As I type now, my voice is largely destroyed, and I'm exhausted due to a combination of lack of sleep and huge amount of manic dancing and singing. All of this, plus an 100-mile plus round trip to the Kent Coast and back, plus a rather large hole in my wallet, was all very much worthwhile, however, as it meant I got to experience the madness that was The Railway Pub's send-off all-day show in all it's blisteringly loud, beer-spilling, raucous and hella fun glory. I will get down to reviewing this show once I've recovered a little more, but for now, I fancy having a look at an EP by one of the bands that starred at the show in question - ascending ska-punkers My Third Leg.
Funnily enough, I've been seeing rather a lot of MTL over the last few days (stop sniggering at the back) - how does two shows in as many days go? And during that time I've really had a chance to see how far the band have come in a relatively short space of time, and how much potential is still laying in wait. It's fair to say - and the band themselves even admit this to a degree - that in their early iterations, there was a relative lack of structure, and the feeling was that the band were often stuck on as the shits 'n' giggles first acts at most LSP gigs in and around Gravesend - well, wouldn't you do the same if you ran a promotions company organising punk and ska gigs, and handily happened to be in a ska-punk band yourself? But my point being here was that it was easy to not take them all that seriously, a bit of a laugh, mucking around, regularly swapping instruments, etc etc. But as I mentioned in my review of their Comedy Pub show, they've quietly gone about knuckling down to work on their craft, gelling more as a unit, and honing their songwriting and technical skill, and all this has resulted in them starting to become a band to be really taken seriously as a force - all seemingly whilst I wasn't looking. All this progress business has resulted in them recording and releasing their first E.P. of material, selling at shows and on their recently set-up merch store (I told you they were going up in the world) for the princely sum of 50p (hence the title, see?), and having procured a copy for myself on Friday, it's time to give it a spin.
What jumps out straight away is the crispness of the production and sound quality, which is a very high quality for a DIY recording - credit must be given to the producer, none other than The Submission's Rich Harris, who is rightly thanked in the sleeve notes. His biggest asset from a production and mixing standpoint appears to be his ability to keep all instruments balanced - even when all instruments are at full volume and intensity, the mix does well to avoid being muddy and clogged, and the vocals are nice and clear, something that characterises The Submission's own self-produced work. This high-quality production helps the songs themselves to shine through, and guess what? That's exactly what they do.
Some of the songs on the EP date back from the very first days of the band, but have been mercilessly honed, trimmed and refined into the catchy and addictive nuggets of ska-punk we are treated to on this disc. Two such songs combine to form a nice one-two opening salvo - 'Going for a Drive' and '3470 Miles', both of which are growing to become signature anthems for the group, and rightly so, as both of them encapsulate the best aspects of the band's sound - Will Woodrow's easily recognisable vocal delivery, the trading between quiet/loud and slow/fast sections, Will and Mike Smith's choppy guitar lines, Dave Ja Vu's fantastic, bubbling basslines, and drummer Paul Smith's primal skin-battering. Another MTL standard, Random Inspiration, bookends the disc, giving the record a strong start and a strong finish - something I always like to hear on records, and something that many much bigger bands seem to completely forget about.
However, don't think for a second that they've put their most recognisable songs at each end of the disc and padded out the middle with some random filler they had lying around the rehearsal room - far from it. If you can look beyond the rather embarrassing (and pretty funny) story told in the lyrics, 'Balls Deep' is a real gem, showcasing a slight Britpop feel to the skanking mayhem. 'Yes Please' is catchy as hell, and the furious end section is tailor-made to be bellowed along with at the more drunken gigs they play, and 'Time Travel' is quite possibly the best song they've written so far overall. It's actually quite a dour song, but they use this downbeat tone to their advantage - some delicate, echoey guitar lines flit in and out, Will's vocals are mournful and wistful without becoming mawkish and dreary, and though it does speed up at parts, it doesn't go completely balls-out at any stage, instead emphasising the slow-burning atmosphere of the lyrics.
This issue of restraint is probably my main criticism of other parts of the record - there is a feeling that they try to cram too much into certain songs. 'Random Inspiration' is the worst offender, as it seems to drag it's heels near the end, and ends up being about a minute too long, which dilutes the energy and punch of the song. I mean, I know bassist Dave Ja Vu's good, but do we need to hear his little bass solo another few times than we already do in the song? Personally, I reckon the final instrumental section would be better served in another song altogether, and trim this one down to keep it more succinct. This is the only song where it's really noticeable, and otherwise the mixing of different tempos and dynamics works very well, and is a core part of their sound, so I suppose all I'm saying is be careful of that problem rearing it's head again when writing new songs in the future. Perhaps Paul's drum work is still a bit slack, but considering how it was before, it's best to be grateful that he's made it this far.
In fact, any more criticism is needless nit-picking, because I really can't find anything else to moan about. What we have here is six strong songs that form a nice blueprint of My Third Leg's sound as of right now, but also where they could go from here, and perhaps that's the most exciting part - there's still a sense that there's more ascending to come from the band, as they continue to tighten up as a unit and gig relentlessly, and this E.P. is a good snapshot of where they are right now, and what to expect for the future.
Standout Tracks: 'Going for a Drive', '3470 Miles', 'Time Travel'