Monday, 15 February 2016

The Everlasting Yeah at The Lexington London February 6th

The Everlasting Yeah photographed by Paul Slattery
Back in 1985 nothing was really grabbing me musically except maybe the Paisley Underground scene and the Garage Rock and Psych revival of bands such as The Prisoners, Hoodoo Gurus, Fuzztones and Playn Jayn etc. There was the “Positive Punk” (oh go on then...Gothic) sounds of The Sisters of Mercy, Flesh For Lulu and Red Lorry Yellow and then a few hard to categorise bands such as Big Audio Dynamite, The Three Johns and Fatima Mansions. So when I heard that the O’Neill brothers, from one of my all time favourite bands The Undertones, were back with a brand new band called That Petrol Emotion I was really excited. I remember getting the single “Keen” with its rather bleak black and grey cover featuring Edvard Munch’s painting “The Scream” on the front. I put it on the record player and placed the needle down gently on the revolving black vinyl. I might well have performed an impromptu impersonation of Munch’s famous distorted face, hands quickly covering my ears as the raw crackling production spat that intense wired riff out of the speakers. The song was out of kilter with the times, bursting with a barely controlled vitriol and it blew me away, I was totally hooked. The Undertones connection was quickly booted into touch – there was no comparison to the over-produced and somewhat disappointing swansong “The Sin of Pride” of a few years earlier. “Keen” was a statement of intent. This is a new band. The past is irrelevant. Then came another blistering single "V2" and the first album "Manic Pop Thrill", which must go down as one of the best debuts of all time and also the most aptly titled!
Damian O'Neill photographed by Paul Slattery
Despite four more superb albums and almost cracking the top 40 in 1987 with "Big Decision" and writing countless other classics such as "Swamp", "Hey Venus", "Creeping To The Cross" and "Sensitize" sadly That Petrol Emotion split up in 1994 without really fulfilling their obvious potential. It was a huge blow, after all their last ever studio album "Fireproof" was, in my mind at least, the best thing they had released since "Manic Pop Thrill". It was packed with some of the most stunning songs the band had ever written, I mean just looking at the track listing now there's "Big Human Thing", "Last Of The True Believers", "Infinite Thrill", "Speed Of Light" and the single "Detonate My Dreams" which all showed a band on top form. However, they called it a day and joined my growing list of criminally underrated and unappreciated bands that I always seem to fall in love with. I could rant on about the sordid injustice of the music business and the stifling of originality and individualism but sod it, I despair sometimes. The real kick in the teeth though was despite all that, That Petrol Emotion just wrote perfect Pop music, why weren't they huge...!? Do people have cloth ears…!? So, in the end I was left to mourn another band. But then fast forward to 2008 and there was a glimmer of hope when the band did get back together for a promising and well received reunion. But this proved ultimately short-lived as Seattle based singer Steve Mack couldn't commit long-term due to family and logistical reasons rather than anything musical from what I can gather. 

Raymond Gorman photographed by Paul Slattery
But then last year out of the blue, just as that debut single "Keen" ripped it all up for me some thirty years earlier, so did my first listen to "Anima Rising" a new album by a band called The Everlasting Yeah who I found out were basically That Petrol Emotion just not quite as I knew them. Other than Steve Mack, who was not involved, here was the line-up from the "Fireproof" album and the reunion shows, Damian O’Neill and Raymond Gorman on guitars, Ciaran McLaughlin on drums and Brendan Kelly on the bass. So, how do you replace Steve Mack’s distinctive vocals and hugely infectious, charismatic energy? Well the answer is you don’t. In a refreshing move The Everlasting Yeah didn’t go out and search for a Steve Mack-alike and decided to carry on as a four piece with Raymond taking on most of the lead vocal duties. The powerful and unfussy production on "Anima Rising", with its timeless sound of crunching guitars, growling bass and brilliantly captured drums, force each individual band member's undoubted talents into the spotlight. Raymond clearly relishes the task of taking on the bulk of the singing but The Everlasting Yeah present a united front and it works perfectly well. Ciaran sings lead vocals on the gorgeous “Everything’s Beautiful” and Damian and Brendan provide sterling backing vocals throughout. It’s these vocal harmonies that elevate the songs to another level and even after first listen they get lodged in your head, quickly becoming as familiar as the hits and classics from the impressive back catalogue of their previous bands.

