This impressive ‘70s-leaning début is not particularly fashionable music, but it is stuffed with fine songwriting, refreshing lyrics and an original spirit.
This disc’s opener sounds like a mash-up of a chamber orchestra and a musical box, gradually building and then fading back to nothing, all with apparent prog ambitions. So it is a huge surprise when “Get Out Alive” follows it up with a power pop riff and a high emphasis on vocals. That surprise grows with low-point “Wonderful Song,” with its almost sing-along singles-market mood and trite lyrics.
The bar rises enormously with “Kings for a While,” a piece with far more gravitas and a hooky chorus; and the lovely, mellow piano-based ballad “Shining Star.”
By this stage several things become apparent. Firstly, their sound carries on the tradition of bands like Supertramp and The Feeling, where pop melody and rock sensibility create a highly approachable mix. They couldn’t make their influences clearer if they all wore fluorescent hats with ’Raised on ‘70s rock’ written on them.
Secondly, this is a musically-based team effort, rather than the work of a bunch of fame wannabes. The instruments blend naturally and singer Marcel Kunkel has a fine voice that defines the band’s sound and has the strength to deal comfortably with any long, high notes.
And then, effortlessly, it seems, they keep rolling out memorable songs with individual personalities. “Rule the World,” a real earworm, talks about values – ruling not for gold or fame – and contains one of John Harper’s two guitar solos.
But this is only halfway through. On “How Do I Make You Feel?” they evoke the ‘70s again with a grimier tone to the upfront lead guitar and a clockwork-like percussive riff, featuring a prominent cowbell throughout; heavy stuff that continues on “Take Me High;” followed by the driving, singable “Leave,” with its early Procol Harum echoes. And there are yet more quality tunes after that.
This is not particularly fashionable music – they seem to have been born ten or forty years too late – but this impressive début collection is stuffed with classic songwriting, a refreshingly interesting lyrical stance and a willingness to create music that reflects who they are as individuals.