Monday, 6 June 2011
Electric Skies - Youth is Everything
I'm not one to challenge a heartfelt premise, but this band's album title could appear a tad adversarial for more mature musical reviewers like myself. Obviously, there wouldn't be any sour grapes in this slight baulking at such a declaration just because these guys are actually living the dream and I've only just bought a new acoustic guitar to try an improve on the blues stalemate - as good as I think it is - I've been repeatedly playing for the last 40+ years. Well, not necessarily.....
The four young guys who comprise Electric Skies - Will Alford, Nathan Boult, Joe Napper, Sam Piper - live up to their band's name with a polished set of very listenable bright and breezy Indie Rock/Pop [labels are so suspect, but there you go], and as I've stated elsewhere on this blog, more than once, I think pop sensibilities are no bad thing. I had the pleasure of working at the same school from which this quartet hail, a while back now, and though I variously taught them over the years [in terms of contact, not quality - come on!] I can vouch for them as fine young men, though as soon as I wrote that I wondered about how uncool it is to have a former teacher's approbation! Actually they were raucous rogues and reprobates.
Listening to the album today I immediately imagined they have quite a vibe playing live and I expect a free invite to the next gig. The album itself presents a tight band clearly at ease with one another's expertise. There seems to be a professional focus on songcraft here and each track is distinctive enough but with echos of established precursors, and I'll invoke Oasis for one or two, yet I have no idea if this will please or rile: this album isn't pastiche at all but you can't help but hear others and I place it out there as a compliment. I'm probably not au-fait enough with 'Indie' bands to make more informed, if appropriate, comparisons. Perhaps like that label.
To the music and the album gets off to a strong start with Shakin Hands giving the album its punchy launch with some machine-gun drumming and taut rhythms. Harmonies here, and elsewhere, are also taut and never overstated. As an ol' guitar-band codger in terms of aural proclivities I particularly liked tracks 2 and 3, Stay There and Flying, because of the acoustic guitar intro and interludes - and whilst in the former I'd like to hear more of those guitar nuances, there is a cool lead mirroring the vocal, and in the latter the plaintive lyric 'although we are getting older' did make me laugh! A strong song for me is Stars with again some sweet harmonies and balladesque surround driving to an anthmic core. The end and title track even has a cameo slide from local and distinguised axeman Julian Piper who ironically contributes some dad-dancing guitar that compliments perfectly the 'youth' of its title. Listening again to the whole album as I type this I am hearing the depths and variations that any decent album deserves in revisits.
I'd like to hear them rip it up a bit more in future work and I suspect they do live. I was fortunate enough to receive four demo tracks done this year and these really did appeal. I have to stress again, as I have done time and time again in this blog, all of this is just opinion and taste and preference and that is neither here nor there, but I liked the driving second demo track that got me rocking, and track three of the demo is a real stand-out: some bluesy solo guitar work - lovely playing with echo/reverb effect, again not overstated, and the track grows into a more funky groove. I ratcheted up the volume on this and played it immediately a second time. I hope the neighbours heard it all! There is so much yet to come for this band and it's been a pleasure to get this early taster.