morning. Perhaps the boys have another interpretation but the song has that uplifting and magical tone. There are not many original lyrics – the emphasis is on composition – which gives the music a chance to grow and shine. Funky bass and spacey synths.; tight beats and all manner of contrast go into a song that requires multiple investigations to fully click. It is a such an atmospheric and beautiful song – one that few other acts are capable of. Similarly, History in the Making has that same effectiveness and grandeur. Opening with a tenderness and subtlety; the song documents a relationship with a peculiar dynamic. It seems like a certain lack of discipline and messiness are appealing to the heroine.
Maybe the two have been together a while and used to umbrage, eventfulness and a certain oddity in this relationship – you get a unique insight into a modern, if different, love. There is a need to relax and take things slowly: perhaps the two are rushing and there is miscommunication; a lot of baggage to work through and a lack of understanding. Again, it is a song that begs for an individual interpretation but puts fresh spin on avenues of love and relations. The chorus, like the title track’s, is luminous, gleaming and rousing. Female vocals add a sense of beauty and etherealness – once more, I hear a little bit of Steely Dan but less pronounced than before. History in the Making is a more relaxed and considered track than Shades of Blue – that reconciliation-cum-mediator tone, and as such, the vocal and composition have a cool edge and a genuine calm. Always hooked by the imbalance – heroine liking a mess and forcefulness; the hero more debonair and restrained – it gives charm and character to the song.
You can picture yourself in the scene; trying to referee the situation or standing back and watching it all unfold. The final moments of the song put the composition into the spotlight and conclude things with a Jazz-like, odyssey of cosmic synths. and a weightlessness – perhaps the most appropriate conclusion to a song that deals with fraught emotions and a certain friction. Addictive is the closing track and one of the most instant and unsettled. The song is, in essence, a dialogue – or monologue to be more accurate – from the song’s heroine. It is the only track where the duo steps away from the vocals and allow another person to tell the story. The narrator – whose name I shall have to obtain – recounts a conversation/moment when things turned from pure to sour. The two – heroine and hero – were fine and enjoying each other’s company. Then, and with little provocation, things started to unravel and it all hit the rocks. There is jealousy afoot and it seems as though that green-tinged emotion has created a split in the relationship. It is not said whether another man or woman is to blame but the hero has heard chat – recalling a conversation or hearsay – and is taken it as gospel. The confusion and urgency in the narrative show what emotion and tension there is.
The duo, whether the heroine and one of the Loud Mouth Machine clan, were screaming all night and arguing. Before long, there is a hug and sense of resolution. The heroine’s voice cracks and strains at some moments but that hug was welcomed and needed. The ‘addictive’ part of the song is that mix of explosion and hug – going from near-break-up to being alright. Whether the actual process of arguing is addictive or that comforting feeling of reconciliation, I am not too sure. It is one of the most affecting songs on the E.P. despite it being the shortest and sparsest. The delivery is perfect and it is a track that drips with emotions, drama and evocativeness. A perfect way to end an E.P. that shows what a unique force Loud Mouth Machine is. I have mentioned influences like Steely Dan – Pink Floyd too – but the boys are not to be compared with anyone. Such is their skill and talent you immerse yourself in the music and are stunned by what unfolds. Few other acts/duos are providing that mix of everyday romance and Space Age composition. Each track tells a story but the compositions are so atmospheric and fascinating, you find yourself listening to (the E.P.) time again.
Honeycomb is the track I wanted to focus on as I feel it is the highlight – and best representative of the E.P.’s sounds and themes. The opening seconds of the song have a calm, tropical sentiment to them. Island-themed strings beckon you to a sunshine island and an alluring Paradise. Not only is a contrast to the more weighted and serious tones of accompanying tracks; it is a welcome contrast and a song you instantly bond with. Honeycomb looks at a relationship and is the song where you get a real sense of the E.P.’s title. Of course, shades of blue attests and documents sadness and upheaval – there is quite a bit of that running through Honeycomb. The hero admits he was wrong and is seduced by her “escalator eyes” and allure. There has been a fall-out and misjudgement but our lead confesses his indiscretions and wants her back. Beckoning back to his place, loneliness is not a desirable option. You feel like there was a solid relationship but an event has caused a brief fracture. Maybe the E.P. acts like a suite or concept: you track to the previous tracks and follow the story to this point. Whatever has happened you get the sense there is an imminent repair. Such is the heartfelt and gentle delivery it is easy to get lost in the song and hooked in the breeziness. In terms of the vocals, there is a lot more (London) access than before which gives it a cheeky-chappy appeal and, rather oddly, gives the words more gravitas. You always believe the hero and what he is saying. Never fully revealing the circumstances behind his apologies: the listener is free to examine the story from their side and one to their own conclusions.
