Monday, April 9, 2012

Broken Hands Shakes Off The Sorrow

From the very first rumbling growl and cathartic howl, there is something immediately addictive about the four-piece blues-infused rock band from Canterbury, United Kingdom. Broken Hands has one of those sounds that immediately tells you that they are going places as soon as they release a full-length album.

That was the verdict of James Endeacott (formerly of Rough Trade Records and the man who signed the Libertines, among others) too. He linked them up with multi-talented Invor Novello Award-winning musician Edwyn Collins (Nu-Sonics, Orange Juice) almost immediately after catching their opening act at a local festival, Lounge on the Farm.

As fate would have it, Endeacott and Collins had just formed a label, Analogue Enhanced Digital (AED Records), and signed Broken Hands before the band had settled on a name. It was AED Records' first signing and Broken Hands first single, released last October.

"What we recorded as our first single was actually quite a lot lighter and middle of the road than where we are now,” says Dale Norton (vocals). "We’re all kind of drawn to the heavier 'dark side' really. But I quite like the fact that our first record was like that. I think Cream’s first record was like that too."

Although Norton says it's a lighter fare than the direction they are headed, the sound is distinctive. It's only overpowered, perhaps, by their second single, Sorrow (released under the Music For Heroes moniker), which caught our attention a few weeks ago.

The single, produced and mixed by Tom Dalgety at Rockfield Studios in Wales, is part of The Quadrangle Session EP. The EP hasn't been released in the United States, but Sorrow carries enough weight to make it worth looking forward to with its steady blues-rock beat, deep-throated guitar riffs and bass lines, and expressive vocals. It makes the case why most people become interested in the band, especially when they see them live.

The band has another single, Wept, available off their website. For an email address, you can download the minimalistic bluesy brooder that carries forward the heartbreak theme of Sorrow to its natural reflective conclusion. Wept isn't as dynamic as Sorrow on the whole, but there is a near a cappella moment just after the two minute mark that makes for a great dramatic effect.

How Broken Hands came together in the unlikely setting of Canterbury.

The story feels familiar because it sounds like the story told by so many other bands that come out of the U.K. Dale Norton (vocals) and his younger brother Callum Norton (drums) and their two longtime school friends Jamie Darby (guitar) and Thomas Ford (bass) grew up together and formed the early workings of a band in their teens. As their schoolmates all left Kent for world travel or higher education, they stuck around to help fill what they describe as the live act starved music scene in Canterbury.

Their entire early career was self-funded, paid for by playing gigs in empty warehouses and occasionally a working men's club (where some shows ended with spinning hip-hop records). But such minimal accommodations helped the quartet dig deeper and perfect some of the angst and rawness of their shows. Even their first two-sided limited edition 7"smacks with potential.

The initial offering was produced by Collins. And according to AED Records, the first single was cut after a few loose jams in a local rehearsal studio. The label found it refreshing because the music came together exactly like the band preaches it should — unplanned and natural.

It's almost impossible to believe that was the case for Brother. The B-side, What You've Taken, on the other hand, plays almost like the free download Wept. It's minimal, relying on Dale Norton's vocal inflections and the backing vocals more than the even-handed instrumental. Where it is different is in its pop-like airiness. It's good, but their heavy is always better.

Sorrow By Broken Hands Shakes Up 8.2 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

Broken Hands has ample potential to turn out their diversely stylistic roots-rock sounds in any direction they want to. Infused with contemporary lyrics while relying on alternative rock bass beats, the music is both blues-infused and indie pop-like at the same time. But as mentioned, it's when they light things up as dark and heavy rockers that you can hear their stage presence that convinced Kill It Kid to pick them out of a stack of CDs and open for them on tour.

You can download the single Sorrow by Broken Hands from iTunes. Sorrow is also available from Amazon. If you want more, you can also find the two-sided single Brother there or download it from iTunes. Wept is available for free from their website. For tour dates around the U.K. and future updates, check them out on Facebook.
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