Try to stick with me on this one because yesterday, something quite miraculous happened to me…
I’m not an NME kinda guy. In fact I’m the complete opposite. Of course I respect their role in indie music and their history, but there’s a part of me that has always hated the bands they churn out. Maybe it’s to do with the people I associate with reading the magazine, maybe it’s the sound of these bands, or maybe it’s the people who play in these bands; or MAYBE it’s all of these factors. Either way, when I saw that NME targeted indie ‘slackers’ Radstewart as ‘one to watch’ I was a) over the moon for the band, and b) thinking “Oh God, are they turning into that kind of band!?”
I’ll be blunt: yesterday, I went from absolutely loathing this band, to thinking they’re actually quite brilliant. It really was a polar shift in opinion. That doesn’t happen much. It was a surreal and unexpected experience, yet here I am about to review a band I thought I would NEVER like. Did anything special happen to cause this radical shift in opinion? No, not really. The music spoke for itself, which we all know is an almighty and unstoppable power, and it took me totally by surprise. So time for me to suck it up and do what I never thought I would do…
Calvin (bass) is an old band mate and friend of mine. He was a good musician, and was quietly very driven and clever about his music. Since parting ways from the band, he’s always mentioned, yet never really shoved his current band Radstewart in my face. Part of me assumed that it was because it was a hobby band and that it was taking them a while to get their feet – but now I realise that he was just being the softly spoken and nice guy he always was.
I was being deceived – the sly devil!
After liking their facebook page and twitter about a year ago because that’s what friends do, I started seeing some strange, and AMAZING things happening to the band. Firstly I saw that they were part of the ‘Alcopop!’ crowd (who are a fairly well known indie label). Then they were being reviewed in some ever bigger blogs. Then the band got featured on some mix tapes and label showcases. THEN OUT OF THE BLUE, a torrent a massive endorsements: NME supporting them, a review in Rocksound, and yesterday their EP getting an exclusive feature in Clash magazine.
What was going on!?
Every time I saw a piece of news like this, I would go over to the band’s soundcloud, reacquaint myself with their music, and I must admit that every time UNTIL yesterday: I just couldn’t understand it. I was hearing low-fi, sloppy, indie music, where the vocalist couldn’t sing, and it sounded like it was recorded in the band’s bedroom. I didn’t get it. I didn’t like it. The magazines were surely wrong!
But no – I was wrong.
I can ignore NME endorsing a band because I rarely like the band’s they produce (aside from Arctic Monkeys of course). But Rocksound liking these guys!? They are a point of guidance for me! I trust them! And they gave it 8/10!?
Queue: THE TRANSFORMATION.
*Not being a fan of indie, my repertoire of relevant bands is seriously thin, so I apologise in advance…*
Radstewart are a seriously clever band. Although they may sound like the drunken, dreary ramblings of drug addled rock stars like Pete Doherty on first listen, dig deeper, and this band have chiselled out a sound that in fact parodies this ‘scene’ music. It’s all about the lyrics here, and Radstewart do it in style. Whether it’s attacking the “c**ts” who go out drinking in fancy dress or the people who pretend they have the swagger of San Francisco when “cut the crap…this is Leeds”, the vocals are cutting, frank, and fantastically left field. At times it’s more like a monologue or spoken word music rather than singing, yet his atonal and certainly less-than-perfect vocals are actually the perfect addition for this topically relevant band.
I stand by my former belief that this is messy, imperfect music – but now I realise that this was entirely intentional, and in fact it wouldn’t be half as good if it was anything but this. The instruments sound cheap and the recording, DIY, the tunings are slightly off and it definitely isn’t too a click track – YET in my new found position of actually liking this band it sounds brilliant. Its soft. Its rough. Its dreamy. It’s definitely surreal. And you know what: I don’t own ANY music that sounds like this (save perhaps Liam Lynch – but that’s comedy music and not something to take seriously).
I would love to recommend a single song of this EP, but each of the songs on this 5 track record have a certain charm to them. ‘Fix The Roads’ sounds both familiar in its melodies, yet new in its lyrical style, ‘Student Wiccans’ has brilliant vocals that sound like the swagger of an educated introvert personified, whilst ‘Insane Parties’ has superbly cutting and lyrics that tie very closely to my own opinions. The two final tracks are perhaps their weakest in my opinion, but this is coming from someone who is not naturally in-tune with this genre.
Whether you like it or not, this is a band who have managed to embrace whole heartedly the sound and persona they wanted to achieve, and although this band will surely get some people raving about how indie music is awful and talentless, at least this band are 100% of something rather than 20% of this, that, and the other. The grainy polaroid band photos are mimicked in the bedroom recording quality sound, whilst the not-so-commercial look of the band is reflected in the lyrical content that actively aims to disassociate themselves from this crowd.
They’re ballsy. I like that.
Radstewart are either a band that will turn you off instantly, or one that will interest you gradually, but consistently. In my (indie-limited) books: this band are unique, and time-after-time I say this – all anyone needs to do in music is just stand out.
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