By Luke Hirst
Bradford singer songwriter Luke Hirst specialises in the sort of no frills, pop-infused indie-rock songs that we don't seem to see much of anymore, what with 90% of popular acts either being a band, or a female solo artist (ala Lilly Allen, Amy Winehouse, Duffy etc.) Consequently, it's debatable whether Luke Hirst's new EP 'Rock n Roll Begins At Home' will find a ready audience, but that's no comment on its quality.
EP opener 'Wonderboy Song' is a sublime, summery piece of folk-infused alt-pop. Overflowing with laidback, Mediterranean-tinged melodies that'll have you tapping your feet, 'Wonderboy Song' is easy on the ear, without being in the least bit boring. It opens in particularly strong fashion, with buzzy riffs and drum rolls swiftly carrying us into the blissed-out, main body of the song. 'Wonderboy Song' then picks up the pace once again, for a snappier, hand-clap-studded end-section. However, vigorous beginning and ending aside, the main focus here is on Hirst's vocals and song writing skills - and both are strong enough to carry this track.
'World Outside Your Door' takes a while to get into its stride, largely because the bone-shaking drumbeats are initially a little on the disjointed side. This places too much emphasis on the lyrics and, in this instance, they're slightly too obvious to be properly engaging ("there's a world outside your door / if only you would explore / life outside of these four walls.")
However, 'World Outside Your Door' does build into a fuller-sounding song, beginning with a pop-infused chorus of softening, harmonious backing vocals that take the edge off that prominent drumbeat.
'World Outside Your Door' really comes together during the final minute, as the backing vocals adopt a more dramatic, urgent edge and a cello is thrown into the mix. It's an emotional finale where even the bordering-on-cheesy lyrics take on added significance. 'World Outside Your Door' starts off in decidedly average fashion, but finishes on a definite high.
Starting off weak isn't a problem for 'Lost Without You.' Right from the start, this is a heartfelt sing along with hauntingly fragile lyrics and vocals.
Beginning with melodic, acoustic strumming, 'Lost Without You' then works its way towards a dramatic high, as clunking keys and surprisingly heavy riffs gradually edge their way into the song. As 'Lost Without You's lighters-in-the-air rhythms are overtaken by piano flourishes and buzzing riffs, the song still manages to retain the sincerity that made it so appealing in the first place. Even when 'Lost Without You' is delivering a dramatic arc of sound, it still feels curiously understated.
By contrast, the hypnotic 'Evaline' is more downbeat. Featuring a lush, but repetitive, backing track of darkly atmospheric piano keys, harmonious backing vocals and a continuous and unobtrusive drum-rattle, 'Evaline' is so understated, it's in danger of washing over the listener without making an impression. Hirst's lulling vocals don't help matters, as he slides smoothly from one line to the next, adding to the pleasant, but not particularly engaging sound.
In the context of the rest of this EP, 'Evaline' stands out simply because it strikes a grimmer note than the other songs, but it just might have benefited from being less easy on the ear.
The piano-led 'Doo Wop Sonata' offers something a little different from the rest of this EP. The lively piano rhythms have an intriguing, timeless feel to them. 'Doo Wop Sonata' is by no means an immediate song - after all, there's nothing really grabbing about someone bashing away at a piano - but it's a classy sound, and one that's likely to win the listener around on novelty value alone. Even better, 'Doo Wop Sonata' builds to a high of dramatically pointed drumbeats and piano flourishes. This ending may feel a little self-indulgent and showy, but you'll like the song all the more for it, and it does ensure that 'Doo Wop Sonata' goes out on a very stylised high.
'Rock n Roll Begins At Home' steers clear of the sickly-sweet pop choruses and maudlin ballads of many singer songwriters, to deliver five tracks of gimmick-free, melodic indie that'll get you tapping your feet.
Alternative / Punk / Rock