THE 355’s – Jig A Jig Out EP

On this debut EP, The 355’s don’t exactly introduce themselves quietly. Within a couple of notes of the opening number – and lead single – ‘Jig A Jig Out’, the level of fuzz applied to the guitar work is off the chart, and there’s even an equally distorted vocal to match. It’s as if they’ve absorbed the best bits of The Black Keys and turned that duo’s typical schtick up to eleven. Although that bluesy element drops in intermittently during the next couple of minutes, effectively driving a great verse against a heavy drum sound, the bulk of this number is actually more concerned with much bigger rock sounds. Cranking the guitars, Adam Thompsett and Craig Lockwood fill the chorus and beyond with a great, overdriven riff that almost sounds like an old glam rock number retooled by a massive sounding garage rock band. This should be enough to appeal to a broad spectrum of retro rock lovers, even though the lyrical hook is a little more simplistic than was perhaps necessary. What that means, of course, is that the number is almost guaranteed to find an audience in high spirits in the live set, and its rowdy approach – combined with a fiery lead guitar break – more than suggests The 355’s are a band with a really gutsy edge. There’s time enough for a little melody here too, since the middle eight drops into a quietly atmospheric moment or two with a more soulful vocal, and this really helps the knockabout number feel far more well rounded.

Mixing a Northern Soul rhythm with a garage punk guitar sets the less than subtle ‘Piss On My Party’ in place with an unexpected musical mismatch, but thanks to the band’s confidence, it really works. As the number gains momentum, the combo of buzzy guitars and sneering vocals sounds huge; the lyric and its delivery sounds like someone reimagined Liam Gallagher as an old character from the original UK punk scene, which provides even bigger entertainment. As before, it latches onto a raucous style that serves the band brilliantly, and if this isn’t immediately clear, it becomes more obvious when the musicians drop into a moment where a repeated refrain rises, before hitting a tightly wound climax where a shrill guitar cries out over an incredibly crashy drum sound.

In a change of mood, ‘You & I’ flaunts a pleasingly retro organ sound and a more soulful vocal, suggesting that someone within The 355’s ranks is rather fond of Small Faces. The way the track unwinds very slowly shows a bigger musical strength in its own way, and the melodic vocal is very well suited to the slight arrangement. It’s the kind of track where you’d expect the rest of the band to arrive somewhere at the end of the first verse/chorus, but there’s even more restraint applied here, since the drums and guitars don’t put in an appearance until near the end. Even then, they’re swamped by an almost Beatle-esque world of orchestration and strange psychedelic trumpet noises. It’s hard to believe that something so mature came from the same hands as those who gave the world ‘Jig A Jig Out’ just a few minutes earlier, but for lovers of unashamed 60s fare, it could well have just as much of an appeal, whilst ‘Esther’ bridges the gap, somewhat effortlessly, between the band’s two extremes, with a world of acoustic strums set above a solid bassline. Despite the music sharing obvious parallels with an Oasis b-side or two, with more room to move, you can really hear the rhythm section (Bert Hammond on bass, Mike Fitchie on drums) really swing, and an unexpected interlude introducing a burst of New Orleans inspired jazz really kicks them into life. This takes a little longer to love than the band’s noisier fare, but it’s great to hear musicians who are so unafraid to mix things up.

With a solid mix of fuzzy guitar rock, bluesy edges, 60s derived pop/rock and melodic twists, these four songs absolutely ooze a massive, very retro appeal. Sure, the chorus writing can seem a little simplistic – even Noel Gallagher has managed to pen a couple of things more complex than the main hook on ‘Jig A Jig Out’ – but with a couple songs that seem set to reach a beer soaked audience in the most direct way and a couple that suggest they could bloom into something even greater, there’s no way this band’s approach could ever be considered in any way flat, or even half-arsed. With this EP, The 355’s seem set to attack their audience head on, and deserve to thunder through the ranks to bigger success. A highly recommended listen.

December 2023