By The Checks
The Checks are one of those extremely rare bands whose musical output is far more advanced than they are in age - put simply, this fresh-faced New Zealand band were in the right place at the right time when talent was being, unequally, handed out. This debut album packs a punch; at the risk of hammering the point too much, it exemplifies exactly how true it is to say they're musically gifted far beyond their years.
"Hunting Whales" is a bold, raspy blues rock record through and through, seemingly with the selfsame philosophy as bands such as The Blueskins - that is, play classic rock like it was meant to sound, simultaneously going a long way to reinstate the guitar solo to its former glory. It is, in fact, Sven Pettersen's guitar noodling that stands out the most on this album; virtuosity is here in spades, with admirable speed and well balanced solos, clearly conscious of the perfect heady potion of impressive embellishment and climactic structure. Thanks to the good old archetypal blues-rock structure and outlook, instrumentalists over and above lead guitarist get a chance to shine on their respective 'showcase' track, notably vocalist Edward Knowles' stand-out part, of Robert Plant-like drawl, on "Mercedes Children" and some attractive walking bass on "Terribly Easy". There's strength and poise in each separate part on next to every track that's worth hours of wonderment.
As entire tracks, they work staggeringly well. Hooks are sometimes guttural and sometimes hopelessly delicate but always very contagious. "Terribly Easy", further to boasting solid bass playing, has a beautifully harmonised vocal line and all its elements cohere to make a sweeping and engrossing song. Meanwhile, "Memory Walking" has a liquid, dream-like quality, leaving you feeling so blown away that you could be knocked down with a feather.
So, here's the slight anxiety that I reluctantly admit to: influences, while only the best and most commendable, have sometimes a heavier shadow than seems quite right. The whole album is clearly such an utterly pulverized melange of various bands that it's hard to isolate exactly why the album isn't as idiosyncratic as it could be - in fact, as it is on certain pieces, when the band's personal touch is deeply inscribed into the song's core. It is, as I say, only a slight apprehension and subsequent songs and albums will demonstrate how founded it is or isn't. Nonetheless, it's a nagging problem, so I, disappointingly, have to reflect this somewhat in the numbercrunching. It's a shame that it has such a pitfall, as in every other aspect it deserves all of our reverence and adulation, even total devotion.