I have to admit that I’m a bit late coming to the party on this one, but I’m more than making up for it now. And what a party it is. Banks of the Lea, the bands second album, was released towards the end of last year and the template set out by their debut Black Music/White Music is not only explored in greater depth here, it is thrashed to within an inch of its life.
Throughout its 10 tracks it meanders through the underbelly of rock and roll, borrowing a Stones lick here, referencing the Thunders swagger there and revelling in a sneering punk approach that seemingly reveres the genre and tries to obliterate it at the same time. Its garage rock feel reminds us what’s really important, attitude rather intricacies, groove rather than grandiose statements. And if in the wrong hands such a blending of blues, country and rock might result in a pastiche of The Eagles or worse…Dr Hook, Stiv and the boys know just which dark and sleazy elements to use to create their wrong side of the tracks music, how to infuse it with an illicit danger and the feeling that you could do with a shower after listening to the album.
When in full swing, augmented by soaring saxophones and driven on by thundering pub-rock piano, there is a touch of The Jim Jones Revue about the band, never a bad thing to have levelled at you. When opting for a more traditional blues vibe they still manage to make it sound more savage and threatening than anything that has gone before. It is the soundtrack to back street brawls, gloomy squats and basement shooting galleries, to strip joints, abandoned tenement blocks and street corner hustlers.
It is a wonderful collision of the dark heart of America, its hidden pulse, its forgotten and unacknowledged backbeat, all set to music by a bunch of Italian country-punks and recorded in the British pub rock heartland, no wonder it doesn’t sound like anything you have heard before.