There is a mix of oblique and literal in the words which means some of the sentiments are clear whilst others are not so obvious. The lead does not want to be alone and seems to be seduced to by the heroine but there is certain wariness. You get caught and addicted by the earnest vocal and the occasional rush of beauty and unexpected composition. At its heart, Honeycomb relies on those simple, energised strings but throws in some lush rushes and sweeping touches. “Can’t keep fighting the kindness in your lies” may be a line I have semi-misheard but grabs me with its contradictions and individuality. Throughout the E.P., you hear the story of two lovers who are going through some storms and turbulence. The final track is a stark and honest story of argument and comfort: that destructive moment followed by the calm (after the storm). For that reason, I see Honeycomb as a precursor to that night – the lovers, perhaps, at their most tense, whether sexually or personally. The hero does not want his honeycomb stolen: whether that is a euphemism or representation of his purity and honesty. Maybe he wants the girl but on his own terms; does not favour the stress and unpredictability and wants a simpler, straightforward relationship. There has been deceit and lies and the hero seems willing to fall into that trap. Such is the power and allure of the bond – like a bee summoned to nectar; a spider weaving its web – there is no way to avoid it. Our man has been experiencing loneliness and solitude and is looking for human touch and comfort. The girl, whether a long-term love or new attraction, is providing a beauty and allure that is hard to resist. Like I said before: the composition and vocal interjections provide rush and mislead; catching you off guard and getting into the heart. What Honeycomb provides is an earthy and pure testament of a relationship but has some many beautiful and divine edges. From lush and rousing vocals to compositional rushes – you are always invested and stunned.
That is highlighted by the brass parable that acts like a relief and further chapter of the story. At once yearning and tremulous; the next stately and dignified – a swaying and touching sound that infuses the senses and elicits smiles and comfort. When listening to the composition (at this point) you hear influences of Miles Davis. There is a mix of Kind of Blue’s reflectiveness and mood and spritz of Birth of the Cool’s suaveness and shade-wearing strut. That together with the rum-flavoured sound of the acoustic strings and you have a new cocktail: The Honeycomb. It is the invention of Loud Mouth Machine and, once sampled, provokes images and flashbacks of love in all its dichotomous balance – the heart-racing heat juxtaposes against the spicy and edgy downs. The closing seconds take the composition down and replace the near-jubilant skip of the trumpets with echoed sounds – almost like floating in space or succumbing to the night. It is a fantastic end to a song that stands out proud. Shades of Blue is a fantastic and unique E.P. that could not have come from any other act. Honeycomb is its sweet and sticky highlight that proves what an appealing, alluring and sensational proposition the London duo is.
It will be interesting watching Loud Mouth Machine blossom and strike throughout 2017. I say this about a lot of bands but it is true of the guys. Before I properly conclude with a bit about Loud Mouth Machine’s likely success; it is worth coming back to important points given what we’ve heard from the boys. Cabbage are a rare exception in a BBC long-list for 2017 that promulgates and emphasises the solo artists coming through. Not just confined to British acts: there are American artists included in the pack. I am not sure why there is a proliferation of Urban acts on that list – and many other polls will mirror this – but perhaps it is a reaction to the world around us. Whereas most bands and ‘traditional’ solo artists address other themes – relationships and personal concerns – Urban acts look at the world more carefully and detail the struggles and realities occurring. Perhaps there has been, in previous years, a leaning towards certain artists and safer acts – you can hardly accuse Adele and Sam Smith of being edgy and cool. Polls like BBC’s are reacting to a contemporary desire for artists more savvy, authoritative and interesting – not your run-of-the-mill Pop stars and samey acts. For this reason, there is a lot of attention being taken away from bands. In the coming weeks, we will see more polls come forth. From magazines and musical websites: each site will be publishing who they feel will be making strides in 2017. I have done it myself and, aside from the Loud Machine Boys and a few others, it is predominantly solo artists included. I am not sure why there is a trend towards sole artists but bands deserve their acclaim and proffering. I opened by mooting (the fact) Loud Mouth Machine should be on end-of-year lists. There will be band-heavy polls conducted and it is only right the London duo are included. They have worked hard and have a sound that is very much theirs. I witness many bands who still stick too closely to others and are unwilling to try something new. It is disheartening hearing bands that go through the motions and seem indistinguishable from every other one out there. Loud Mouth Machine have already captured the hearts of many critics are look set to build on that acclaim next year.
