I kind of missed out on The Libertines the 1st time around, 13 years ago or so. An English version of The Strokes the US press seemed to ramble on about (or so I believed at the time). The band was led by Pete Doherty and Carl Barât, but it seemed like the press gravitated towards the junkie exploits of Mr. Doherty. It was a turnoff for me, to be honest. Well…I was sorely mistaken. The Libertines took elements of The Clash and Blur and created a shambolic racket of punk inspired Britpop. Sometimes it felt like everything was going to fall apart, and sometimes it did – all part of the band’s charm. If you told me that the endless tales of Pete Doherty’s debauchery got on your nerves, well…you wouldn’t be wrong. With such a compelling discography with very few signs of weakness, I’d say…overlook the junkie horrorshow. Indeed – Doherty and Barât have never equalled the highs of The Libertines in their post breakup bands or solo, though Doherty has come the closest. Here we are in 2015, 11 years after the last album by The Libertines. Gunga Din is the lead off single from upcoming album Anthems for Doomed Youth and believe it or not, it might be the strongest single the band has released. Now older, and maybe wiser – the song features separate verses from Pete & Carl, and perhaps the catchiest chorus the band has ever given authorship to. The music moves from a druggy reggae vibe to a positively explosive Britpop chorus. Perfect, it hits every strong point imaginable. A bit from Pete’s verses: “Woke up again / To my chagrin / Getting sick and tired of / Feeling sick and tired again”. Carl weighs in “Woke up again / To my evil twin / That mirror is fucking ugly and I’m / Sick and tired of looking at him”. Both verses lead to that perfect anthemic chorus “Oh, the road is long / If you stay strong / You’re a better man than I / You’ve been beat and afraid / Probably betrayed / You’re a better man than I”. The video features the band out on a night drinking in Thailand, where they recorded their upcoming album. Don’t overlook Gary Powell’s drumming or John Hassall’s bass playing – everything works perfectly here. And what is a Gunga Din? It is an 1892 poem by Rudyard Kipling, written from the perspective of an English soldier and immortalised in the final lines of the poem “Tho’ I’ve belted you and flayed you / By the livin’ Gawd that made you / You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!”. There are also songs by The Byrds and Jim Croce that share the name. The Libertines deserve to be discussed among those greats. Welcome back, boys.
Verdict: Here Are the Likely Lads
For Fans of: The Clash, Blur, The Jam, Television Personalities, Comet Gain, The Kinks
Summertime anthems are quickly becoming a tradition with North England’s Sunstack Jones. In 2013 the band released one of my favorite indie singles of that year called You Can Help Me Out. They bettered that in 2014 with a full album of anthems called Roam – Britpop infused melodies with hints of Americana. 2015 continues the tradition with the release of the Good This Time single b/w ace b-side This Can’t Keep Going On.
The title track just might be my favorite release from the band to date. Hints of shoegaze by way of The Verve shine bright on this tune – shimmering melodies, vocals evoking a dream like state. “Listen and I’ll try to talk you out / Listen get your feet back on the ground” urges vocalist Chris Jones, a ghost like voice rising out of the walls of instrumentation. This Can’t Keep Going On is every bit the equal of the A side (so, I guess tied as my favorite Sunstack Jones song). A distinct Slowdive by way of Mojave 3 vibe carries this tune. Still wandering in and out of a dream like state, there is a driving urgency on this song that makes for an engaging listen. Fuzz tone guitar riffs immediately after the chorus recall a Phil Spector wall of sound. Perfect.
You can pre-order the 7″ from the band and get digital copies of the tunes here. You can also follow the band on The Social Network here. I’m looking forward to what comes next from Sunstack Jones.
Verdict: Hazy Shade of Summer
For Fans of: The Verve, Mojave 3, Slowdive, The Ocean Blue, Swervedriver
At their peak of popularity, Oasis were the biggest band…in the UK. Though they had a few hits in the US, they never broke the US market like many expected them to in the mid 90’s. Driven to success with the double-edged sword of talent & sibling rivalry, it all fizzled out in 2009 after a pre gig fight between Liam and Noel Gallagher. Critics mocked their reverent worship of The Beatles, but I admired it. Is it really so different from the latest crop of post-punk bands who worship at the altar of Joy Division? At their best, Oasis could hang with The Beatles. At their worst, they were left in the dust by The Rutles. Where does a band go when it all crashes down?
