It’s a classic story. You’re in college trudging through classes and existential questions and you think to yourself that starting a band might be a good way to go. One day you and your best mate are drinking beers on Friday and you get the brilliant idea to start a band. Suffice it to say that an ample amount of bands start over shared a drink with a friend. This is the case with Freddie Phoenix. The two friends in this case are Charlie Oliver (lead guitar) and Magnus Rowbotham (rhythm guitar/vocals). The band officially formed in September of last year and quickly recruited Josh Meyer (drums) and Dom Oliver (bass) to fill out the four-piece. They went to work quickly and recorded a five-song EP entitled State Your Name.
For what little time they have been together I’m impressed with the caliber of the material. The band can bear similarities to bands like The Artic Monkeys and early Bloc Party. Rowbotham’s voice works very well within the context of the music. He has an English accent that is noticeable but not overbearing and has an attractive delivery overall.
He sounds loose, emphasizes the right notes while also being reminiscent to old English punk bands. He also doesn’t slack when it comes to lyrics. It’s obvious he put some thought into what he sings as he avoids clichés and instead plays around with lyrical ambiguity while not being lost in the ether of confusion.
The music itself isn’t groundbreaking but also is impressive in its own way. They never pour on too much distortion and go from a clean sound that could be compared to Marquee Moon from Television to a heavier Arctic Monkey style production.
The album starts off with “State,” which was an excellent opener. Sporadic drums fills, bass and a picked clean electric guitar provide the music as Rowbotham sings, “There was a time when it used to matter what we did and where we stood.” The song steadily picks up more energy as it progresses. A steady beat is established, Rowbotham vocals get stressed and by a-minute-and-a-half in the band hits their apex. Then they lose their energy and quickly submerge in the verse.
“Elastic Women” is another winner. The guitar strings bend, the drumming is loose and creative while Rowbotham serves up some notable vocals. “MCP” has an old school punk vibe while Rowbotham pulls off Art Brut type talking. Good Stuff. The last two songs “Helping Hand” and “Atlas” are both melancholy but sounds good on the band.
Let’s hope Freddie Phoenix stays around for a while because State Your Name is impressive to my ears. Recommended.
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