Due for release: 19th September 2014
Album review: By Ryan Mitchell-Smith
I find myself being a lucky so-and-so once more as another album lands on my doorstep for a sneak-peek review. This album has a little something about it though… it promises memories and reeks of something special. Why? Because it is the album child of an old friend of mine with whom I went to University. I am intrigued to see where his journey has taken him, and so I know already to expect quality, through my own memories of him. He is Andrew Charlewood, and he is the brains behind the Indie-Rock outfit which (nearly) shares his surname. It is my pleasure, to introduce you to Charlywood.
Charlywood are based in Austria and are made up of some amazing and fine musicians. These are; Andrew Charlewood on Guitar and Vocals, Fabian Lewey on Lead Guitar, Lina Neuner on Bass, and Fabian Natter on Kit and percussion. These talented musicians provide a solid-as-a-rock backdrop for the super-strong vocals and catchy guitars of front man Andrew. He is the ‘main’ songwriter within a composing machine, where the band write guitar lines and add sections where needed but the whole band work on post-production too. The result is phenomenal. This is a journey worth taking note of, and this album takes us very much on a journey of musical styles and influences with dynamite lyrics and hook-lines to boot. It is unfair to blanket this album with a generic “it sounds like” and so I won’t, but the influences that are clear are some Counting Crows, and Dave Matthews, but also some very British shades coming through in various brilliant disguises. Altogether it paints a full and beautiful picture of great Indie-rock that pleases and pulls us through the album with a tilted hat and a warm cup of cocoa with a tongue firmly placed in its beautiful cheeks. This album is fucking brilliant.
Don’t let the name of the first track fool you. ‘Letdown’ certainly is anything but that. Thankfully the title only relates to the lyrical content of this song and it suits as a brilliant opening track to this album. We begin with cheeky guitar riffs and major third-harmonies with great stab sections and a ballistic vocal introduction to Andrew’s awesome rock voice. This is a high-octane feel-good track which oozes angst with the correct pinch of self-loathing, contrasted with a hopeful chorus. Guitars synchronise and battle it out for the sweet spots as the soaring soundscape takes off and the vocal harmonies add an extra slice of Brit-pop for good measure. This is a belting opener which leaves me humming and hopeful for Track 2, “woahs” ringing in my ears.
‘Tell Me Twice’ enters like some ‘Hoosiers’ song on Red Bull, only Ben Folds has come round for a breakdown section to spice things up even further for a brilliant Track 2. It is utterly catchy and has you sold even before the interlude in the middle. A vocal to die for enters with a simple guitar and takes the song to a brand new place before slapping you between the eyes once more. This is brave and wonderful songwriting and it’s served with a dollop of fun. I love it.
So I’m in. The first impressions are great and I can’t wait for Track 3. I’m delighted to hear some catchy delayed guitars kick in and a song which The Killers would be proud of, with some wonderful vocal melody lines that soar like an anthem into the driving chorus. ‘Playback’ is full of sections that pull you around and make you want to dance like an idiot. The guitar work is amazing and the delayed guitar parts have that Police feel that lift everything beautifully. This is another fun track that doesn’t take itself too seriously and pushes the boundaries of when and where sections should kick in. It’s bloody brilliant. It seems that the band have made a video for this song, which places Andrew in various locations in a really well put together video. Feel free to have a watch.
Track 4 sees some light and shade start to creep in and it is the right time to do so album-wise. We have another Counting Crows tip of the hat in this incredible vocal. ‘Scars and Bruises’ is vulnerable like the title suggests but this is a song which I could listen to over and over again as the vocal on its own is so well done. Every crack and crevice is a pleasure to hear and the melody takes you on an amazing journey. This is a favourite song of mine on this album, as it reflects the title and sentiments of the song so fully. It’s perfect.
I’ve no idea what to expect for Track 5 now that some diversity is creeping in. I’m not disappointed. ‘Right Hand Man’ is a very British sounding track which gives off an air of The Monkees by being full of third harmonies and that late-60’s guitar sound. It’s a fabulous use of this style and Charlywood make it their own. It is incredibly catchy and cheeky and ends with a ridiculous three part harmony vocal which leaves you with a huge grin on your face. Superb.
