…disasterpiece – Powerline Sneakers (Kasumuen Records)
There’s a beautiful, sleazy rock and roll feel to “…disasterpiece” that’s refreshingly hard to pin down. From the rumbling and seedy “Dream Feature” to the girl-group-on-steroids swagger of “Don’t Shit Me Now”, and even more Spectoresque glow of “Spectre” (ha!), it’s an avalanche of hard-boiled hard Rock Action.
That Powerline Sneakers rock like motherfuckers should come as no surprise, given the pedigree of the players. Lead guitarist John Nolan was in the Powder Monkeys and Bored!. Sly Faulkner, on vocals and guitar, fronted the Splatterheads, who were well regarded even if I never got into ‘em. Bassist Katie Dixon was in Ripe and Mark Hurst pounded the tubs for The Yes-Men and Gutternsipes.
Sometimes such well-qualified bands don’t pull it off. Too much reliance on what they might do because of past glories rather than what they should do. Ego clashes. No songs. Rest assured that none of this is the case. The engine room is as great as you might hope, the guitars as caustic as Draino and the vocals expressive and arresting. The songs are very good (and all their own work) and Paul Maybury’s production is ace. MIkey Young's mastering is widesreen enough without losing its punch.
You may have seen video of “Bank Robber”. If so, you'll know it bears no relation to the dubby Clash song of the same name. The furious guitars and wailing, woo-hoo backing vocals sound more like San Diego’s brutal Dragons or the Hellacopters at their height, but with more swing.
There’s another misnomer: “Miss You” has not a touch of a disco-fried Bill Wyman bass-line or lyrics about Jagger communing with West Side Puerto Ricans. No, it’s a surging fest of guitars with an urgent rawk bass-line and precise, driving drumming. A splash of keys (credit to John Olson) sets the scene before the guitar wave breaks and, along with Faulkner’s vocal, drags us right out to sea.
There’s an endless number of styles being mixed up. “Miracle of Sin”, the lead-off track online, shows a band unafraid to mix it up. Horns duel with soaring and driving, strafing guitars. If the song was any harder you could crack nuts on it.
Then we slip into “Wedding Ring”, where Katie Dixon’s vocal part flips the switch to bubble-gum. I shit you not. Heavy duty bubble-gum inflated by what sounds like a vibraphone and what’s undeniably a pair of cast iron guitars, sitting astride a monstrous bottom end.
Then there’s “Dream Feature”, the song mentioned earlier. Throaty organ intro and then two cabinet-rattling, filthy guitars charge in. Faulkner’s knowing vocal complements the here’s-a-bloke-cutting-your-grass lyrics. “Girl, you featured in a dream of mine.” John Nolan’s snaking outro is worth the admission price.
Powerline Sneakers have been around the block a few times and then some, the members sometimes navigating unclear career paths that involved detours onto rock and roll’s darker side. Let’s be frank, though: Music like theirs’ isn’t made by kids from posh private schools in expensive studios and nor is it supported (any more) by silver-tongued and often clueless men in suits with fat wallets. One look at any one of the three gnarly heads in this band would send them running the other way. That's why they put Katie up front in the photos.
Did I mention there are horrns on this record? I have now.
Powerline Sneakers deserve their time in the sun and you deserve to hear them.