THE CLICK FIVE – TCV

tcv-lojinxRound about 2006, The Click Five started to make a buzz with their debut ‘Greetings From Imrie House’, a disc that had been likened by some to a largely ignored power pop band from the mid-90s called The Loveless.  By a strange coincidence, The Click Five were discovered by talent scout Wayne Sharp, who back in the 80s had discovered a power pop band called Candy, who would later evolve via Electric Angels into The Loveless. [Candy also had the distinction of launching the careers of sometime Guns n’ Roses man Gilby Clarke and power pop icon Kyle Vincent.]

While that album, indeed, carried a vague similarity to The Loveless, The Click Five seemed far too lightweight – more Busted and McFly than the power pop for which they were so clearly aiming. The hooks were there, but they were really sugar-coated. Factor in Eric Dill’s vocals, which appeared horribly auto-tuned throughout huge chunks of the album and…well, let’s just say it could have been better. The Click Five definitely seemed more in tune with the world of teen-fodder than destined for a place in the pantheon of power pop cool.  The album made a few waves in the US, eventually shifting over two million units worldwide (with about thirty copies sold in the UK). All seemed to be going well until Dill quit the band.

They found a replacement in vocalist Kyle Patrick, a man who personally knew the band, but allegedly didn’t care for their music at that time. 2007’s ‘Modern Times and Pastimes’ ushered in a new phase for The Click Five. While they retained the knack for the kind of hooks that’d always been part of their music, with Patrick on vocals, they dispensed with the auto-tune elements somewhat and brought in better, stronger arrangements. Music with a potentially broader appeal, a shift away from the teen market. The slight new wave influences that crept into The Click Five’s music was a welcome addition, too. Things definitely seemed to be improving.

Produced by Mike Deneen, whose previous credits include the fabulous ‘Flippin’ Out by Gigolo Aunts, this third Click Five release takes the promise of ‘Modern Times’ and ups the stakes even further. Within minutes of the opening number ‘I Quit! I Quit! I Quit!’, it’s obvious the band have finally found their niche. Kyle Patrick’s vocals are so much better than those of Eric Dill, and everybody appears far more confident with the slightly tougher, Fountains of Wayne-esque sound they first experimented with on ‘Modern Times’. The rhythm guitars posses the best kind of power pop punch, against which Kyle Patrick’s effortless vocal delivers a stupidly catchy hook. The power pop greatness carries through ‘Fever For Shakin’, albeit in an even harder way. The harmonies and hooks are prominent, but somehow, Joey Zehr’s drum kit maintains a bigger presence. The guitars are chunky, occasionally lapsing into slightly raucous rock ‘n’ roll soloing near the tracks end, while the keyboards really round out the sound. Easily one of the album’s best numbers – especially after it rather cheekily throws in a few unexpected Beatles inspired riffs during the bridge. ‘Nobody’s Business’ is another number which goes squarely for a feel-good approach, chock-full of new wave keyboard lines and handclaps. If you’re a power pop fan, you’ll certainly have heard it all before, but The Click Five deliver these hooks in such an infectious way, it’s a track that’s almost impossible to dislike.

The softer side of The Click Five presents itself on the acoustic based, ‘Good as Gold’, a mix of power pop and Americana. Gentle shuffling drums pave the way for an easy vocal, slightly retro twanging guitars and an arrangement which evokes Ryan Adams at his most syrupy. While there’s a definite difference between this and material like ‘I Quit! I Quit! I Quit!’, The Click Five show they’re equally adept both styles. Sharp harmonies and rhythms drive ‘Way Back To You’ and while a simple chorus provides another highlight, take a listen to the arrangement – it’s impossible to not smile at Ben Romans’s keyboard line which comes straight out of the Greg Hawkes school of playing.

Big harmonies swamp the chorus of ‘Be In Love’ which turns the feel-good factor back up to 11; against the memorable hook, there’s a string sting and horn sounds which come straight out of the 1970s. As the track falls apart at the end with in-studio clapping, there’s a sense that The Click Five know they’re onto something special. In terms of seventies inspired pop gems, this may just equal parts of The Silver Seas’ 2010 masterpiece ‘Chateau Revenge!’. ‘Just Like My Heart Falls’ is full of crisp rhythm guitars and features yet another great chorus. Perfect for radio, this summery tune presents nothing complicated or fussy – the band really tune into their knack for arrangements; something which becomes especially obvious once the counter vocal harmonies kick in at the end.

Seriously, ‘TCV’ is an album which aims high throughout and barely misses. Occasionally, there’s a lapse into teeny inspired power pop a la ‘Imrie House’, but generally speaking, this album showcases the work of a far sassier Click Five. The sappy ‘Don’t Let Me Go’ gives the nod to the likes of Maroon 5 and in doing so, possibly presents the album’s weak link – but even then, that’s solely down to personal taste, since (as far as the arrangement is concerned) it’s great at what it does. ‘TCV’ shows The Click Five have come a long way since their early days. Maybe you didn’t like them either back then. If so, maybe you ought to forget the band that made waves with ‘Imrie House’ and try this “other” Click Five too. On ‘TCV’, they get it just right.

