By The Yards
Years of songwriting isolation and hidden solo outings at North Yorkshire's famous rock recluse Blakey Ridge have done wonders for ex-Seahorse frontman Chris Helme.
Fully shed of all "Britpop" skin and out from under the shadowy wing of legendary axe-welder John Squire, Chris and ex-Seahorses bassist Stuart Fletcher have assembled a fine cast of musicians and given their latest project a name "The Yards". So is now the time for the spotlight to shift from the "New Rock Revolution" and focus on two of indie's last men standing?
The title track is outstanding, and very unsuspected. A heady hash of impelling punk-esque vocals and thunderous riffs. A brazen and timely two fingered salute towards George Dubya and his merry band of jokers, yet lacking the insincerity and limelight grabbing bollocks that usually occurs when rockstar collides with anti-war protestor. "Just a boy out for some fun, got my Stetson got my gun," wails Chris amidst waves of dirty bass and snarly guitars, a handsome opening.
The next three tracks lie much more with my expectations, however all three have a seedy and impassioned undertone reminiscent of the likes of The Velvet Underground. Helme has penned both complex and thoughtful lyrics, fully aware of his past and his own high expectations. Yet willing to snigger ironically at every given opportunity. On second track "Only myself to blame" Helme spits, "There's a trail of destruction in my wake, is there a limit to the shit that you can take?" The chorus ends aptly "Only myself to blame, won't be a fool again".
"Take what you want" is this listener's standout and is a beautifully crafted piece of work. Elegant keys and blues-esque guitars flow wonderfully alongside Helme's rasping vocals and with the addition of cello and viola parts this really is a musical treat, Paul Banks' feverish guitar thrashing the whole shebang up at the end into a triumphant outro.
"Get of my back" ends proceedings with 2 ½ of rock bliss, perhaps Helme's mightiest lunge at his past tormentors and definitely the cement that holds this whole offering together. Fluid and confident, it builds at the end to a striking climax, heavily laden with delightful backing vocals and yet more infectious screaming guitar.
A cracking EP that works only on one level, it rocks. Maybe Mr Helme's destiny is to reappear every few years in a different guise, always showing signs of greatness but never quiet achieving it... but then maybe, just maybe.