Thursday, 16 July 2015

10ft Tom / Austin Tweddle / Cactusman / Northern Horizon / Six Billion Monkeys - Demo Reviews, July Edition

[2015.07.16] Tom Hollingworth, for NARC Magazine.

You’re on your own at the back of a smokey bar, drinking away the pain of a lifetime of bad decisions and troubled situations, feeling lost. Don’t worry. 10ft Tom (and his Leprosy Crooks?) are singing a lil’ rock’n’roll just for you with their song, People Like Us. The chord cycle in the verse rolls like a stone whilst our giant singer reads a register of dedications. The excitement as the band speeds up in the choruses is endearing, like a child taking you by the hand to show you a new painting they’ve drawn. As a single-finger keyboard string line is added to the orchestration, and the singer assures us we’re not alone, the song leaves the ground carrying the listener to a more hopeful place.

As our singer meanders through lyrics reflecting upon the complications of a femme fatale, Austin Tweddle’s appreciation for Sheffield’s LA Teddy Boys could do with being ever so slightly diluted. His lazy drawl is seamless and cool, and this modern noir is completed in Blueprints by a female backing vocal singing in unison at the choruses. The production is crisp and perfectly judged, allowing tastes such a modest tremolo part and a soulful distorted distant guitar to sit within the mix, embellishing without distracting. The track outros with a rally of repeated distorted guitar motifs as our Romeo’s frustration finally concedes and he begs for his beau’s ‘blueprints’ of the song’s namesake.

Cactusman certainly have a taste for the bittersweet in their song Death Of Me; from the teary lead electric guitar tone painting with arpeggios, to the rainy lead melody. Even the accompanying visual artwork to this song is a delicious extension of the mood, with its heart and death collage of mixed materials. Death Of Me classically combines the optimism of a recycling positive chord sequence and resigned and mournful lyrical content. When a female voice harmonises in the choruses, our lead singer’s mildly flat pitching is emphasised. Though certainly an imperfect flower, this ballad is the demo that glistens the most this month. Alongside entries that celebrate traditional forms,
this is no exception, but Death Of Me feels like a sudden expression that captures a mood instantly, and the band have had the wisdom not to mess with that.

The production does not get slicker this month than with Northern Horizon’s Miss Hopeless, a song psychically connecting the teen spirit of Ajax, Ontario at the turn of the millennium with the present adrenaline of five boys from the North East. Steve Waltl’s accent denies any British routes for a seamless brat American voice. His delivery and control of glimpsing falsetto moments are expertly handled and own this punchy and angsty pop ballad. The track rocks its groove seamlessly between a full and half-time feel whilst maintaining a solid heart throughout. With just a pinch of something more unique in the ingredients, this would have walked the demos this month. 

The most embryonic demo this month comes from Six Billion Monkeys, seemingly the pseudonym of Rodney Hall. There is a devil sat on my shoulder tempting me to reflect the tracks title, Are You Prepared?, back on the songwriter and if he was not selling the song, I would have not let those thoughts onto this page. The track pumps Am, F, and E chords over a crude delay-heavy drum pattern as lyrics are yelled through distortion far back in the mix, barely audible. Though it may serve as a useful draft, those with the lowest-fi, punk penchant would still want to add a cherry or two before calling this finished.

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