Wyldling – Little Girl (Self-Released)
'What’s wrong with being sexy?' asked guitar maestro Nigel Tufnel of Spinal Tap, and he had a point. Wyldling, from Derry~Londonderry, obviously agree with Tufnel, as it’s all about the looks and presence of frontwoman Jilly St John. Sexuality and music are not always the easy bedfellows they are often thought to be, though, precisely because it’s so hard to do it right.
Whilst Spinal Tap fell into the trap of being ‘sexist’, Wyldling do their best to straddle the world of being alluring and being off-putting. If it was a man in any of the pictures, it would be ludicrous, without a doubt. It raises a number of questions, such as why the band need to market themselves almost entirely on the sexuality of their frontwoman and about the options open to an attractive woman in the music industry. There really aren’t any easy answers to be found.
'Why does all that matter?' you might be forgiven for asking. Well, in a nutshell, Wyldling have gone for this hook so much, the music has been left a vaguely anonymous electro-rock backing track with St John careering over the top. There’s no substance to it at all, and one ends up wondering who actually listens to this kind of thing? Much as advertising men went crazy for Republica’s anonymous brand of indie-dance in the late 90s whilst the public stayed well away, it’s easy to imagine ‘Little Girl’ soundtracking a television advert or something, rather than finding a home in anyone’s record collection.
It’s all very well executed, of course, and the performances and production are first rate, but it seems to exist only as a product to be marketed, something geared so strongly for ‘success’ that it struggles to make an emotional connection.
Seven Summits – The Worrier (Self-Released)
(Available from July 20th)
In a lifespan that has seen them mutate from indie hopefuls to low level hitters to fan favourites, Seven Summits have done things in a very old fashioned way. Their debut self-titled album was packed with great tunes and ideas, but fell short of the mark by a few grades, offering up a taste of what they could be, rather than the main course.
Since then, they’ve settled on a stable five-piece line-up, and set about honing their craft. They have worked hard to find exactly what it is that they do well and are doing it as well as they possibly can. Each single has built upon the strengths of the last, and now that the second album is on the way (August 24), the band release what may be their finest piece of work so far.
‘The Worrier’ is driven by the gently angular guitars that the band have made their own in the last few years. The stop-start rhythm thematically joins the dots of the song, almost as if the band are worrying about how to start the song. 'Is it nature, or is it nurture?', wonders front man Rory Nellis, before getting into the specifics of what he’s worrying about: religion and girls, and y’know, life.
It’s all charming stuff, a playful sense of humour permeating the song, but the band manage that difficult prospect of really tugging at the heartstrings, injecting layers of meaning which would be mawkish or sentimental in someone else’s hands. When Nellis sings that the only Christian Brother he ever knew was 'a gentlemen', it’s difficult not to be moved by the sincerity in his voice.
Whether it will set the charts on fire is another matter, but anyone who can craft a song this perfect has already been given a wonderful reward.
The Answer – Rise 2012 EP (TAP)
(Available from 2nd July)
It’s hard to imagine a career going the way The Answer’s has. Their retro revival rock has seen them go from being the butt of many jokes ('The Answer to a question that was never asked', etc), to AC/DC’s support band of choice, to a powerful force in their own right. They seem to have pulled it off by finding something that they love and sticking to it, whatever anyone else thinks.
It has the makings of a fairy story, and as usual with these kind of things, they can sometimes be too good to be true. On the face of things The Answer have gone from strength to strength, but there’s been a price to pay as. Their second album Everyday Demons was successful, but their next album Revival didn’t manage to build on that. Now they have released this stop-gap EP on their own label.
There’s no doubting that they can still pull in the crowds, their live performances are the stuff of legend. Despite that there’s a distinct sense that The Answer’s rise to the top might have gone off the boil, just as the prize was within sight.
‘Rise’, somewhat bafflingly, is the title track to their 2006 debut album, but didn’t actually appear on the record at the time. Finally getting a release, it begins as an acoustic ballad, very much in the Southern rock tradition that the band have proved themselves so adept at. Frontman Cormac Neeson sings more sweetly than he ever has, his usual throat scraping roar of a voice replaced with a tender lilt. It’s surprising, and the addition of some sweeping strings gives the song a gentle majesty, like proud kings surveying their kingdom.
Precisely two minutes into the song, the familiar banshee wail comes back, and the band kick in, turning 'Rise' into an all-out power ballad. It’s a brave gamble, and one that ultimately works. The song almost standing back and taunting the listener into getting their lighter out to wave in the air.
There’s that niggling sense, though, that the song isn’t sweet enough to suck in the curious and that it doesn’t rock hard enough for the faithful. Maybe it is just too corny, for all the obvious sincerity with which it’s performed.
The Answer still have the makings of a world class rock band in them, but ‘Rise’ might well be just another sidestep in their career.