The Sly Persuaders – The Sly Persuaders (Roadkill)
Favourite new band alert! Utterly brilliant debut from South London garage-punk crew. Joe Whyte reviews for LTW.
Coming on like the bastard sons of The Birthday Party, The Stooges and Panther Burns, this debut album from The Sly Persuaders is everything you’d want from a band and more. Fuck-you attitude, songs that ramp up the tension and that are as exciting a thing as I’ve heard this last year as well as musical chops that hint at influences from ’50’s B-movies, Dick Dale surf, spy themes and the quasi-rockabilly of The Gun Club and 16 Horsepower. It’s garage music at its core, certainly, but it has a multitude of layers and denseness that is at odds with the typical primitive, primordial sound of garage.
The Birthday Party were very much like this; there were elements of free jazz, Beefheart and The Stooges in their sound which is often neglected in reappraisal of their sheer live savagery. That’s the type of weirdness that also oozes from the pores of The Sly Persuaders; they’re not particularly like Cave and co., but there are elements there that nod to the diverse influences that abound.
There’s not a weak track on the album. Its nine tracks are at times relentless and furious but there is a real control to the chaos. At times the rhythm section hold a sensual, pulsing groove not unlike, say, Suicide (without the synths, obviously) or some of the post-punk, jagged dance vibe of Delta 5 or Gang Of Four. I was reminded of the Fire Engines very early material, too. Over the top of the bass and drums are shards of stuttering guitar and the gravelly vocals of Chris Blake which at time recall Mark E. Smith (The Fall are another fairly obvious touchstone throughout) doing Elvis. That sparse, rockabilly influence is also never far away, either, nor the roar of prime garage rock.
Wild For The Night opens proceedings and sets down a daunting marker. Glam stomp drums and hand-claps which recall Rowche Rumble if it was produced by Chinn and Chapman give way to Blake’s croon-meets-sneer and a fizzing lead guitar. It’s intense, there’s little let-up but the melodic choruses and honeyed backing vocals sweeten the deal considerably. The changes are simple but clever; a deceptively basic idea evolves into a salacious, hypnotic groove with throbbing bass and those walloping drums.
Steve McQueen is another cracker; jungle beat toms lead into a vocal-led song with Lee Coxon’s Roland S. Howard-style sheets of guitar scree and whammy bar dive bombs. It’s probably the catchiest thing on the album although there are hooks aplenty throughout. Hey Faustus reminded me of the Steve Hanley-era Fall and has elements of The Glitter Band’s drumming and the call and response “hey!”‘s add to the glam feel. The guitar sounds like a drill to the cranium and Blake summons some early Nick Cave vocal tricks in a song that’s as insidious as it’s memorable. Fool has a bass that thuds like chopping wood and a swirling, carnival style organ in a song that reminds one of The Seeds playing the Bo Diddley beat.
TFD swings in with a strutting bass part and a fuzzy, vibrato guitar that eats its way into the skull. The song has a real bristling swagger to it and the drumming of Alex Bone has the DNA of Pistol Paul Cook in its thundering simplicity. Blake does the MES snarl and the band are tight, taut and purposeful. There’s a bit of The Gun Club, sure, but The Sly Persuaders have taken the loose, sloppy sound of JLP and company and smartened it up with a mod-ish assurance.
Beyond The Rope reminds me of The Primevals a little; starting with an acoustic figure it quickly swirls off into a twisted, dense rockabilly stomp with giddy, stammering vibrato chorus parts from Coxon’s guitar. The girl-group “ooh-ooh” backing vocal is a refined little touch.
Watch And Learn has sliding, fuzzed-up bass notes from Danny Billingham which pull into an almost funky, post-punk rhythm. There’s a nagging violence at the songs heart and the palpitating beat and agitated vocals add a depth and density that’s captivating. Think PiL or Gang Of 4 meeting The Cramps at some deranged Zombie-Hop and you’ll be pretty close.
The finale is Gun To The Head which is a lengthy, dark monster with fragments of guitar chords and a needling, paranoid lead figure across them. Blake intones “It’s like quicksand, it’s like a gun to the head” with an effect on his voice that is echo-laden and sounds like he’s screaming through a bullhorn. As the nagging riff and complex drumming takes over, the song boils with a tension that again recalls the madness in “Frankie Teardrop” by Suicide if they’d had fuzzed-out guitars and drums instead of primitive electronics. The nightmarish treated keys and industrial saw sounds at the culmination add to the frenetic, dark feel.
This is a band you need in your lives, people.
All words by Joe Whyte. You can find more from Joe in his author archive.