Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Fallen Leaves Kick Back In London

The Fallen Leaves
With one foot in the sixties and another in garage rock, The Fallen Leaves are something of enigma. Three members of the original lineup were all part of the punk band Subway Sect before manager Bernie Rhodes sacked them, keeping only Vic Goddard.

In fact, had it not been for live recordings made at the The Roxy in London, few people would have known Rob Symmons (guitar) and Paul Myers (bass) were part of the band at all. Rhodes had gone so far as to lock up the original album, which was supposedly lost after the smash success of two singles.

The unexpected rift sent everybody in different directions until three former Subway Sect members reconvened in 2004. And although the lineup changes from time time, recently adding Matthew Karas (bass) but continuing to change out drummers on a regular basis, their original rally cry remains intact.

The Fallen Leaves believe that a good idea played badly is better than a bad idea played well. And mostly, they are right. Except, of course, when they're wrong. And that is the way it is with The Fallen Leaves. The band rocks unless it gets lost in its own jangly, somewhat tinny existence.

The Fallen Leaves lay down some tunes live with no overdubs. 

There is a strange sort of chemistry that happens anytime that Symmons and vocalist Rob Green jump into the studio together. They want to heat every thing up, but only on their own terms. This means tossing out most modern technology and recording everything with vintage valve amps and an old mic or two.

After hearing them play, some people stand by the notion that their vintage angling is nothing but more excuses. And yet, there is something refreshingly fierce in the style. Songs like Always More sound like they could have been produced decades ago. Other songs, like Girls In A Trance, were written in the 1970s.

Other tracks will produce a mixed reaction. The first track, Against The Grain, is fast-paced jam that the band unloads with a feverish intensity but it also sports lyrics that are more pedestrian than the rest of the album. The truth is that although the studio session starts well, it doesn't hold up to their live performances.

The same can be said for other songs, which makes it all the more important to listen to some tracks ahead of the others. The jazz-infused crooner I Made A Mistake, for example, is the perfect lounge tune  as it slinks along, creating candlelit dimness and an impossibly smoky atmosphere.

Ancient & Modern is another standout track. As the pitch perfect throwback, the songs smacks of the band's signature theme of dramatic dissatisfaction. Green pointedly sings that he already knows that the roads aren't paved with gold, even if he holds out hope.

Start with those two tracks and you may have a different take on the rest of the album. Passing By has great guitar work by Symmons, even if the song is mostly so so. And War Memorial, despite feeling dated, has a classic pop rock that almost harkens all the way back into the fifties. It even has a slight surf rock element to it. Those and Against The Grain with a slight EQ adjustment might do.

If Only We'd Known Shakes 3.2 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

To be clear, the two tracks worth the download are I Made A Mistake and Ancient & Modern. The rest of the album is all about how much you like a near-novelty sound made by some guys who not only lived in the era, but also made their mark with the Subway Sect. It's all pretty cool when you consider what might have been, even if most people tuck these tracks away like guilty pleasures.

You can find If Only We'd Known by The Fallen Leaves on Amazon. You can also download a couple of tracks off the album on iTunes. Follow The Fallen Leaves on Facebook. They list several live shows on their page, mostly in and around London. If Only We'd Known is their third album.
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