We are not sure if the North East is Britain’s capital of rock ‘n’ roll trespass but there has been a definite vein of rousing rock bands escaping its depths over the decades. The latest is Darlington quartet Hardball who have just uncaged their debut single/EP in the shape of Dirty. Offering three tracks as individual to each other as they are united in stirring up eager attention, the release is a bruising yet inescapably inviting slice of hard and punk rock embroiled in aggressive enterprise. It is also a potential stocked introduction from a band already sparking a real appetite to hear much more of.
Months maybe mere weeks old, Hardball consists of vocalist/guitarist Tim Smith, guitarist Phil Bailes, bassist Neil MacGillivray, and drummer Denz (Gareth Westgarth). There is little more we can tell you about the band though there is probably little more to share with the band so early in its emergence though you might recognise Denz’ uncompromising dextrous swings from bands such as Hung Like Jack, ill fated riot, and Supercharger.
Recorded live at White Wolf Studio, the band’s debut encounter swiftly had ears on board with opener Dirty. A lure of guitar dangles potent bait first, its classic rock feel a tease into the waiting rapacious embrace of the track. Riffs and rhythms instantly impose once unleashed but with incitement rather than threat while the harmonious tone of the vocals only adds to the rousing temptation already raised, as too the grooves which need seconds to get under the skin. Though surprises were few, everything about the track was fresh and distinctly individual ensuring that the first contact with Hardball was strong, highly enjoyable, and firmly memorable.
The invention within the song was soon escalating as Ballad Of John Fox stepped up next, the song a calm but bold saunter with shimmering melodies and intimation fuelled enterprise to its instrumental and a spirited raucousness to its vocal expulsions. It has an anthemic feel which grows by the minute and a great weave of guitar enterprise as bluesy as it is hard rock inspired.
Our favourite track though is Closed For Inventory, a real gem of a proposal from its initial groove draw to its punk ‘n’ roll roar and scheming rhythms. Carrying a predatory intent at times, especially when those delicious grooves steer the rack’s inescapable manipulation, the final track stole the passions with ease here even against the definite prowess and quality of its companions.
With a first release, any band can only hope for attention and an awakening of their presence as its main success and Hardball will surely achieve that and much more with Dirty. You want some honest, spirit sparking rock ‘n’ roll? Then look to the North East for some Hardball.
Pete RingMaster 28/07/2018
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