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Tension in the Middle by The Savage Nomads

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Reviewed on 28th May 2012.


Tension in the Middle

By The Savage Nomads

There I was attempting to iron a shirt for work the next day, 6 Music on in the background to soften the blow of the one domestic task that genuinely grates on my spirit on the rare occasions I actually bother, when I heard some familiar vocals. I've been avidly following Savage Nomads since reviewing their debut album last year so I knew a new EP was imminent. So to hear Steve Lamacq playing a track from the new release gave me a tingle of pride and excitement - temporarily distracting me from an almost perfect crease down the sleeve. Soon realising I'm unable to concentrate on two things simultaneously I sat the iron down so I could enjoy the music and four minutes later found myself politely tweeting - more commonly known as begging - for an advance copy.

If you haven't heard last years' "Coloured Clutter" then you should redress this and order a copy pronto. It's brilliant. I was blown away by its freshness and the scope of influences it acknowledges without daring once to take the easy road and simply imitate. One of the album tracks, "An Empty Seat", appears on the EP and this helps show where they're coming from and signposts the other directions they're capable of heading with their sound. In the short passage of time since the album to the EP there's an added maturity to the sound on the two new tracks featured here. Everything feels more accomplished but without moving away from the foundations of youthful attitude and boldness that the album was built on.

"Tension in the Middle" starts with soulful keys and slowly grows until the familiar tones of Cole Salewicz in his inimitable urban-preacher-for-the-youth spoken word mode, adds dimension. On first listen this might seem like a very simple track but give it another try and you'll hear electronica, guitar and ambience join forces to generate a musical crossroads somewhere between the darkly cool vibe of mid-90s trip-hop, the socio-political vitriol of Fatima Mansions era Cathal Coughlan and the poise of intelligent British hip-hop. There's an angry energy to the track and undertones of dystopia yet it still manages to be strangely positive and uplifting at the same time. This is a seriously good opener to the EP.

For anyone previously exposed to "Coloured Clutter", "Four Personalities" will be familiar territory as ska-inspired beats, raw-edged, jaunty guitars and cheeky brass touches deliver the goods. I'd like to flatter myself and say the title took inspiration from a line in my previous review of their album, but I'll be more realistic and say no matter where the title derives its meaning, it's perfect for this EP and further proof that Savage Nomads seem incapable of putting a foot wrong. The changing tempos within the song, the reverb on the guitars, the carnival-like horns and the woven vocals create something so instantly gratifying that it's already one of my personal anthems for the summer. I'm guessing there'll be festival performances for Savage Nomads so keep your eyes peeled: this song is perfect for a hot and sweaty field of smiling, hippy, festival folk to jump about to.

"An Empty Seat" is a super-cool dancer of a tune with a simple but dazzlingly effective bass, customarily catchy guitars and high jinks via some fun and falsetto whoops. The track is underpinned by a stomping, hypnotic and almost military beat that you just can't help bounce along to and the vocals sit perfectly with the building energy of the track. Already knowing this track didn't detract from it completely belonging on the EP and the same goes for the extra tracks thrown in for good measure. There's a radio edit of "Tension in the Middle" and a clean radio version of "An Empty Seat" featured which, if this is your first exposure to Savage Nomads, will only help fuel the fire and make you want to hear more.

Start to finish this is an excellent EP by one of the brightest, most defiantly original and genuinely exciting British bands around at the minute. If this is what they can produce in such a short time following on from their debut LP then who knows what greatness they're capable of in the long run. Personally I can't wait to find out and before they get any bigger, promoters seriously need to get them booked for some gigs up here so we can say we saw them before it happened. Oh, and so I can get to see them without having to go to London.



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