This month’s Singles Club is brought to you in conjunction with the word ‘smorgasbord’. A Scandinavian word literally meaning a buffet meal featuring many types of open sandwiches and horse’s douffers , smorgasbord now refers to anything which has a variety of features, or indeed flavours. And that is exactly what is on offer this month – a little bit of everything. And now, having fulfilled a life-long ambition of getting ‘smorgasbord’ into a piece of writing, I can get on with the reviews.
►Michelle Dowd – ‘Bed of Love’
How nice it is to review someone who is from my neck of the woods. Michelle Dowd is from Randalstown, although she has now decamped to Ayr to further her studies. She describes herself as a singer, writer, blogger and model. I’d be happy if I could accomplish any one of those four (and the fourth one is a non-starter), but some people are more ambitious, and some people, such as Ms Dowd have a right to be ambitious. Without being anything approaching an R&B cognoscenti, ‘Bed of Love’ sounds like a real throwback to the 1980’s UK R&B of Sade (or Sadie as she was known in Ballymena). It’s smooth as silk, with slick production by Paul McNeilly. It’s seduction music (‘having sex by the window’ – ooer). It is a refreshing change from all the other music I hear. I don’t get sent anything in this style – or haven’t to date, and while that isn’t a cue for a sudden rush of R&B tunes to come winging my way, it provides further proof that there is more to NI music than just singer-songwriters and bands trying to be Snow Patrol (which is a relief).
If you don’t know about the North-West’s The Wood Burning Savages by now, then one would suggest you get out more, as they have been most of the in-the-know’s ‘next big thing’ for some time. While I wouldn’t say TWBS do anything wildly different to other Indie Rock bands down the ages, there is no doubt they do what they do with a strange mixture of panache and bombast. More importantly, it’s a band that knows how to write tunes that catch and hold the attention of the listener, and then don’t outstay their welcome. They have that anthemic quality the likes of The Enemy had when they first sprung to our attention. ‘Been Anywhere Lately’ has all the aforementioned qualities. Wham, bam, thank you ma’am.
►Hot Cops – ‘Auto’
Hot Cops have been championed by many contributors here at CB, but hey, what do they know? So now Ally G gets to check them out and hmmm. All I can say is I have never been a fan of Art Rock bands like Dinosaur Jnr and The Pixies and Hot Cops are clearly influenced by those type of bands. Hot Cops aren’t afraid to get a bit noisy, a bit discordant; chaotic, like a night out on the tiles with too many shots and substances that give you a ‘flame behind my nose’. The vocals are careless in tone and delivery – but that is the point. The lads are trying to portray via music and delivery the subject matter of the song. In that sense, Hot Cops absolutely succeed at creating a song that expresses the sentiment ‘the city is sucking my soul’. Take from that what you will.
Did I say smorgasbord? I think I did. What have we had so far? R&B, Indie Rock, Art Rock and now there is Belfast’s Dirty Words. Dirty Words is almost a smorgasbord all by itself. Its normal stock-in-trade is spoken word (yes, you heard correctly) over Indie Rock which would steer them almost in Hot Cop’s direction although there is no attempt at singing at all with Dirty Words. But, instead of being Indie Rock, ‘There’s A Lot of it About’ is actually a Ska song, with very similar feel to ‘Boys Will Be Boys’ by Ordinary Boys – with Preston’s ‘landan’ twang replaced by our very own Belfast twang (so it is). It’s all very tongue-in-cheek. It’s quirky. I like it. Whether I could listen to a whole album of spoken word over whatever music, I am not so sure. But, try me.
►The Dandy Horses – ‘Hard Luck Town’
The final morsel from the smorgasbord (it got a great score on ‘Pointless’ the other day by the way for words ending in ‘…ord’) is local Folk band, The Dandy Horses. With their album ‘Tales From Hard Luck Town’ already garnering praise from all and sundry, it was only right and proper that the lead off single would be the song ‘Hard Luck Town’. It’s a fairly straightforward song, with a fairly straightforward subjectmatter, so there is always the danger it could get lost among the great many Folk bands that are doing their thing right now. I think what The Dandy Horses have going for them though is its multi-harmony vocals and especially that mix of male and female vocal the band has, which is still a rarity, even in folk circles. If it just featured the male, slightly nasal vocal, the song would almost sound like a Tom Petty rip-off, but add in the female, sweeter tone and the tone is lifted and given an original feel, while still retaining the melancholy atmosphere the subject matter deserves. The album can be streamed from https://soundcloud.com/the-176/sets/tales-from-hard-luck-town
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