Monday, 3 November 2008

The Decision / Silent Film Project / Model Radio / New Education @ the Underground, Hanley. November 1st.

Review by Steve Dean

Photo by Simon Bamford

With an average age of 16, The Decision pack a pretty mature musical punch for so young a band. A power trio leaning towards the old school, they have a raw, loose sound that takes me right back to the late 60s and the early days of the Groundhogs and Rory Gallagher’s Taste. I’m not saying they are quite at that standard yet, but it is certainly only a matter of time. With plenty of youthful verve, guitarist and vocalist Ben West, bassist Rob Melville and drummer Liam Kaye begun with a spirited instrumental before taking us through a selection of songs that demonstrate a thoughtful approach to the importance of variation in songwriting. With some bands, on first hearing, most of the songs can all sound much of a muchness - not something that can be said of the Decision. Ben has a strongly melodic singing voice and their small, but appreciative fan club bellowed their approval right up until the very last note; the band closing with ‘The B I B’, featuring some nice wah-pedal work from Ben. A fine opening band to what proved to be a great night’s entertainment.

Down from Sheffield, Silent Film Project are a well-rehearsed, very professional sounding outfit with some excellent and generally up-tempo tunes. Beginning with their single ‘Two Days’ and thence on through a set packed with joyful, summery pop/rock numbers delivered with fire, passion and impressive musical ability, Silent Film Project demonstrated immense validity in a scene awash with countless bands. Their Myspace profile tells of Lisa O’Hara, a fifth band member who didn’t appear to be in attendance for some reason, but they played a scintillating set nonetheless. Guitarist Paul Musgrave supplied some faultless, classy vocals whilst the robust rhythm section of Jim Keown on bass and drummer Phill Vernon laid down a solid structure for he and lead guitarist Tom Dakin to work over. The influences are many, but there was something in the arrangements of some of the compositions that put me in mind of Elvis Costello’s early albums, particularly ‘Reality TV’. Having said that though, this band has cultivated a sound pretty much of their own. My own favourite track of the evening being ‘Singer Songwriter’, this outfit’s songwriting skills are one of its major strengths.

Model Radio are simply one hell of a good dance band. Maintaining a relentless and thumping beat more-or-less from start to finish, it says a lot for their ability and understanding of musical light and shade that at no point do their numbers pall or become monotonous. Bristling with confidence, their workmanlike, almost gung ho attitude to the job in hand generated a terrific buzz throughout the venue as they pounded and stomped from one vibrant song to the next. Sporting an excellent vocalist and frontman in Bob Jones, they have a huge sound drawn from myriad influences; from the major electronic bands to guitar rockers like U2, but as with the last band, they have managed to capture a vibe all of their own. Most instantly commercial number to my mind was ‘21st Century Digital Lovers’, which can be heard on their Myspace profile. As a footnote, it was interesting to see an uncommon Gretsch guitar onstage, although there appeared to be problems with it, and also a very rare RSB series Aria bass; in my opinion one of the best general production basses ever made. Nice one.

Headliners New Education, whose single launch this event was actually in aid of, are a relatively new band who appear to be going places fast. One of a series of fairly high profile gigs, tonight’s do celebrates the release of their first single ‘Today’ on November 3rd. Coming across as a sort of Paul Weller meets a jangling U2 , the main thing that struck me on hearing them is the strength and sheer conviction in frontman Ryan Dooley’s voice. He sings as if he really means it; ably stirring the spirit as he vents his musical spleen. The new single, with its excellent phrasing and arrangement, being a fine example of this. Incidently, Ryan was the first artiste Stoke Sounds ever reviewed, playing his acoustic solo at the Old Brown Jug in Newcastle. His talent was very obvious then and it’s good to see him now with a full band. His compositions contain a certain Englishness of the type consistent in the works of the great Ray Davies and the afore-mentioned Paul Weller. Such writers are rare and I would guess this band has a great future ahead. The rest of the group; guitarist David Cartwright, bass player Jack Dooley and John Bradbury on drums are well up to scratch and played a blinding set, supplying a fitting final act to round off a fine evening. Absolutely spiffing.


The Decision
New Education
Model Radio
Silent Film Project

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