[The UK issue on Lojinx rearranges the tracklisting and omits two songs from the original US release. These are replaced by two new tracks.]

Visit Lojinx Records here.

April 2011

“Nothing Art-I-Ficial: Poly Styrene: 1957-2011”

Often seen to be a figure who ushered in punk feminism, Poly Styrene (aka Marianne Joan Elliott-Said) has lost her battle with cancer. She revealed she had been diagnosed and had been receiving treatment for her illness in February 2011.

Styrene will be best remembered for her work with X-Ray Spex, a band whose debut album ‘Germ Free Adolescents’ (released in 1978) is seen as one of the greatest albums to stem from the British punk movement. The album was preceded by a single, ‘Oh Bondage! Up Yours’ (arguable the band’s best known track, although it was not included on the original album release). The album itself spawned three other singles – ‘Identity’, ‘The Day The World Turned Day-Glo’ and ‘Germ Free Adolescents’, all of which were successful, breaking into the UK Top 40 singles chart. The band broke up prematurely, after Styrene suffered hallucinations on stage. She was originally misdiagnosed with schizophrenia, but was much later diagnosed as being bi-polar. The band reformed seventeen years later and released a second album, which was not a commercial success.

Outside of X-Ray Spex, Poly Styrene stayed largely out of the spotlight, but released solo material sporadically, none of which ever gained the level of success achieved by X-Ray Spex. Her last work ‘Generation Indigo’ was released on March 28th 2011.

Poly Styrene remembered in video:

 

X-Ray Spex – Identity (promo video)

X-Ray Spex – Art-I-Ficial (Old Grey Whistle Test)

Oh Bondage! Up Yours! (Punk In London documentary)

Poly Styrene – Virtual Boyfriend (official promo video, 2011)

Poly Styrene talks about her 2011 album, Generation Indigo

April 2011

THE FALLEN DRAKES – Death Of An Actress EP

drakesFormed in 2009, the Dublin quintet The Fallen Drakes may not break any new musical ground with ‘Death Of An Actress’, but thanks to an easily accessibly sound combined with top notch production from U2 and Kasabian producer Ger McDonnell, their EP is still a strong debut. Musically, it finds a space at the soft end of stadium rock, lighter than U2, but with a quality that’s often reminiscent of Coldplay and Snow Patrol.

During the opening number, ‘Masquerade’, Brian McGovern’s vocals are solid, but the best moments are provided by Michal Bartolen’s lead guitar work, which utilises a ringing tone and a delay. Things toughen up slightly near the song’s close, but without losing any of the commercial impact. ‘Don’t Cry’ is noticeably weaker at first, but the upfront guitar sound gives the number a great momentum; Hyder Ali’s bass work is punchy throughout, providing a great counterpart to Nabil Ali’s drumming which, as with the previous number, relies a great deal on hi-hat and sharp snare work. After a few plays, ‘Don’t Cry’ sounds equally as strong; a number which presents The Fallen Drakes in good form, with top performances from all concerned.

‘Lights On’ presents The Fallen Drakes at their punchiest. The guitars take on a more angular approach, before bouncy, bass dominated verses become reminiscent of The Kaiser Cheifs and Frankie & The Heartstrings. The musical performances are okay – Hyder Ali turns in a couple of simple but effective bass runs – but a chorus which relies far too much on one line shows the song writing here is in need of sharpening. ‘Love Again’ takes a similar approach to alternative rock/pop demonstrated during ‘Don’t Cry’, but ups the stakes, giving The Fallen Drakes a tougher sound. Michel Bartolen’s lead guitar work maintains a strong presence, while Nabil Ali drumming leans farther in a rock direction, favouring a pounding approach with fewer quirks and intricacies.

Despite their very generic approach, The Fallen Drakes brand of jangly, guitar-based rock/pop is very professional and often enjoyable. You can stream the EP from the widget below or download it for FREE here!

April 2011

“Easter Exclusive from Real Gone!: Free Unreleased Power Pop!”

There’s a special giveaway at REAL GONE to celebrate this Easter weekend. To say thank you to all our regular supporters over the past year or so, we’re offering a few unreleased power pop gems.

FREE legal mps from Mark Bacino, Mick Terry and Edward O’Connell, never before available anywhere!!!

First up is a demo from Mark Bacino; a track recorded during the ‘Million Dollar Milkshake’ sessions. Mark has three superb albums out at the time of writing, but any new bits are always welcomed! Download ‘So Does Mary (demo)’ here.

