My, there’s been some shite written about this band and this album this year. Several reviews in particular appeared to have decided that the album was an embarrassing pastiche with little to offer before even playing the bloody thing. I say this with some confidence as I cannot understand how anybody who experiences that little rush, that almost indescribable feeling that spreads through you, when something ace happens during a song, could not end up smitten with ‘Smoking In Heaven’. You know what I mean, be it a guitar solo, a drum pattern or just the way the vocalist sings a certain line or word: it just makes you feel amazing. And this record takes about ninety seconds to do that. So there.
Sounding fifty years out of time and traversing genres without concern, it is unlike anything else you will have heard this year. And you really should hear it. Don’t be put off by the fine, if unremarkable, debut which marked their arrival several years ago. This is a band now fully at ease with their sound. Obsessed with the minutiae of analogue sound, this trio are sticklers for an authentic approach and whether it wears its influences on its sleeve or not, when the songs are this good, who cares? Their problem, whisper it now, is that they really don’t fit with any current scene nor convey any particular sense of cool. I don’t imagine they lose any sleep over it but it has made them keyboard fodder for many a scabrous journo over the past few years. While they may have had a scintilla of a point with their aforementioned and slightly anaemic debut, this superlative amalgamation of a fine, fine record collection is hard to fault.
Boldly commencing with the ska-infused ‘Tomorrow’, the album ranges from straight up rock and roll through raucous R’n’B and folksy swing. There’s a New Orleans piano feel to ‘Paan Man Boogie’ which evokes the gargantuan spirit of Professor Longhair. The utter joy at the heart of these songs is conveyed explicitly throughout, most notably on ‘Messing With My Life’ and ‘Don’t Make A Fool Out Of Me’. Forget the fact that Jools Holland probably loves this and console yourself with the fact that Mark Lamarr is also probably quite keen too.
Standout track ‘Messing With My Life’ struts along, all jangly guitars and sassy vocals, until a delicious yet understated key change finally confirms what a tremendous little track it is. If you’re only going to judge this record on one song, make it this and turn it up. If you’re not sold after that then I’d be amazed.