(4 / 5)
The Queen has a staff member at Buckingham Palace to break in her new £1,000 a pair shoes by wearing socks and then walking about on the carpets in the Palace before Her Maj’ will wear them. I kid you not.
Why am I telling you this factoid in a CD review? The way my mind works; word association…Empires. Rulers. Royalty. The Queen. Ridiculous wealth. Bonkers “behind the scenes” tales. UK band Even Nine’s new album title.
I know. I know. A bit tenuous perhaps, but still worth knowing to chuck out at dinner parties or in the pub. One thing you will not chuck out, is this super new album, their third, from a band I had not come across before now. Even Nine or E9 as they are also known. The old cliched music writer’s phrase: “Ones to watch” is factually accurate for E9.
Two brothers and a bezzie mate from deepest, darkest Cornwall, not exactly a hotbed of rock and roll. More pasties and surfboards. They’ve supported Thunder, shared stages with Fun Lovin’ Criminals, Reef and Rooster, played an open air performance in London’s Covent Garden and supported Dr John in front of 10,000 people at the Rock meets Blues festival. Music industry trade magazine Music Week tipped them as one of the ‘hottest unsigned bands’.
Their first two EPs, were released shortly after brothers Jody and Rick Martin met Brett Stepto in Cornwall. It wasn’t until they supported Thunder on a UK tour in 2008 that the band released their first album, “No Heroes Anymore”. A five year wait for their second album, “The Lights Are Too Bright To See” in 2013.
This is their third collaboration with producer Gareth Young (Sugababes, Danni Minogue, Ronan Keating). Empire delivers powerful rock with pop and indie vibes, lots of energy and for a change lately; a singer who can sing and musicians who can really play. The material is a mixed bag of styles, as they dip in and out of arena pomp with shades of U2 to more contemporary sounds like those of The Killers, Foo Fighters, Snow Patrol, Coldplay and the like.
Front man and bassist Jody Martin sounds a wee bit like Michael Stipe at times, with his natural vibrato, excellent control with power and range too. It’s a big sound for just three of them, but they elegantly weave a tapestry of guitars, bass and drums together to provide plenty of light and shade, as well as the arena-ready attitude and volume on the more rambunctious stuff.
The fourth cut in, the title track, is a ballsy, commercial track that sounds more L..A than Lands End, more New York than Newquay. This one does sound like R.E.M. and is as classy as their output too. The track builds in intensity and Rick Martin’s guitars cut through like a bitch. Very nice job. Bass and drums from Jody and Brett Stepto lock in like an exocet, and Jody also delivers some uber-passionate vocals. You could safely say that these boys know exactly how to put the power into power trio.
The next track, “Back To The Drawing Board”, is moody and menacing, with a heavy grunge to it. On this and most of the dozen, they sound more like a festival and big stage band to the cosier venues they mainly frequent today. The songs “Oxygen” and “Bulletproof” work well, and I admire their ear for a melody and how they blend the power, attitude and energy of the crunching rock stuff with the more laid back material, the softer side still has oomph. Jody and Rick writing all the songs here.
There’s a distinct anthemic approach to a lot of these songs, and they appear to spend a lot of time working up an ambience and atmosphere, going through the five musical gears to increase the intensity as the track progresses. Probably a lot of input from Gareth Young on that score. The backing vocals from Rick and Brett add value, aided here by their producer Gareth and engineer Ross Rothero-Bourge. Local singer Kezia adds her vocal to charity single, the emotional ballad “Snowblind”.
The one issue for me though is simple: There is not one tune or lyric here on this 45 minute disc, that I can recall 10 minutes after hearing the album. I have given it a spin half a dozen times now too. No dispute they are a very good band, and have something going on. No dispute this a very good album. Definitely great potential and as I said earlier; they are “ones to watch”.
Here comes the but………….But they need THE song to break them through. They need to focus on a hook. A memorable aspect that will indelibly plant itself in the mind of the busy listener with the radio on in the background, and stay there. They need THE song to elevate them from local radio to national radio, and to get play-listed and not just the odd spot play. To take them from pubs and small clubs to bigger gigs and major tour support slots. For people to remember their name and want to buy their music and attend their gigs en masse. For the A&R guys to take an interest.
They have everything else. The singer, the players, the power, the right balance between retro and contemporary and don’t get me wrong; they do have strong material. Now they just need THE song. Methinks they’ll come up with it too.
By Simon Redley
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’