Edward O’Connell has kindly offered a stripped back, alternate version of ‘I Heard It Go’, a track featured in its original form on his excellent ‘Our Little Secret’. Grab it here!

Finally, Mick Terry has given us three demos to share. Each of these tracks can be heard in their finished versions on his debut disc ‘The Grown Ups’, which is well worth checking out.
Hoxton Song (boggia)’ ‘The Usher’s Tale (2009 demo)’ ‘Ringing Like a Bell (demo edit)

REAL GONE would like to say a big thank you to Mark, Edward and Mick for giving these tracks so they can be shared with you all. If you like these songs, please take the time to visit each of the musicians at their respective websites (links below) to say hello – and maybe consider buying their albums if you haven’t already.

What do you mean “but I don’t like power pop”?!

Okay then. Here’s something for the rest of you.
Here’s the legendary Tom Jones, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus through the medium of dance:

www.markbacino.com
www.edwardoconnell.com
www.mickterry.co.uk

April 2011

SHADOWMAN – Watching Over You

shadowmanFor those unfamiliar, Shadowman presents the union of four musicians already very well known on the UK rock circuit. The band combines the talents of FM vocalist Steve Overland and Heartland guitarist Steve Morris with the Thunder rhythm section – Chris Childs and Gary ‘Harry’ James on bass and drums respectively. Their fourth album, ‘Watching Over You’ sounds exactly as you’d expect for an album featuring those musicians, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The album begins with ‘Across The Universe’, which is a decent mid paced rocker. Its opening bars centre around a powerful drum arrangement from James, before settling into a punchy groove. Surprisingly, it’s not especially reliant on guitar riffs (though Morris throws in fills wherever he can); the main groove of the number is provided by a clavichord funkiness, which naturally gives things a 70s edge. An organ solo paves the way for Morris to deliver an understated guitar solo full of multi-tracked qualities. It’s a strong opening track, certainly. ‘Renegades’ swiftly follows and here Shadowman adopt a more straight ahead hard rock approach, where Morris gets to play the kind of riffs and solos he’d denied himself during the opener. Even though Overland’s vocals are strong and some other elements are enjoyable, it’s a noticeably weaker number in terms of song writing.

The first of the album’s truly standout moments is ‘Cry’, a huge bluesy power ballad. The vocals are strong, presenting Overland in good form, but it’s the other musicians whom really stand out, especially Steve Morris, whose guitar work is top-notch throughout, particularly both guitar solos which have a great tone. The second of these, coming at the close of the number is very subtle, as Morris lays down vibrato-edged notes sparingly over some excellent clean rhythms work. On the quiet moments, it’s also worth listening out for a few great bass runs from Childs – though due to the production values, he’s far too low in the mix.

With a shift away from hard rock towards the more AOR sound of the early FM albums, the semi-acoustic ‘Whatever It Takes’ has all the hallmarks of radio-friendly rock. The chorus is one of the album’s strongest despite having a very much by numbers quality and the use of backing vocals is effective. For the last chorus, Overland’s voice sings a lead over his own harmony vocals to predictable – yet still pleasing effect. ‘Whatever It Takes’ follows suit and even though it doesn’t offer any great musical difference, it’s a great example of melodic rock being played well with all of the necessary ingredients firmly in place. The pairing of FM’s Steve Overland and Heartland’s Steve Morris rarely sounds stronger than it does on these numbers. More semi-acoustic vibes provide the heart of ‘Heaven Waits’, but this time there’s a slightly darker tone which occasionally leans towards an eastern musical motif without embracing it fully. By the time Morris breaks into an almost Brian May inspired solo that’s full of chorus pedals, it’s obvious this number is a winner.

‘Are You Ready’ is a great mid-paced rocker, full of harmonies on its chorus. While the band sound great on this style of Bad Company inspired hard rock, there’s a gut feeling that says no matter how good Steve Overland’s delivery is here, Thunder’s Danny Bowes would absolutely wipe the floor with him vocally. A Thunder-esque vibe also runs through the swaggering rocker ‘Waiting For a Miracle’, a number which features a solid performance from Overland, a strong chorus and an another old fashioned organ solo.

While most of ‘Watching Over You’s twelve melodic rock songs are of a good quality – and certainly feature the musicians playing to their strengths – the album is let down somewhat by a thin, extremely trebly production sound. Throughout most of the disc, especially on the rockier numbers, most of Chris Childs’s bass playing barely registers, being drowned out by loud rhythm guitars and Overland’s equally loud vocal. However, if you’ve picked up the previous Shadowman albums prior to this one, you’ll certainly want this one too, although first time listeners may be wise to check out 2008’s slightly fuller sounding ‘Ghost in the Mirror’ first.

[You can catch Gary and Chris performing with Thunder at their one-off reunion at the High Voltage festival, Victoria Park, London – July 24th 2011]

April 2011