London based rock band The Silver Lines sometimes convey a very retro sound, but unlike some, they’re keen to take a few key influences and at least try to twist them into something new. On their debut EP, you’ll find swathes of retro indie jangle, even a heavy dose of funk, and yet the band never sound as if they’re settled within either camp. Their sound can seem a little busy, yet remains focused; their song writing is hooky, but never anthemic. You might say that The Silver Lines sound absolutely natural – and that would certainly be true of frontman Dan Ravenscroft’s unmistakably British vocal delivery – but whichever way you approach their music, there’s something interesting lurking beneath the surface.

‘Sleaze’ follows a handful of digital singles, and makes good on a taut sound that, at its best, is often big on groove. This is certainly the case for the release’s strongest track, ‘The Big O’ which fuses noughties indie with a pseudo disco beat throughout. A shimmering guitar lurking beneath a fat bass groove sounds like the bastard child of The Killers and Discopunk, but at the same time, sounds very fresh. As the verse pushes forth and Dan’s vocals blend a natural indie pop flair with an unexpected falsetto element on loan from The Smiths’ debut, the band’s groove laden sound begins to sound even more appealing, By the time the second chorus is reached, the unshakable mix of huge bass and heavy rhythmic guitar creates a danceable groove that has a genuine heart. With Joe Ravenscroft dropping in a very jazz funk inspired lead break going into the fade, The Silver Lines’ heavily layered sound shows off a genuine maturity for a young band not far into their musical journey.

Also very cool, ‘Talking To Myself’ retains a funk laden beat, but stokes up the guitar and Joe fills most of the track with a wah-wah driven riff that calls back to the retro sounds of the 90s. It’s recognisable as being the same band at the helm of ‘The Big O’, but the fuzzier guitars and sometimes denser sound definitely have strong call backs to the oft-forgotten Kula Shaker. There’s still plenty here that retains the Silver Lines danceability too, though, and this is especially true once the verses big up a hefty and almost mechanised beat that allows the bass to push through whilst vocalist Dan latches onto a very natural, almost slurred delivery. With the later parts of the track introducing occasional bluesy, soaring guitar lines and an even bigger bass, it’s a number that never seems entirely satisfied. It constantly reaches for a new layer with each musical cycle, which is a very good thing as it lends the performance a huge feel without trying too hard – grandness without pomp or grandiosity.

Going further into the funk, ‘The Itch’ which wastes no time in setting some brilliant bass and drum parts in place. Within about three seconds, Kindo (drums) and Joe Cartwright (bass) assert their position as a powerhouse rhythm section, since the drums crack through with a hard edge and the bass conveys an absolutely superb tone from the get go. With clean toned rhythm guitar adding a very 90s colour, the music is almost perfect in its confident and retro clothes. It’s a shame, then, that the vocals don’t really fit. Dan’s performance takes the position of a sort of pseudo rap, and never sounds especially tuneful, and he never sounds entirely comfortable. It’s definitely a case of trying too hard at making something flow when it wasn’t quite ready. It’s best, then, to just concentrate on the music, and these three minutes carry some great moments. Not only from the rhythm section, but also from a solid jazz guitar and brass sound filling a lot of space during the number’s second half.

The EP’s lead single ‘Love Made’, meanwhile, pushes forth with another hefty bass sound and natural vocal. Its slow groove pulls in the listener with a very cautious approach, with stomping menace that calls back to Arctic Monkeys tunes like ‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?’ and ‘RU Mine’, but tempers the obvious influences with a few new quirks. In this case, you’ll find musical bursts that sound like electronic treatments dropping into quasi-melodies that are reminiscent of Rilo Kiley’s ‘The Moneymaker’, and the belated arrival of a blues-edged guitar that adds some suitable menace. Giving the EP a fun coda, ‘Packet Racket’ takes influence from some pretty taut funk grooves, again, placing the bass at the forefront, making it impossible for the listener not to latch onto Joe’s bottom end sound, while Dan offers a few rather shrill “oohs” to big up a party spirit. More of an idea than a fully fledged track, this snippet leaves the listener with a very positive impression of a great rhythm section once more, in a teaser that never lets on whether it’ll be expanded upon by the band at a later date.

There are moments on ‘Sleaze’ that don’t always work to their best advantage. There are times when the material takes a little while to warm up, but when it does, there’s a musical heart that beats strongly, and The Silver Lines’ desires to take some very 90s sounds into the twenty first century are more than commendable. It’s nice to hear a band working some obviously retro grooves, but trying to keep them fresh. It’s also a very welcome change to hear something that feels a bit of a throwback but doesn’t opt for very obvious 70s touchstones or a 90s post-grunge fuzz. ‘Sleaze’ isn’t perfect, but it shows some massive promise, and for those interested in a slightly different take on some solid indie rock sounds, it’s definitely worth an ear.

May 2022