Sunday, 28 November 2010
We've all known one, haven't we? That band that you're due bound to like because of obligations pertaining to inconvenient things like friendship and matedom, but you just can't bring yourself to do so because, well, they're appalling. No two ways about it. Yup, I'm talking about 'my mate's band'. The band you're forced to like and stick up for despite your better judgement (and your ears) telling you otherwise. You wind up either going to their gigs because they invite you along, then standing at the back nursing a beer and trying to make conversation with other people who are covering their ears at the God-awful cacophony, or making up some pathetic excuse to avoid having to sit through the torture in the first place.
Yeah, not really liking a mate's band is quite an awkward business, which is why I had reason to be anxious when a friend of mine told me he was putting together a self-described 'punk rock power trio'. Don't get me wrong, I was interested and curious to hear them, just as I am about any new punk band, but my inner cynic braced himself and started lining up possible excuses. That band soon broke cover and revealed themselves as Artificial Nature, and fortunately, the shotgun of harsh judgement gets to stay right where it is, because, if a 40-minute setlist at the Red Lion (a review of which will be on it's way shortly) and this EP are anything to go by, Artificial Nature are an enjoyable band full of youthful vigour and promise.
The first thing that strikes you within a matter of seconds of putting the disc on is...wait a minute, where did Brian Molko from Placebo come from?! Oh no, my mistake, that's just vocalist and bassist Rob Driscoll, doing what sounds like his best Brian Molko impression. Well, that's a bit harsh - he also breaks out into a decent Billie Joe Armstrong impression in other parts of the EP too, none more so than on 2nd track 'Be Who You Wanna Be'. In all seriousness, he and the rest of the band wear their influences on their collective sleeves, having listed Green Day and Placebo as personal favourites of theirs, so it's a good thing that they choose to purloin the best bits of the aforementioned artists - for example, returning to Driscoll's vocal delivery, he retains the snotty bark of Armstrong, and the dry drawl of Molko, using both to good effect.
The band themselves exhibit a good tightness between them, and a youthful strut and swagger is evident from first note to last, for better or worse. For worse being in the low-fi production, occasional technical slip and sometimes appallingly cliched lyric line (whoever signed off 'I'm full of spunk and I hate my mum' as acceptable needs to see me afterwards), and for better being the occasional excellent guitar hook or burst of energy. They are a typical young garage rock band in that they can veer through the good, the bad and the ugly of rock 'n' roll at will, and at times it can be frustrating. For example, the aforementioned '...You Wanna Be' sounds like an attempt to be this generation's 'Longview' and juxtaposes the above dreadful lyric line with a genuinely catchy guitar riff and a neat driving drumbeat, and 'Turn Your Back' exhibits promise but ends up dragging its heels a little too much towards the end, despite more nifty drum work from sticksman Tom Parker.
Speaking of names, guitarist Nick Sands (here going under the pseudonym of Nicky Sparks) leads loudly and proudly from the front with crunching chords aplenty, and even gets the chance to bust out a solo or two, whilst Driscoll's rumbling basslines add meat to the rhythms. I've already mentioned Parker's excellent drum work, and I'm going to mention it again, because he threatens to steal the show at times, such is his beat dexterity. This is a crucial part of their armoury - power trios by their very definition have to be tighter than a nun's proverbial nether regions, and whilst they aren't quite there yet, AN showcase enough on this disc to tell me that they are close, and eminently capable of reaching this point. Standout track and EP closer 'Lonely Island' is probably the zenith of their collective powers, combining everything I've mentioned so far into just under four minutes of brash garage-punk mayhem, and it's immensely enjoyable. If this is the shape of things to come, then count me in - I look forward to enjoying the ride.
Nearly all of my reviews of underground/up-and-coming bands end up coming down to one question: do they have potential? And yes, Artificial Nature definitely do have potential. This EP is a warts-and-all declaration of their powers, strengths, and weaknesses, and there is enough evidence here to suggest that, as they gain experience on the gig circuit and gel more as a unit, they will grow into a fine little rock 'n' roll band worthy of the power trio tag. There's overtones of The Subways in their makeup, and look where that particular trio of rag-tag young scoundrels have ended up.
Standout Tracks: Lonely Island, Be Who You Wanna Be.