Prague based group from England, North America and Azerbaijan get things off their chests in deliriously catchy manner.
To my knowledge, this is the second full album from Joe Cook, Michael Jetton, Anar Yusufov and David Landstoff following ‘All The Rage’ which was released in 2014. Produced in Prague by Derek Saxenmeyer, it expands and stretches the template of hook laden guitar pop which was laid down on that effervescent debut, adding more depth and variety through additional instrumentation and lyrics showing a concern for the state of the planet. Not that there isn’t room for the odd song concerning affairs of the heart and a cheeky nod to possible influences.
Glockenspiel, cello, woodwind and digeridoo are added to the guitar/bass/drums/organ quartet very effectively, alongside the intriguingly titled terraplane howl and devil box guitar courtesy of Mr Saxenmeyer. The whole sound taps into that rich vein of punchy, catchy power pop previously visited by the likes of Big Star, The Replacements, Teenage Fan Club and a gaggle of artists such as The Motors, Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe and Graham Parker in their late seventies guises. The latter three also spring to mind when analysing the lyrics, especially those pertaining to political and social commentary on the state of the world (or perhaps more accurately Europe?) and the seismic shifts caused by recent events.
The album title ‘Hey!’ is interesting itself and could be interpreted in more than one way- a greeting perhaps or maybe a ‘what the hell…’ exclamation which fits better with the questioning nature of many of the lyrics.
Third track ‘Content’ appears to back this up, a reggae tinged song which points the finger at a soundbite culture encouraged by the internet, celebrities, news media and social networking for the watering down of the titular subject matter. News is skimmed over, headlines read, digested and often misunderstood without reading the story behind them. Has this contributed to the loss of (as the lyrics question) ‘reading longtime’ and ‘thinking deep’ which in turn encourages ‘answering back’, ‘flicking the finger’ and ‘saying No’.
‘Race the Dogs’ follows a similar theme and asks if the larger than life, opinionated characters that we all know are actually free thinkers or just brainwashed victims of the mainstream media and their own circumstances. ‘When the facts change, does your mind’ is the question asked of them. Spot the aforementioned nod to Bowie, Genesis and The Beatles in this one too.
Opening track on side two of the vinyl release (in translucent orange vinyl no less) is ‘Light a Candle’, a magnificent track with an extended instrumental opening with an Eastern feel which leads into a piano led song and words that appear to address the conflicts in carrying on our daily lives while there is so much suffering going on around the world.
The title track warns that if we don’t wise up, we’ll all be doomed and will lose rock’n’roll by June, asking in what direction do we want to go? Does the last verse address the migrant crisis and the negative way some sections of the press report it? And are the final lines ‘May you feel the love you’re given and may you give the love you feel’ a message of hope?
There’s an attack on what are seen as the ‘palace of false gods’ in ‘Orange Light’, the notion that the needs of the many don’t matter and the poisoning of the planet will happen to satiate the needs of corporations and financial institutions to make money.
‘Crossroads’ particularly highlights the backing vocals and organ playing which feature rather majestically on many of the tracks and help to give the band their signature sound alongside the piano and guitar driven songs. Apart from writing the bulk of the songs and playing guitar, Joe Cook has a distinctive voice with a delivery that manages to pull off the trick of being laid back and bouncy at the same time.
Final track ‘Fall’ closes the album on a positive note, listing the things that continually cause the singer to fall over and over again for the subject of the song, though the whispered ‘Wake up…’ in the outro may lead you to believe otherwise.
The album is released on Honk Records and is available through the bands website.