Declamation of Useless Genius – Dru Hepkins (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Genres, as I have said many times before, are tricky beasts, often tacked onto a track or an album more because of what an artist aspires to be rather than what they actually sound like. And even when the appropriate label is found it is often so vague or perhaps means so many different things to different people as to still be fairly meaningless. But it is the term that Dru Hepkins has coined for himself, “Urban Progressive Rock,” which seems perfect for this anthology of songs.

Urban, because there is no small amount of soul, blues and roots vibes running through the sound, those that lend them to uptown nightclubs and basement bars, that blend modernity and nostalgia in equal measure but are which decidedly the sounds of the city and the soundtrack to the hustle and hassle of street life. Progressive, because even when a song is running along fairly recognisable generic lines, there is always a certain amount of genre-hopping and sonic gene-splicing at work, meaning that they are both familiar and often difficult to pin down. But then, why would you want to pin them down, much better to watch them blossom and evolve before your eyes…well, ears, actually but you know what I mean. And Rock. Well, yes, there is certainly plenty of rock grunt and grind employed when the moment seems right to.

White and Green Blues reminds us of what the term R&B really means. Forget these modern, dance routine driven, style over substance girl groups and solo wannabes who have reappropriated the term, this is old school rhythm and blues, blended with some sassy soul and no small amount of wonderful psychedelic Hammond organ work. It oozes sixties cool, blends groove and grace and is the sound of a style and a scene going full circle and arriving in the present day like a sonic saviour for our times.

There is room for anthemic ballads…if such a thing is possible…but listen to Chasing Glory and tell me that it doesn’t dance with both restraint and understatement as well as sky-searing positivity and a feeling of euphoria. Running Away is a sweet rock duet, one swathed in chamber pop majesty and bluesy guitar exploration and kNOw Love is a funky acoustic number build on both musical buoyancy andlyrical wisdom.

Declamation of Useless Genius, which is a great title, by the way, is one of those albums which is not only difficult to label regarding its sound and style but which is impossible to fit into any, one era too. But isn’t that true of any great music? It can’t be boxed, it plays by its own rules and it uses sonic building blocks from the past to make music for the present and in doing so ensures a bright future for music in general. Listen to this album and tell me that isn’t what is happening here. I dare you!

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