mike davies - april

Following on from their impressive self-titled debut album, Birmingham four piece BROKEN WITT REBELS return with OK Hotel (Snakefarm Records), still featuring frontman Danny Core’s husked and gravelly vocals but moving away somewhat from the southern rock feel into a more indie, mainstream sound. This is instantly exemplified by the opening rhythmically scampering Running With The Wolves , a number about staying positive (“Don’t let the green light turn red”) with its chorus hook and, maybe because of the juxtaposition of the words animal and physical, a slight hint of Drop The Pilot.The riff-driven Money harks more to their early blues rock sound, complete with a dash of vocoder, but then comes the title cut, a slow and moody make the best of a bad situation number inspired the assorted shitholes they’ve stayed in touring Europe, featuring shimmering keyboard curtains as the track builds.

ok hotel

In contrast, riding a steady bassline, Caught In The Middle, a song about waiting for a change of luck to come, conjures a similar brand of mid-tempo country-tinged rock n roll to that of The Black Crowes and Kings of Leon, ramping up the power for the punchy chorus. Again underpinned by Luke Davis’s bass, that knack of crafting a crowd-magnet chorus hook is evident too on the chug of Take You Home with its almost contemporary R&B swing and a lyrics about both resilience and offering support to someone in a time of need, the theme of healing also apparent on Broken Pieces, another mid-tempo ebb and flow chug, written by Core as a tribute to his father in the wake of his passing, trying to articulate the feelings he was going through.

By extension, with a Police-like slow reggae rhythm and James Tranters’ choppy guitar pulses, Around We Go was written for his mother and her struggles with now having to live alone.

A slow building blues burn with a steady and persistent march beat rhythm, Save My Life was also informed by his father’s illness but also the band’s reaction on learning of the death of Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington and again harks back the grittier feel and howl of the debut. The embedded gospel roots of southern rock also entwine through Give It Up (which is actually about not giving up) with its handclap beats and the hummed background harmonies to Core’s wearied and raspy lead , the chorus rising to challenge the heavens.

Its sights fixed on stadium horizons, written at the same time and veined with the same sense of uncertainty about what lies ahead , opening with another throbbing bass line and anchored by James Dudley’s drums, Fearless has the same sort of swagger Rod Stewart manifested back in the days of An Old Raincoat Won't Ever Let You Down and Gasoline Alley.

There’s a Rod element too on the upbeat, feelgood, no inhibitions rock n roll of Love Drunk rolling together the archetypal cocktail of love, sex and booze with a shake of reverse guitar, a number designed to spark arms-linked alcohol induced sways towards the end of the evening. Cole describes the spooked Rich Get Richer, with its ominous metronomic beat and chanted backing vocals as sounding like something from Peaky Blinders, the song’s construction a solid indication of how far they’ve come in the past couple of years.

It ends with a hometown homage in Birmingham (albeit Tranter and Dudley are from Coventry), a folksy, acoustic number that references Yardley and includes the quirky refrain “Birmingham is where I found me feet/And Birmingham is where I’ll lose my teeth”, a wry smile at the end of a highly accomplished sophomore album that continues to point to an ever brighter future. Check in and check them out.


CHRIS TYE continues his explorations in electronics with the languid Feature Fight, a Jupiter RMX remix of the delicate, hushedly sung atmospheric ballad from his Stronger in Numbers album, now shorn of the guitars, replaced by chilled beats, Oriental-sounding synths and the vocals given an echo treatment.

The current corona outbreak has, inevitably, made life hell for local musicians and venues alike, with gigs cancelled and releases, such as, I suspect, the Death By Stampede debut, put temporarily on hold. But it’s good to see a refusal to cave in, with Facebook performances (such as the recent one by Robert Lane and Minnie Birch) and events, a reminder of the endurance creativity and passion brings. The nightmare will end, and when it does, Birmingham’s musicians and the live music venues will need your support to get them back on their feet. Be there for them and go buy their downloads and merch.


A new name to me, discovered via Pete Steel’s Second City Sounds on Brum Radio, HONEY I SHOT THE PRESIDENT are a four-piece comprising lead singer/lead guitarist Brandon, rhythm guitarist/ Brandon, drummer Brad and bassist Josh. Described as a mesh of 60s rock, indie and grunge, their debut, Understanding, is, in fact, more of a summery pop number reminiscent of The Bluebells and The Lightning Seeds. I’m definitely keen to hear more.

harry j

Should you be looking for a Good Time With A Bad Thing, allow me to direct you to the new track by HARRY JORDAN. The verses a slow and spooked voodoobilly vibe with reverb guitar punctuated by the punchier title line chorus, it doesn’t really go anywhere or build to a climax as it should, but it still licks the back of your ears and makes your toes curl.

roots-and-branches.com 2020