Haunted Heart (Damaged Goods)
It's a case of if it ain't broken don't fix it as London rock'n'roll duo continue to quietly please third time around.
They say third time's a charm. No one knows why, but they do. Proverbial witterings aside, we're back here with Jack Sandham (guitar slinger, organ grinder, smokin' voice) and Wednesday Lyle (barefoot drums, sultry voice) worshipping at the alter of well-crafted, polite-ish rock'n'roll. They've quietly built up a nice following via previous outings 'Beat Stampede' and 'Skeleton Soul' and they continue to refine their art on this latest LP (notice the two word album title thing? More minimal than Kings Of Leon's five syllables anyhow).
If you like your garage trashy best look away now. This is soulful rock'n'roll that looks to the blues/gospel/Southern 50s/60s version of rock'n'roll served up by heroes like Ray Charles, Roy Orbison, and Dusty Springfield. In that sense they have more in common with the Black Keys and aforementioned KOL than, say, Royal Blood and the White Stripes. Having said that they definitely know how to testify and kick up the dust on a tight-as-a-nut rhythm once they start revving that engine. The title track does just that, and is destined for a modern Hollywood soundtrack somewhere; with it's slightly distorted organ chugs, insistent handclaps and spiky short melodic guitar solo. 'Downlow' pulls off a similar trick, with Lyle's deadpan vocals doing their best to keep up with the high speed train going on beneath.
'Doom Train' has a loose rockabilly/boogie stop-start base that actually touches on The Cramps rough'n'ready psychobilly, though I suspect it's come to them via the influence of voodoo master Jim Jones. But it's on their delicate, Americana moments that Cowbell are most affecting. It's a lost art for modern rockers to deliver genuinely, whiskey-in-chair-at-midnight tender moments. On 'Neon Blue' the slide guitar is thrust centre stage as the dancing partner to Sandham's whispered urban blues tale, and 'Something's Gotta Give' channels Lou Reed on the VU's sparse-sounding third-album with delightful success. Closing track 'No Trouble' is five minutes of authentic southern soul that could have been presented to Solomon Burke for his final album. It's stirring stuff, and deserves a wider audience.
If 'Haunted Heart' falls down anywhere it's that it moves very much in its own comfort zone: it knows what it likes and doesn't deviate from it's prime influences. If you can live with that then you'll be humming this shit 'til the cows come home. And Christ knows in these troubled times you take your comforts where you can.
Haunted Heart is out now on LP, CD and for download via Damaged Goods
BY PHIL ISTINE
A blog to pontificate upon music both new and old: mostly reviews, some news, interviews, thought pieces, and exclusive content.