54-46 Recommends: Sweet Benfica

Earthquakes Lights is the jovial debut from James Brothers, two parts of the whole of SweetBenfica.

 

 

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Beautiful lo-fi rumblings from the foot of the Welsh Mountains – The album is a testament to the health of the Welsh music scene.  The James brothers have written a wonderful album that explores themes of love, loss, 80’s VHS nostalgia, disillusionment with hipster-dom and everything in-between.

From humble beginnings in a 60’s surf rock cover band – the band has blossomed out of the disillusionment of playing covers three nights a week. The James’ brothers already had a catalogue of songs lying in wait that comprises their gem of a debut, Earthquake Lights.

Having cut ties with the cover band the band have emigrated from jamming in a shed to putting out several impressive releases. The Band have gone from strength to strength – hitting a 9pm slot at Green Man Festival last year.

The band have cited their influences in The Velvet Underground The Pixies, Captain Beefheart, Dylan and The Nuggets Box sets (Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era is a groundbreaking compilation album of American garage rock singles released in the mid-to-late 1960s)

Stefan James talked us through the band’s creative process and how they make their songs: “Usually its me trying to rip something off, I’m listening to something i love the sound of, start toying around with that kind of sound next thing you know the music and words come together, then it sounds completely different and it has its own life. Inspiration for us usually comes from the particular band or song I’m well into around the time of writing. Perhaps thats why theres different kind of songs on our releases, and we have been mentioned sounding like bands as diverse as the Pixies, Bright Eyes, Daniel Johnson, Woods, Jesus and Mary Chain. maybe thats why.”

The album combines the beautifully melancholic “100 Degrees” – “Welcome home boy you’re back from London / go see the girl who stole the thunder”  love song of regret, loss and wondering with “Girl Makes Me Go Wild!” – a wild enthralling thrash “That girl man she’s all right / there’s a fire in her eyes / all that heat is making me shy/ girl that makes me go wild” that could be off any post punk album, whilst retaining a catchy melody.

 

 

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“Earthquake Lights” opens with a mysterious riff and pounding drums – far removed from some of the earlier tracks on the album – driving and heavy it channels early Black Keys as the hypnotic drumming of Calum James drives the narrative of the track into an enthralling zenith, rising and falling with slide licks from the guitar.

“VHS” washes over with reverb and echo in a dreamlike nostalgic trip, tipping  the hat to early John Hughes movies, bad ass Cynthia Roth beating up men and and Feris Bueller.  Full flowing dream pop at its finest as Stefan croons: “I miss the video shop and VHS”.

“Back This Way” takes a rocking Brian Jonestown Massacre swinging opening – straight out of 1965. “She won’t be coming back this way and I don’t think I’ll ever see her again” – purest garage rock straight off the 8 track.

“Weird Beard” – “I couldn’t grow me a moustache, I grow myself a big old beard” – explored the difficulties of hipster-dom – “you tried to dress me like a hipster but my money was all spent on beer and rent – all that was left was my beard.”

Horror marks a tangential switch from the cloud like dream pop earlier in the album as a driven riff permeates the daydream of the earlier album, the sound of the track taking on a much harder edge but no less enjoyable.

The band have kept their expectations sensibile, a refreshing attitude of small steps in an attempt at self fulfilment:  “My brother Calum and I always said, lets not do this band and think we are gonna make money and be famous or whatever. We set ourself little goals and get excited when we achieve them, first one was ‘lets make an EP, put it on the net’ we did that and the feedback was incredible. Next one was ‘imagine we got to play Green Man’ next thing we got asked. Now if we had set out like a few bands i know going ‘lets make an album and try and get signed’ your just setting yourself up for disappointment i think. Im not saying its wrong to set your sights high, its just our view in how success can be achieved without getting caught up in a the crap the music industry throws at you.”

Pleasantly eclectic, colour saturated garage rock – this album greets you like an old friend, takes you on a trip and places you carefully down again. Elegant and highly enjoyable.

We look forward to picking up a Vinyl of your work! 

8/10

 

 

TB

 

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