The Subterranean Gentlemen: Blood In The Tracks
‘Searchlight Eyes’ b/w ‘Those Creeps’
I came to the seemingly inescapable conclusion some time ago that minus a few no(ta)ble exceptions, what had come to be regarded as the ‘classic’ configuration of a band (bass, guitar, drums and vocals) and the music it produces thereof, was clearly suffering from a dearth of originality. It was scuppered by cliché and somehow it had auto-shapeshifted into two monochromatic polarised genres: puerile pop pap or de-tuned metallic mush.
However, it’s for once a genuine pleasure to report that Scarborough triumvirate the Sub Gents, after having honed their powerful ‘live’ skills to such a point whereby they are virtually an ‘apex predator’ in the music pyramid, are seriously enthused and fired up and on the evidence of the two visceral and vital tracks now vying for our attention; are going for it. Big time.
After hearing, no, experiencing, these two tremendous tracks, good ol’ rock & roll is still clearly worthy of our attention and investigation if one knows where to find it, or if happenstance takes pity and lends a helping hand; or more appositely an ear.
The ‘main’ track is ‘Searchlight Eyes’ which is halfway there in my world before a solitary note is heard for that title alone, deftly delivers just as its title promises. The verses are bereft of guitar allowing for vocal and rhythmic interplay which is always a (healthy) sign of musical hubris. Remember when musicians, collided and careened off each other creating swoops and dives that pulled one in? Seems like an eternity since such classic and classy dynamics have been seen or heard- they never write, they never call!
It’s not a million miles from Manic Street territory, but thankfully without the Preaching, and while that might seem like a lazy comparison, it’s more a case of the songs measured muscularity and a certain cockiness in delivery that’s hopefully going to be retained and developed. It’s also noteworthy for a baroque yet paradoxically incendiary guitar solo, mercifully shorn of cliché and loquaciously melodic and inventive. It’s proud, front facing and damn near perfect….
‘Those Creeps’ is a taut cri de coeur that levels the “J’accuse” finger at the American police who seem to have dispensed with the ‘presumption of innocence’ safety valve and have instead become what’s tantamount to an army of occupation in many US cities and opted for ‘frontier justice’, disproportionately killing with literal ‘extreme prejudice’ young African American males and even females.
This frankly sociopathic turn of events has as its obscene obverse an apparently globe-wide, mean- spirited and negative attitude towards refugees and immigrants. This seems to particularly resonate and rankle the band as evidenced by the intense and studied playing here , but it must impact directly and personally the Gents’ generalissimo – guitarist/ singer Fletcher Stewart who’s originally from Tennessee; and so is therefore technically an ‘immigrant’ himself. This terrific muso-politico treatise is intelligently crafted and artfully adorned with deft dynamics, harmonics and tastefully sparing feedback, all of which sits perfectly atop a controlled but perfectly balanced, muscular rhythm section.
For me these are two equally strong compositions and ‘back in the day’ would have made a great yin/yang-like ‘double A’ sided vinyl single -just a thought Gents!
© 2017 Rahman the Writer (www.rahmanthewriter.com)
Listen to the songs:
(Songs recorded at Toolmakers Studio)
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All images are © 2016/2017 by Nigel Murgatroyd (Studio stills) except ‘Brother’ Wayne Clayton’s ‘live’ shot of bassist Noel and drummer Shaun)