The Ready Stance: Damndest

Raw and honest the debut album from US folk based rock band The Ready Stance is a surprising and very enjoyable release. Not an area of music that inspires much true enthusiasm here the expectations were not high though openly willing to be convinced by Damndest and it certainly does a great job of persuasion. The album is a vibrant and pleasing release which comes from the floors and rooms of everyday life, offering a dusty reality and eagerness from the heart of lives like ours. It is a collection of eclectic tales inspired from the lives of stranger than fiction moments and the factual reality of the world we live and walk. Mostly though it is eleven songs which makes spending time with Damndest a pleasure.

The seeds of The Ready Stance began with guitarist/songwriter Wes Pence who was the creative force behind nineties band Middlemarch. He met up with singer/guitarist Chase Johnson in a story all bands should have in their locker. In his own words “I was walking home one night and happened to glance in the open window of a house on my block. Inside were a couple guitars and fliers for shows by the Replacements and other bands I loved—really out of place for the neighborhood. Then this guy walked out on the porch…” This was the beginning of The Ready Stance with the duo being joined by drummer Eric Moreton (also previously in Middlemarch) and music veteran Randy Cheek (The Libertines U.S, Ass Ponys) on bass (replacing Paolo Conti who plays on the album). Even before offering live show to the world the band recorded Damndest with advanced tracks getting strong approval from the likes of Stan Demeski of The Feelies, Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club maestro Chris Frantz, and Chuck Cleaver (Ass Ponys, Wussy). Listening to the album it is no surprise, its Americana lined mix of open inventive guitars, driven rhythms, and full striking melodies an immediate friend to the ear.

The album starts with a great gnarly bass opening to Rancho Cristo, the grumbling beckoning irresistible and the lead into the eager guitar melodies that explode within the ear. The song is an instantly captivating piece of enthused rock with a raw edge, a pleasurable rumble within the ear and a great start to light up eagerness for more of the same. The following Wrecking Ball and Long Arm continue the effective sounds even if with a slightly less infectious lure than the opener but they are equal in songwriting prowess and pleasing fuel for the senses.

It is from Disgruntled that things take another distinct rise as the album moves into its heart. The song swaggers with a sure touch and incisive blend of rusty melodies and discordance rifled guitars to offer a great and striking impactful consumption. As mentioned this marks an elevation to the already strong level but it is with a consecutive trio of songs that the album hits home the deepest.

The garage rock flavoured Very Necessary strikes first to tease and rough up the senses to great satisfaction. Slightly punk, just a little Who spiced, and all boisterous melodies and jangly impetuous guitar pleasure the song pulls one further into the warm infectiousness of the album. The following Marathon with its Bowie like opening continues the irresistible teasing guitar flourishes. Inspired by the local legend of a confused fistfight between a speech-impaired gas station attendant and a customer with a similar affliction it is a lyrical urban legend with the most compulsive soundtrack and further evidence of the humour and catchy feel of the release. The third song is Real America and arguably the best song on the album. With a Squeeze/Tom Petty lilt coated in a layer of Talking Heads the song lights up thoughts and ear alike, a pop rock song with insatiable hooks and a finely crafted body.

Completed by just as enjoyable songs in the shape of Steamship Moselle a song about an 1838 maritime explosion which saw an ill-fated minister catapulted to the riverbank clutching a still dry bible, and the enchanting closer Glow, to name two, Damndest is an album that leaves one fully satisfied and eager to dive right back into its fulfilling depths. With the release The Ready Stance gives ample reason and evidence to why they have been acclaimed by so many and is sure to garner even greater and just as eager praise from it as it finds many more willing ears.

RingMaster 14/05/2012

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Halfway To New York: Treading Water EP

Having already garnered great acclaim with their debut single Out of Time, UK band Halfway To New York, return with their EP Treading Water. Consisting of five openly impressive and stirring songs it is hard to imagine anything other than increased praise and swarms of new fans sweeping their way. With songs as tight as a frogs mouth near a chimpanzee (yes I have seen that video) and melodies as vibrant and warm as any summer it is an energetic emotive feast of songwriting and music to fall within the full beckoning arms of.

Consistently given comparisons to the likes of Snow Patrol and Stereophonics, the quartet of vocalist Sam Burkey, guitarist Scott de Jongh, bassist Daniel Mount, and drummer Martin Griffith, have not only captured the imagination of the UK but made strong impressions over the water with showcases to industry moguls in LA at the end of February leading to shows at CAA and at The Viper Rooms. Treading Water can only enhance and elevate the eagerness for their sounds when it is unveiled May 21st on Truestone Music.

One can see the reasons for certain comparisons as the EP flows refreshingly over the ear, and even others mentions of bands like U2 in the describing of the sound can be imagined at times though most of all the band that does seem to vein the release is Doves, not so much in direct sound but the driving and persistent energy the bands both are able to infuse into their music.

