FUNERAL SHAKES may not be a name that you’re familiar with, but if you’re a long term follower of the British underground scene you’ll most definitely have heard each of these individuals before. Made up of members from NERVUS, GALLOWS and the sadly defunct THE SMOKING HEARTS, this super group of sorts are hardly short on talent, making their new unholy union an incredibly exciting proposition.
Right from the get go this record is unmistakably British, combining London punk vibes with a hardcore edge that, even on your first date, is more likely to smack you in the face than take you out for dinner. It’s rough around the edges yet still manages to maintain a slick, swaggering attitude that hints at the band having more grandiose ambitions than simply tearing apart local dive bars.
Lee Barratt’s drumming acts as the driving force for the record, whisking proceedings along at a steady pace and never allowing things to become stagnant, while the dual guitars of Em Foster and Simon Barker work in tandem to create track after track of jagged, bouncing rock n’ roll. Frontman Calvin Roffey’s vocal delivery is both powerfully abrasive and packed with heartfelt sentiment, which, when added to the wall of harmonious noise behind him, almost feels as if the final piece of the jigsaw has slotted neatly into place.
As far as the songs themselves go, they all follow a fairly similar pattern, with slight variation the order of the day for the majority of the record. The Motions and Lightning are both singalong anthems that help the record kick fully into gear, with the latter in particular ripping through the speakers with a venomous, aggressive sting despite the lyrics telling a tale of emotional fragility. That seems to be a theme throughout the record, and the contrast of hard hitting punk-fuelled rock n’ roll played off against a good deal of melancholic lyrical content works very well for the most part. This record isn’t wallowing in its own self-pity – it’s sticking its middle finger up to the past and having a joyous time in moving on.
There’s also a huge amount of melody on this record that at times sounds almost WEEZER-esque, and it’s testament to the intelligence of the band that this contrast to the heavier elements never sounds out of place. With tracks like the punchy yet accessible Gold Teeth, it certainly wouldn’t be beyond the realms of possibility for FUNERAL SHAKES to end up getting some serious radio airplay.
Circles is the standout track on the record, starting off as a snarling slice of hardcore punk before relenting and letting in another well-crafted melodic chorus. The best individual moment however comes in the form of the “You’re so bad for me, but I’m no good for you” howl on Bon Voyage, with everything clicking into place at breakneck speed.
Before we get ahead of ourselves too much, there are definitely some missteps here, and for all its energy and charm, this record certainly hasn’t reinvented the wheel. There are no major twists, turns or changes in pace, and as the tracks go by it does start to feel a tad monotonous. There are admittedly a few new ideas thrown into the mix, but unfortunately these don’t end up coming off particularly well. The instrumental Gin Palace for example does feel like an unnecessary addition, almost like a left over clip from a recording jam session. Likewise closing track You’re So Bad gives a sense that the record is floating away calmly into the distance instead of hurtling off a cliff as you’d expect it to, with the energy seeming to dissipate entirely to make way for some over-indulgent, slightly bland and rather tame pop rock.
This record is not quite equal to the sum of its parts then, but there’s certainly enough promise to hint at bigger and better things on the horizon for a band who clearly have it in them to produce something special. If FUNERAL SHAKES are to become more than just a collection of musicians from other bands, they could do worse than embracing the melody, cranking up the heaviness another couple of notches, and taking a few more risks creatively. Granted that’s easier said than done, but if they can pull it off then album number two will be something well worth looking forward to…
Funeral Shakes is set for release on February 16th on Silent Cult Records.
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