Track 6 is a different story altogether. ‘Testify’ is a blues-rock fest filled with slide guitars and dirty drums that would not be out of place in a Texas Flood. The vocal is extremely simple and therefore feels like you’ve heard it before which is a hard trick to master for any song-writer. This song is MEAN. If you can rip your ears away from the talkie wah guitar and the gruff blues vocal you might have some cool left to cope with Track 7.
‘Ordinary One’ is another stop on an ever-changing journey through this album. This is a slow and gorgeous number which has that adorable Counting Crows feel to it, maybe even a little Sheryl Crow, but delivered with unbridled honesty and sincerity with the gritty yet gorgeous vocal. This is a heart on your sleeve song that rips your heart out from under your bad day. If I had a lighter it would be held aloft and swaying from side to side whilst listening to this, however I can’t do that as my smoke alarm will go off and my landlord will get cross with me. Either way I really want to, and that says a great deal. This is a moving song that I think you’ll fall in love with.
‘A Necessary Lie’ enters like a devil through the barn doors with a mean Mexican guitar part which places this song nearer a Dusk Til Dawn soundtrack. The simplicity of the vocal and the guitar really works well and the soundscape that the band have chosen really lifts this song to be a masterpiece. There are lots of percussion parts secretly sizzling in the background and carefully placed accenting rhythms that all add to a fabulous tension. I’m blown away. The ability to be so diverse and yet maintain your own unique identity as a band is hard at the best of times, but these guys make it seem easy. It’s because of this that you know each musician must live and breathe the influences they are displaying.
Track 9 pops up and taps us on the shoulder with a fast-paced rock anthem that would not be out of place in a School of Rock. This is such a catchy song! A fun filled bonanza that sees the band rocking out and I can visualise them jumping around on stage thrashing this one out in a blaze of fun. I can’t find a bad thing to say about it, as even the cheesiness that creeps in later is used as a positive tool, a little like how The Darkness do it.. by being obvious. ‘Are We Together Yet?’ is ace.
Things calm once more with a moody low vocal that draws you in, in that way that only a ballad can. ‘Ugliest Thing’ is not that at all. It is beautiful, but Andrew manages to sing this with a warts an’ all intro, and uses it to its best effect. This is very clever song-writing. The song lifts again and again all the way through and leaves you haunted in a nice way, if that is possible.
Track 11 is another cheeky blast of British awesomeness. Here Andrew leans on his accent to its fullest over the top of a wonderful skiffle beat. ‘Ballad For The Dreamers’ has a certain beautiful naivety to it. The Divine Comedy or Nizlopi would be proud of this song had they written it. It’s a heart-on-sleeve track delivered with its tongue firmly in its cheek. The simplicity is wonderful and it is refreshing to hear a band allowing songs to have the space they need. If there was one more thing on it, it would be too much, but the band have managed to balance a fabulous gem of a song here.
The Chorus is Track 12 and I make a mental note to make sure I can come back to this song extremely often. This song is a masterpiece. From the lyrics to the melody chosen for the main chorus line, the song feels complete in every single way. It is beautifully catchy, as you’d expect, but the vocal is full of emotion and is sung brilliantly. This might be my favourite song on the album. The guitar work is great, with the addition of Michael Lederer playing acoustic guitar, you can hear the culmination of the bands song-writing coming together here in a melting pot of ace.
I’m blown away. I have no idea how this album is going to end and I’m not disappointed. Something completely different yet again. ‘Run Towards The Truck’ is more like a Carl Weathersby funk track than an Indie-Rock song I’d expect here. There is a cool jazz feel that is supplied by JP Phillipe on the Organ and Andrew sings a blinder on this song. This is a late night song that is executed with real flare. To make a song like this work it has to be sincere and it is every inch of that. I can’t believe the journey that this album has taken me upon, and yet managed to sound completely like all the songs belong on the same record. They do, and they are epic in their own right. Every last one.
I haven’t had an album grab my attention out of the blue quite like this before. Normally I am a little more aware of my what-to-expect ratios, but this record really sits with me as an album I will definitely listen to over and over again. I already want to go back to Track one. Yes. It’s that good.
So now I feel like I am sat on a secret, like I have my hands on something that Joe Public hasn’t managed to get his grubby little mits on yet. I’m going to enjoy listening to this as much as I can before you lot have access, so that I can sit back in a few years and say, I was there at the start. I have my copy already. I think you’ll want your copy yesterday.