The title track opens up with sizzling guitar melodies and a held back vocal to gently welcome the ear before the song finds its forceful drive and expansion into a full energised passion. The vocals of Burkey, fully emotive and heart drawn light up the words they deliver whilst de Jongh leaves blazing trails in the wake of his sharp play across the sky of the song whilst accompanied on most tracks by guest guitarist and co-producer Ross O’Reilly. It is not long before the infection sets in and one is fully drawn into trying to compliment the song in voice and limb.

The following What A Way To Go walks a gentler but no less impassioned path through the ear, its striking melodic power and craft an easy fit for the senses and imagination. It does not quite have the captivation of Treading Water but still leaves one with a smile inside something the single Out Of Time also more than achieves. It is easy to see why it had such a big response on its original release its energy and heart as fresh and bright as a spring day. As with all the songs on the EP it has an underlying intensity to it that makes it a formidable and hypnotic presence beneath the equally compulsive inventive melodic charm. The song thumps along with an excitable air but within a controlled and thoughtful frame to thrill the air around it.

The release is completed by crowd favourite at their shows, We Were Wrong and brand new track from the band Going Home, which easily instils a strong anticipation for their new material. As with all many of their tracks there is an anthemic quality to the first of these two which is impossible not to be affected by, the band coming together as a precise unit whilst allowing individual skills to excel within the flowing breath of the song. Going Home is possibly the most passion infused song on the release, its emotion dripping from each note and harmony that lines the track.

To be honest this genre of music does not light many fires here usually but Treading Water has made multiple appearances before ears outside of the review and is destined to make many more. Halfway to New York appear like they are mere steps from headier heights and the Treading Water EP the first large stride.

RingMaster 14/05/2012

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Mask Of Virtue: In This World

Electro metal from the UK seems to be on an ascending high right now with continually bands and releases emerging to light up the senses with intensity and quality. The likes of Silent Descent and Ourfamous Dead have blazed a trail through the ear in recent weeks to great effect and now adding their own might and fine creativity is Mask Of Virtue and their debut album In This World. Released May 21st through Rising Records, it is a pulsating and mesmeric slice of melodic post-hardcore metal and electronica, an album leaving scorch marks as it envelopes with impressive sure invention and blistering energy.

Formed in 2009 the Rotherham band has been the epitome of hard work with persistent gigging the length and breadth of the UK and refining their thoughtful and impressively textured sound. Conquering the local scene and further afield was inevitable with this ethic and their great sound but now with the release of the album things look set to explode into greater realms. Recorded last year as the final month began closing its eye, In This World is a vibrant and captivating release that bristles with muscular intensity as equally as it infects with triumphant melodies and caressing electro seductions. It stirs up the pulse rate and emotions through persuasion rather than intimidation but still packs a distinctly formidable punch.

As the opening brief and striking introduction to the album of Antagonistic Nations leads straight into the following The Bridges Will Burn the sense of something special ahead is unleashed, energy and expectations rising dramatically as the song opens up its firm and welcoming arms. The track accosts the ear with a tempered but eager stomp whilst wrapping tightly around it with swarming electronic warmth. The song offers unpredictable twists and turns and quite impressive vocals from Joe Rosser who also provides the electronic invention. His vocals are supported more than ably by those of guitarist Dan, and either with stylish clean or predatory growls the pair provides the band and songs with a pair of impressive voices.

From a strong start the band raise the tempo and heat with the excellent Blood For Free. The song swaggers with an aggressive but controlled attitude, its infectious enveloping sounds rubbing the senses into an excited and agitated state yet perpetually captivated by the keen outstanding vocals and vast melodies. The track drives with a sure intensity thanks to the drums of Ash and growling basslines of Tom, both bringing a spine of might and steel to the songs. With the guitars of Dan and Seb battering with caustic and powerful riffs the song is the best on the album though closely challenged throughout the release.

Through Your Eyes is one to make a claim for top honours, a tightly and imaginatively crafted song to leave one breathless from its unpredictable avenues and strikes. When Mask Of Virtue steer their sounds with a force and intensity they hit the mark accurately and effectively but they are no slouches with the skill and quality of their mellower and melodic persuasion of emotions either. Songs like Drowned In Tears and the outstanding Cure The Pain, a song which from its piano enchanted start whispers and soothes with an atmospheric presence and even when its soul takes on a more energised heart remains a stirring emotive rapture. It is another song that fights for best track showing the general high standard and craft of the album and band in many guises.

To be slightly critical of the album there is a similarity across its length at times which means if the focus drifts a little you can easily find yourself a couple of songs along from where you think you are but as the sounds and songwriting is strong and very satisfying it is not a major problem, just an invitation to hit replay. From a personal preference maybe more of the more aggressive intensity would give the band an even more distinct tone though they stand apart from most rivals easily and when songs like the wonderful It’s Here To Stay with its staggering melodic grace and yes another contender for that top spot, are so good it is impossible to be dissatisfied at any point.

In This World is an album which not only holds its head up high with great power and invention but pitches Mask Of Virtue into being a band that is on the verge of great things. Even though the album does not quite ignite the biggest fires within consistently it always sparks up compulsive enthusiasm and eager anticipation for much more from the quintet.

RingMaster 14/05/2012

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