About a year ago, I had the privilege of interacting with Sunstack Jones – an indie band that hail from Northern England (Liverpool and Blackburn). Their 2013 single You Can Help Me Out was one of my anthems for the summer of ’13, its Britpop-ish vibe perfectly aligning with what I was feeling at the time. The band promised a 2nd record coming soon, and we got the 1st taste of the new record in Spring of 2014. Bet I Could offered up a dreamy slice of melancholy that never felt sad. A perfect introduction to the new record, Roam.
Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.
The early to mid 90’s Britpop movement brought a lifetime’s supply of musical gems. Dozens of bands put out albums and singles that looked to the 60’s British Invasion for inspiration, whilst putting their own spin on it. Among bands that broke into America, Oasis was #1 (Blur’s brief conquering of America was after their Britpop infatuation had passed). Punk rock attitude backed up by songs that were instant classics, Oasis was the 2nd coming of The Beatles (for just a moment in time). For me, they’ve been a hit or miss affair. Even some of their bigger hits featured lyrics that still make me cringe. But when they put all of the pieces of the puzzle together, I love them unreservedly. Sad Song was originally a bonus track on their debut record, Definitely Maybe, released in mid 1994. Bonus track meaning – only available on the vinyl and Japanese CD versions of the album. What a shame – this is one of the strongest songs Oasis ever cut to tape. This is an acoustic based song featuring Noel Gallagher on vocals instead of Liam. Haunting guitar licks, emotive vocals, and lyrics that resonate – the perfect package. The song is now easily available on the deluxe edition of Definitely Maybe so you can sing along to these words “and we cheat and we lie / nobody says it’s wrong / so we don’t ask why / cause it’s all just the same at the end of the day”
Brotherly love – I’m from the city that promotes it, but it isn’t always the easiest thing to live by. My brother and I are 3 years apart, which can be brutal during the teenage years. We had our moments of not getting along, though I’ll feign amnesia when asked if fists were ever raised. 15 years later we are worlds apart in New Zealand and Washington State. Pacific is the gulf between us. So it goes. In music, we’ve had the Gallagher brothers (Oasis), the brothers Gibb (Bee Gees), the Robinson brothers (The Black Crowes), among others. Sibling rivalry or sibling camaraderie? It doesn’t really matter as long as the music inspires. The Barmines are a new band out of Leeds, England composed of 2 sets of siblings. A potentially volatile mix, their debut EP is a masterful debut.
SupaJamma follows up their critically acclaimed EP That Was Then, This is Now (not a cover of The Monkees) with a single that defies characterization. You may know leader singer Martin “Sugar” Merchant from Britpop era favorites, Audioweb. Name checked by Ian Brown of The Stone Roses, opening for U2 – they were a special band that captured the zeitgeist of the late 90’s. SupaJamma picks up where Audioweb left off, with a a slightly more menacing edge. The band is a force to be reckoned with and features Sugar on vocals, Simon Collier on bass (also head of StereoKill Recordings), Lord Bevs on guitar, Steve Wilson on keys / backing vox, and Dan Adams on drums and back vox. Hope and Pray is anchored by a killer bass line that adds a dark vibe to the tune. Sugar’s vocals waver between soulful crooning and reggae style toasting. A sense of urgency builds as the track progresses, the band locking into a groove that is positively infectious. For those fans of The Chameleons (and I’d imagine there is some overlap), think of how Kwasi and Mark Burgess exchanged verses on their 2001 reunion album, Why Call It Anything. The vocal interplay is somewhat similar here, but with Sugar handling all vocal duties. The darkness threatens to overwhelm but always returns to the sweetly sung chorus “Each night I hope and pray / that i will live to see another day”. Perfect. Can’t wait to see what comes next from this great Manchester band. The track is available from all digital outlets and comes highly recommended. I’ve posted preview links as well as a video from their last EP to give you an idea of what this band can do. Check it out.
Verdict: Toasting to SupaJamma
For Fans of: Audioweb, Bob Marley, Gang of Four, PIL, Blur
Where to preview / buy: USA link / UK link