Lagoon Dog Records [Release Date: 21.10.13]
There’s a lot to be said for being in the right place at the right time and The Graveltones are knocking on the door at a time when their balls to wall bombast will probably be welcomed by a new generation of rock blues fans weaned on elemental garage rock.
It’s a long way from the duo’s native Queensland to London, but The Graveltones are on a quest to reinvigorate rock & roll with the kind of swagger and substance that has seen them cop a Best New Band Award, secure a Rival Sons tour and appear at the Download Festival. They are clearly revelling in their exponential growth on a rock scene that previously would have ignored them on the pub circuit.
They have the garage band sensibility of The White Stripes, the rawness of Radio Moscow and the kind of telepathic interplay that means they never look down. The Graveltones sound fresh, exciting and downright dangerous, on a scene all too often drowned by the overbearing weight of spin.
It’s not just the fact that it’s cool to be a duo these days, or even that they incorporate a Jim Jones Review thrash as part of their raw roots rock, let alone mine some obvious Led Zeppelin and AC/DC riffs. No, it’s simply that the duo do what they do so well.
Nobody except perhaps Brittany Howard from The Alabama Shakes has such a unique voice as Jimmy O. His coarse, gut bucket wail brings an edge and creepy weirdness in equal measure to bear on his passionate delivery.
His vocals come shot through with a Wolf style growl, a younger Edgar Broughton rasp and an uncompromising Beefheart wail, while in his rockier moments he’s as red raw as Bon Scott. His partner Mikey Sorbello is a muscular drummer from the John Bonham school of molecule shifting, but he understands the nuances of light and shade, when to nail a groove and when to underscore some of Jimmy’s excesses.
He subtly shapes the stop-time ‘St. Lucia’ and anchors the mighty groove of ‘Money’, as Jimmy spits out the chorus. Given the room to manoeuvre, he indulges himself with a portentous rumble that ushers in a dirgy take of Jesse Fuller’s ‘You’re No Good’. Put the two together and add a few choice keyboard parts with potent bv’s and you have all the irresistible ingredients of an essential a kick-ass garage blues band.
Schooled down under and knocked into shape on the Euro gig circuit, the London based Aussie duo have the swagger to pull off some manic riff-driven rock & roll. They open with the high octane ‘Bang Bang’ and hit the heights on the manic single ‘Catch Me On The Fly’, with its stop-time, heavy duty riffs, huge drum sound and a priceless wail from Jimmy.
In a different age they would be considered punk blues, except that this is an album full of pulverising rock riffs. ‘Dying On Your Feet’ for example, generates a massive wall of sound with some stuttering guitar and huge cymbal splashes. There’s more than a trace of Zeppelin in the staccato riffs and Jimmy’s Plant style cock-rock vocal, though you doubt Page would have used such a fuzzed up tone.
‘Don’t Wait Down’ is an impact album, that lives and dies on the back of its surging power and the warped vocals that veer between spontaneous exuberance and exaggerated phrasing. And somewhere at the heart of this mayhem there’s an unreconstructed blues duo trying to get out.
The only outstanding question is whether they have the songs to sustain the relentless drive and energy and keep it interesting. The single certainly suggest so, while ‘Crime To Be Talking’ – with its distant Howlin’ Wolf lick, and gently voiced intro – makes the most of the quiet-to-loud dynamic and ultimately comes to rest on a feather light outro.
And if the latter provides a change in pace, tone and colour, ‘Lightning Bolt’ returns to the high energy blue print, leaning a shade too heavily on a recycled Zeppelin riff before Jimmy’s phrasing brings the song back on track and guides you towards a resolution.
‘Never Going Back’ is a good contender for a follow up single. It’s predicated on an old Buddy Miles riff and builds up to a magnificent uplifting track, underpinned by Mikey’s relentless stick work with shrill guitar riffs and booming bv’s.
And just in case you’ve come this far and still haven’t got it, the brusque finale is bolstered by thunderous drums, distorted buzz guitar, keyboards and a defining snarl from Jimmy: ‘All of her friends say that I’ve got to go, 6 billion people in this world and you’re just another one that I don’t know’. You can’t argue with that. ****
Review by Pete Feenstra
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