Sunday, 10 February 2008

SOUL MONKEY Red Carpet Launch Party 9th Feb @ LRV, Staffs University: Rachel Rimmer/From the Captain/Twem

Review by Steve Dean

Photo by Julie Gould

If organiser Melodie Forrester suffered any first night nerves yesterday evening, I'm pleased to tell her they were very much misplaced. This was a first class extravaganza, working in coalition with the Airspace gallery; featuring interactive arts of all kinds, including animation and collective drawing, market stalls, exceptionally skilful face painting by Kat Durber and much, much more. All this and three excellent bands too - it all goes to show what a lot of hard work can achieve, and was certainly reflected in the bonhomie that permeated every inch of this sizeable venue.

Rachel Rimmer and her band began the evening and was in her usual fine voice. Outside of her singing engagements, she is very much involved in the dance world; in particular with Amsterdam-based improvisational choreographer Vincent Cacalano; this being admirably reflected in her fluid movements onstage. I particularly liked her scat singing along to Harry Davies’ adept sax and flute work, her elastic vocals being ideal for a practice normally associated with Ella Fitzgerald and Cleo Laine; who tends to spring to mind every time I see her.

I’ve always liked power trios, and it strikes me that they don’t come much more powerful than ‘From the Captain’ - brothers Joe, James and Pete on lead, bass and drums respectively. Gutsy, well-rehearsed and tight, Pete’s frantic, but accurate drumming lays down the driving force behind a vital set of constantly interesting, thoughtful songs played with uplifting attack and manic flair. Guitarist Joe handles most of the vocals, but they are often shared to great effect by Pete; no mean feat considering his frenetic style. As far as influences go, a good comparison would be 90s band Braid; as would now-reformed Spy versus Spy; but there is also an appealing individuality here that has inspired me to listen to their Myspace recordings over and over. A great band. I’ll looking forward to catching them again sometime.

A band called Twem. The name has a curious echoing quality in that whenever you say it, somebody echoes it back, except with a question mark attached. Tom Twemlow is the singer, guitarist and songwriter of the band and he and they obviously enjoy themselves immensely. Drummer ‘Bash’ opened the set with a beat John Bonham would have been proud of, maintaining an impressive standard of stickwork throughout the entire performance, whilst Joe on bass and Rich on second guitar supplied some fine accompaniment to Twem’s strong melodies, although I must say I personally preferred the chunkier songs in the playlist. Their sound in some ways hearkens back to that of America’s West Coast circa late 60s/early 70s, with elements of Dire Straits and Al Stewart detectable in places as well. An entertaining band to watch, not to mention Twem (the man)’s crazy-legged dancing, it should not take them long to build up a substantial following.

An excellent first night for Melodie and all who work alongside her at Soul Monkey promotions. I can see much their endeavours can add to North Staffordshire’s burgeoning music scene, and added with style.

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