By The Scaramanga Six
Whatever they might get up to in Huddersfield, The Scaramanga Six are pretty big in the large city of Leeds. They do clever rock music with passion and understanding. Pavement, Stephen Malkmus and Divine Comedy (from a guest list of thousands) are among their most-obviously-admired influences. But their roots go much deeper and further back that. They wipe the floor with the local opposition, and they seem to be looking for a wider audience. This CD should win friends and plenty of attention. Get yourself down to Joseph's Well on November 17th. Treats aplenty.
Track one "Pressure Cage" drives in at a hundred miles an hour. There's a heroically good bass riff and some sudden stops and changes that show just how good they have got as a gigging band. A great start. "Last night someone stole my car" he yells. The CD artwork proudly dedicates itself to ... a Montego. A Montego? Any kind of car in rock is Stupid of course, but two Stupids don't necessarily make a Brilliant. Irony and quirkiness can get in the way sometimes. Do the Scaramangas really mean all this? How much of it is a pisstake? Hard to tell. Cracking track.
"Singer of Songs" leads in with some nice retro keyboards and moves on with big resonant voice. "I don't know my faults" he sings. That dangerous fine line again. The voice is good but imperfect - great in person, but on the objective rack of anonymous reviewing you have to notice some parts of the range where it isn't completely convincing. The strong notes are belted out like Tom Jones on a good day. The song itself hesitates on its way to a tune, and the dynamics build and fall without a real sense of urgency. The "anthemic" chorus is strong, with extra vocal tracks, but doesn't quite make unforgettable. Don't mention Coldplay. The voice is beefier than that.
The aforementioned "Big in a Small Town" is more determined. Back to the driving beat A nice incessant guitar riff and doubled up vocal to get started, with a cute Rickenbacker-ish lift out of the first chorus into the verse. A lot of howling shouting and diving about good clean fun. It's on its way to classic status. But the development flags a bit at 2 minutes 30, and we have to come back round the block for another go. Like the rest of the CD this is great material for a live show the crowd is given extended go mental bits. But as a studio recording a sharper editing that tightens up the pacing and dynamics might be in order. A drum sound to match the quality of the guitar, bass and vocal tracks would be good too.
Joined directly to "Big in a Small Town", track four is "The Stupidest Man in the World" The angular side of the music is more confident here and stronger in its own terms. There's definitely no need to be "eccentric" or self deprecating here. It's odd sounding with Frank Zappa-ish vocals, it's clever and it's very good. It clumps chugs and clangs along. Scott Walker eat your heart out. This is the most authentically original sounding track on the CD.
"The Continuing Saga Of" at track five is outrageously gorgeous. The first six beats of "Dance to Your Daddy" open it up, but off it goes from there with all sorts of other great ideas. Stephen Malkmus' creased melody lines might be too close for some people's comfort and despite being part of a good title "of" just doesn't make it as a last word in a line. The keyboards, guitar riff and the chorus are wonderful. I love it.
The CD's overall recording sound is like a great live session. The band are worth lots more time and love with a seriously good producer. There's also a "secret track" of aimless racket mongering that the CD doesn't need. There's a lapse of judgement here that might be another clue in explaining why they remain "Big in Small Town"? The songs are all democratically credited to the whole band, but a single mind is sometimes a good idea.