The guys are unsigned and it gets me thinking how long before they secure a deal. Again, this is something I debated near the top and it is interesting whether it is a vital thing. Sure, artists can see their careers grow and develop without a record label but (that deal) takes some of the stress and anxiety away. It is not only a thumbs-up and backing but another pair of hands. With a label in your corner, there are greater possibilities and avenues opened up. So far, the Loud Mouth Machine has been generating plenty of attention, hype and focus. They conduct their own P.R. and expending a lot of time and effort getting their music in the hands of the media and radio. Shades of Blue is a tight and focused E.P. that is complete killer and suffers no fatigue or modesty. Every tune stands out and has its own character; there is a lot of life, energy and candour among reflectiveness and emotion. I have called Loud Mouth Machine a ‘band’ but are technically a ‘duo’. In that market, they have plenty of support but will still have to fight for attention. I have long-held the belief duos are among the finest and most interesting musicians on the planet. However you classify and configure the London act; there is no denying how ready and spirited they are. Having been played by Dermot O’Leary and getting their names known across (some of the) most influential stations in the U.K. it is all going well. Regardless of whether a record deal comes next year, they will carry on and continue to battle hard. Their work ethic and determination is to be commended, but in reality, the boys needn’t sweat too hard. They will be enjoying success and continue to see their music exposed and played. Honeycomb is a song tipped by many reviewers and one I feel best represented the E.P. Rather than give an in-depth review of each track – and expend thousands more words – it was prudent focusing on the one and giving an overview of the rest. I would urge everyone to hear the E.P. and let its magic work; stick it on and evaporate the winter freeze.
Let’s hope the boys remain resolute and steely in 2017 as they are making terrific progress. Shades of Blue has heart and emotion but enough defiance and conviction to unify many. There is nothing to suggest the guys will not be included on ‘best of’ lists this time next year. I can see them unveiling a new E.P./album and performing right across the capital. London is starting to resurge and breathe following Fabric’s survival – not just great for the venue but a faithful gesture that suggests London’s music scene is not as endangered as first feared. There are still steps to be taken – to ensure there are not closures next year – and a lot of work ahead. Loud Mouth Machine are among a swell of musicians calling London home and centering themselves in the city. I am sure they will be getting more gigs throughout the U.K. and international demands; airplay across more BBC stations (including ‘6 Music, perhaps) and a lot more fans. Their social media numbers are impressive and continuing to climb by the day. It is a sign of a terrific duo/band that want to remain in music for years to come. Given the reaction to Shades of Blue – that might not be such a far-fetched ambition. A record deal will come and due diligence paid to two guys who have a tenacity and talent few others possess. In addition to being one of the acts I am tipping for 2017 success: they will inspire others and get like-minded musicians engaged and involved in music. They are relatable and everyday chaps that bring personality, soul and charm to their music. Honeycomb is a song that gets inside you and reverberated around the mind – the hallmark of a truly great song. The days are getting colder and the year is starting to wrap itself up. Against the constant wave of new acts and tipped artists, it can be hard deciphering which acts will genuinely remain in music past next year. A lot of polls (including BBC) have heralded artists either unworthy or such acclaim or lacking necessary longevity and originality. This year might be different – depending on who wins – but we must not forget the honest, hard-working acts that fly under their radars. Loud Mouth Machine will remain semi-anonymous for a very short time before they are festival headliners. Get your ears around Shades of Blue and…
HEAR what all the fuss is about.
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