We’re all guilty of it; the easiest way to review a band when you haven’t got much to say about them is to simply point the listener towards better-known bands with whom the band being reviewed share some sort of sonic kinship. It’s not ideal, but it saves everybody a lot of time and tears in the long run.
So, when you read a PR blurb about a band that you’ve never crossed paths with before that mentions, by turn, King’s X, Free, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains and Bad Company, you might justifiably be a little disappointed when, on pressing play, at least three of those names are signally absent on any of the tracks offered up for dissection. Sometimes the trick works, sometimes… not so much.
All of which is a bit unfair to Berkshire-based hopefuls Crooked Shapes, the trio on which such unwarranted excitement was heaped prior to listening. Their self-titled debut, out next week on the band’s own label, is actually a pretty good opening statement of intent for an act of such obviously tender years – closing track Don’t Look Back in particular promises a bright future for the band – but it isn’t quite ready yet to share accolades with those bands mentioned above.
Still, that’s not entirely the band’s fault, so let’s concentrate on the positives; Opening track Fire does indeed possess a bit of a grunge edge, and George Ives has got the early nineties bass rumble down to a very fine tee. Leave Me For Dead carries on the theme, but at this point in the band’s career it’s artifice rather than true art that drives the music – Seattle in 1991 was in reality a whole lot grimmer than Reading thirty years later. The lived experience will always outweigh the imagined, and it’s going to take a lot of grit and other substances under the fingernails before these guys can truly convey the misery of grunge in all it’s tattered glory.
That said, it’s a pretty good song nicely played, and sometimes that’s enough. Appetite is a little bouncier, with hints of Britpop in it’s jaunty peacock strut, and a booming presence out back from drummer Craig Carlaw. And George Twydell offers a nice solo to go along with his sunny vocal approach, too; if Wolfmother were any good, they’d sound a bit like this.
As noted, closing track Don’t Look Back is where everything comes together best, from the Hendrixy opening strains to the closing, plaintive notes from Twydell’s tortured axe. Here we hear a band latching onto a groove like a dog with a particularly succulent, marrow-suffused bone, and not letting go; backing vocals are spot on, the rhythm section absolutely cooks (Carlaw hits with gratifying force throughout) and Twydell displays a nice versatility as he explores a range of retro moods on the six string.
All in all then a praiseworthy effort, even if the bigger picture isn’t quite within grasp just yet… But there’s more than enough here to suggest that Crooked Shapes are an act well worth keeping tabs on moving forward!
Crooked Shapes releases on November 19th.