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The Dark Before the Dawn by Simon Pollard Band

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Reviewed on 25th February 2012.


The Dark Before the Dawn

By Simon Pollard Band

Whilst sitting down listening to this EP from The Simon Pollard Band, thinking about an angle for this review, I was trying to think when it was that Country music became cool. After considering this for an unhealthy amount of time, I wondered if it actually ever became cool and simply remained therefore, firmly on the shelves of the 'Guilty Pleasure' aisle.

When you put yourself out there as a Country/Rock band an instant expectation is put upon you as a band, not least in your outward appearance. For example when you look up The Simon Pollard Band as I'm sure you all will do after reading this, you won't see dungarees, you won't see tobacco being chewed and unless you are watching them live at a farm, you won't see a horse. What you will see though, is smart, modern and youthful. None of this is particularly important, but this is directly reflected in the music that Simon and his band are producing. So perhaps with a slight reinvention and tweaked angle, music with a twang can be cool...

Ask yourself this - Is there is anything more uplifting than a fiddle-laden hoedown with some good 'ol boys from the South? Or if that isn't available, a bit of fiddle-laden Country/Rock from some good 'ol boys from the North? Well that's what you get at the opening of this EP from the Leeds-based outfit. 'Lord have Mercy' pulls all the good bits from Kings of Leon's 'Youth and Young Manhood' and to be honest, reminds you of how good KOL used to be before they started making music for stadiums and housewives started to believe their sex was on fire...

Anyway back to Mr Pollard and his band, after the dust has settled on the cotton-pickin, foot-stompin, feel-good mayhem of the opening track, the style and tempo shifts ever so slightly into 'Puppet Strings'. Still leaning heavily on the Country side of the Country/Rock fence, Simon retains the upbeat feel-good qualities established early on in the EP, without churning out something you've heard before. The song itself is perfectly structured, complete with sing-along chorus, a tasty middle 8 and enough Fiddle to remind you firmly of the band's influences.

'Hole out of Mine' sneaks up on you and politely introduces itself to you as the standout track on the EP. Building its layers bit by bit, instrument by instrument - this song demonstrates the point I was trying to make earlier. Heading towards Gospel choir at points and with Simon & Garfunkal firmly in the back pocket, the band bring a unique twist to this genre and have produced a song that quietly demands your attention.

It was always going to be hard to sustain the momentum this EP was gaining, and whilst the tempo certainly does pick up again with 'Chasing Light', the music loses its individuality and with that, its appeal. The track itself isn't bad at all, but it's Cookie-Cutter Indie-Rock and even the Fiddle can't save this one for me. Having said that - I bet you 10 that this is the one that gets picked up by the radio....

'Fall Short' brings the EP to an end and whilst it does a lot more than the title suggests, it isn't quite the epic album-ender I think it is intended to be. By now 'The Dark Before the Dawn' has worked all of the 'Country' out of its system and is now playing some very safe radio-friendly favourites. But in spite of this I like this. The Simon Pollard Band, it's clearly a band that is trying to find its sound and this EP is a bit of everything they do well. They may have to make the big decision in the future though - Be Cool, or Be Country?



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