The first thing you’ll notice about The Tin Can .44s is that they really don’t sound like a band from the London borough of Islington. Bands don’t always need to be from a specific location to end up with a specific sound, though; Def Leppard have a hugely Americanized approach for a band which was formed in Sheffield and the overlooked Steamboat Band often sounded a lot like The Black Crowes for a bunch of lads from the Midlands. No…above any kind of authenticity, it’s the songs which really count – and it’s a shame this London quartet don’t appear to have any.
This debut EP features blues arrangements which are so ramshackle there are times when the four musicians don’t even appear to be playing the same number. Combine that with a lead vocalist who mumbles and drawls – ultimately becoming somewhat irritating in the process – and you have a release that’s hard to get through in one sitting, despite a short running time of just over twenty minutes.
The opening guitar riff of ‘Bad Craziness’ is delivered with a busy style which has a hint of retro cool. And then it’s drowned out by a harmonica. Joseph Strouzer’s harp playing is pretty good, but it quickly becomes obvious he’s in a completely different key to the rest of band. Once the song moves into the opening verse, everything is so sloppy it’s painful. Even though it seems like a near impossibility, once Phil Overton begins singing, things get even uglier. Imagine four guys in a rehearsal space bashing out a funky blues riff, with the bassist desperately trying to hold things together as the lead guitar and harp fly off in tuneless abandon (possibly playing two completely different songs) and you get the general idea. ‘Three Coats’ contains some half-decent bluesy runs on the guitar, but as before, the final arrangement is a more than little messy. Musically, it sounds like an incomplete jam – a band warming up for something better. They never really find their groove, even with a relatively simple arrangement. Meanwhile, Overton’s vocals amble through with a very unnatural sneer. A few of the louder lead guitar parts have a good feel and occasionally a good tone, but that’s really not enough to carry the whole number. Opening with slide guitar accompanied by subtle blues harp, ‘The Picket’ shows a little promise. Rumbling drums and an occasional bass chip into the arrangement and Overton’s vocals have an almost spoken quality. There’s more of an atmosphere building here than on the previous numbers. This disappears once the band opts for a more upfront approach; the vocals settle back into their not especially tuneful traits and the band cruise through what’s best described as a workmanlike arrangement. The featured guitar solo is ugly – like a Grateful Dead freakout without any of the talent – and just as you think things are about to build to a more interesting climax, its back to the blues stylings featured in the intro. All in all, it’s nothing too special.
‘After The Show’ has a twelve bar blues at its core and features a dominant harmonica. Most musicians can manage this kind of straight up boogie reasonably enough, and while that’s also true of The Tin Can .44s, somehow they still fail to create anything listenable. Overton’s vocal has the charm of someone’s dad taking over the mic to sing karaoke at a wedding and the rest of the band muddle through in a very pedestrian manner. ‘Now They Know’ begins life as a lounge arrangement, with the guitars noodling almost aimlessly, while Joe Strouzer’s blues harp accompanies with a whimper, lacking any sense of style or purpose. A slightly off-key vocal weaves in an out of what could only be described as a horrible, shoddy mess. Things improve for the second half, once The Tin Can .44s settle into a more standard blues groove. Aaron Berk’s drum sound could do with far more of a punch, but at least here he manages to keep time here as the band rumble through the next couple of minutes. Listening to The Tin Can .44s hammer out their blues rhythms, it’s soon obvious that bassist Juju Adams is the only member of the band carrying any consistent talent. Although relatively low in the mix, his playing is solid. He really ought to think about taking his talents elsewhere…
‘The Speak Easy EP’ sounds like four guys who just aren’t musically ready for a recording career of any kind; it’s the work of a band which sounds like they’re performing at an open mic night. Most of their arrangements are – quite frankly – an absolute mess. featuring precious little which is memorable even in the short term. Their music lacks the bite required to pull in the garage rock crowd, yet their wannabe bluesy leanings just aren’t sharp enough to be of any interest to any actual blues fans…and in terms of capturing a bigger market, that’s not so good.