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Sirocco by The Halcyon Band

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Reviewed on 1st January 2003.



By The Halcyon Band

This 10 track CD on Eggbert Records is a celebration of traditional guitar pop values. Danny Slack, Sam Forrest, Dave Hunt and Tom Johnson do timeless craftsman-built songs as if English punk had never happened. Their appeal is broad hometown American. It's more grown up than their clattering urbanite rivals.

Some of the recording for this debut album was done in Los Angeles, the rest in York. The end result is tight, full and very listenable. The range is wide and the styles are varied. The general approach comes out of quality playing and well made tunes.

"Machine Gun Fire" opens up the CD with an aggressive shouty blues rock thing, with the riff where it should be, in the fully formed lead guitar of Dave Hunt. He doesn't twiddle and he doesn't just knock out four down strokes to the bar. He plays his instrument like it was a musical instrument (shock horror!). Danny Slack's rich US style vocals are a good complement to the general approach, with plenty of variety form one song to the next, and good harmony blends when required. Bass and drums are intelligent and supportive throughout.

There's an odd moment at the start of "Nice Day" (track 2) which does a Ryan Adams kind of thing, copying a bit from another song in order to get into something of their own. In this case it's "Don't get Fooled Again", with bass, guitar and drums all emulating classic period Who in a sit-up-and-go-"WHAAAT?!?" kind of way. The song itself turns into something quite different, but the chorus doesn't quite recover from the shock. It's still a good number though.

Some Moody Blues strumming and distant keyboard bring in the first of two waltz time numbers "I Want it All" and "Hold on". One 3/4 tune on a rock CD is unusual. Two in a row is completely out there. But The Halcyon Band's eccentric traditionalism is fully declared on the cover with its Persian carpet, potted plant and standard lamp. "Hold On" is a very fine tune, with chart hugging qualities. There's a magnetically good guitar line and an emotionally seductive voice, with big harmony singing at just the right moments. Coldplay and Travis have been making a lot of this kind of stuff it's corny as hell, but not many people can do it with conviction and style. The Halcyon Band can.

"Year of the Rat" is up tempo live material, "Hideaway" has a kind of Spanish jazz feel to its syncopated acoustic guitar. There's plenty to listen to. "In the Morning" is a bit of filler. But the big heart of "Sirocco" with it's North African hints make this the album's defining track. Its density and complexity is the most obvious Love comparison. It is very fine.

"We're All Dying And We Want Our Freedom" has a great bass line in the intro, and builds up well for a rattling good song. This is the one I'll take home. The album goes out on a well-made folky piece of mournfulness with more acoustic guitars and a Lennon-esque tune. As with all ten tracks the production is spot on. Nothing is repeated, nothing is left to chance. Each verse, chorus and middle eight builds some more texture, adds a little extra colour and we get to the end really feeling like we've been somewhere.



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