Ciaran McLaughlin photographed by Paul Slattery
I hadn’t looked forward to a gig so much for ages, I was intrigued to see how the band would work on stage and how they would compile a set out of a debut album that after all only consisted of seven songs. First of all it was encouraging to see The Lexington was packed out and positively bristling with anticipation as the band took the stage and kicked off with a new song “Myself When I Am Real” that surfs in on a riff that’s not too dissimilar to the next number the album opener "A Little Bit of Uh-Huh & A Whole Lotta Oh Yeah". It’s this track that could well become the band’s signature tune, a relentlessly upbeat singalong that distills the essence of all that glorious melodic guitar Pop that both That Petrol Emotion and The Undertones specialised in. Standing right at the front of the stage the first thing that hits me is Ciaran’s quite stunning drumming, which is a sight and sound to behold. With his call-centre head mic allowing him to divide his time equally between some impressive vocals and hitting the skins, he is not content to take a back seat. "Hoodlum Angels" is a slow groove riding along on a funky rhythm guitar riff topped off with some marvellous falsetto backing vocals. The band are locked in tight despite not having played a gig in quite some time and just like the album tonight’s sound at The Lexington is spot on, allowing each band member to be heard loud and clear. Another great new song "Whatever You Do Say Nothing" is well received, in fact all the new songs played tonight, the other two being "Dylan 65" and "Hurricane Nation", promise that the follow up to "Anima Rising" is going to be even better and at no point does the audience's attention wander. Thinking about it, all of The Everlasting Yeah's songs are quite cinematic, they are well plotted with interesting diversions and little red herrings thrown in along the way that merge back together with a satisfying pay off. The songs are allowed to breathe with the band allowing things to drop out and slam back in again. On the album there are tracks that stretch over eight, even twelve minutes in length, but don’t worry this is not Prog Rock meandering, far from it, the songs are taut, bristling with inventive guitar passages that develop naturally. 

The Everlasting Yeah photographed by Paul Slattery
Raymond and Damian complement each other perfectly, trading guitar riffs like Television's Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd at their duelling best. Brendan's bass is prominent and impressive and both him and Ciaran power away with an almost Krautrock Motorik groove. They all look startlingly young and cool too, there must surely be some sort of Dorian Gray portrait hanging backstage! There's a definite chemistry between all four band members which is nice to see, they look like they are having a lot of fun and this increases as their confidence grows throughout the evening. "All Around The World" is probably the most immediate song on the album and tonight it's one of my highlights of the set, a classic melodic Garage Rocker which you can hear in Episode 20 of Retrosonic Podcast. The Undertones of course were not afraid to write emotional and heartfelt songs such as "Wednesday Week" and just as The Velvet Underground tempered their noise with tracks such as "Sunday Morning" and "I’ll Be Your Mirror" so That Petrol Emotion released some truly beautiful pieces such as "A Million Miles Away" and "Heartbeat Mosaic" for example. The Everlasting Yeah continue this tradition with “Everything’s Beautiful” sung by Ciaran and it comes over really well live. "New Beat On Shakin' Street" is yet another cracker of a song with it's hook "First is life, second is truth, third is love and fourth is a peaceful heart" that will stick in your head for days to follow. Maybe my only slight gripe of the evening was that I think they should have stuck with ending the set with "Taking That Damn Train Again" as it built to a quite superb crescendo and it would have been a perfect way to end on such a high. But of course the crowd were left baying for more and the band duly obliged by following that with an encore of "The Grind", the album's twelve minute-plus closing track. On record it is a great ending but live I wasn't so sure about it however, what should I have expected, them to come on and do a medley of “Teenage Kicks” and “Big Decision”? No, I don’t really think so! There's no pandering to nostalgia tonight.

Brendan Kelly photographed by Paul Slattery
The Everlasting Yeah have an identity of their own, they have distilled all of their influences into a concise and individual sound which is maybe something that That Petrol Emotion struggled to do on occasions. They avoid genres and categories which who knows, may well again hinder them as it did with That Petrol Emotion. However, if there was a genre entitled "Intelligent Positive Guitar Pop with Uplifting and Life Affirming Tunes" then Everlasting Yeah would be leading the movement!

Damian O'Neill photographed by Paul Slattery
You can hear "All Around The World" by The Everlasting Yeah in Episode 20 of Retrosonic Podcast and one of our favourite tracks from That Petrol Emotion in Episode 21. There are more photos of the gig over at the Retro Man Blog Facebook page here, just hit "Like", if you are not already following, to access the photo album. Some of Paul Slattery's photographs of The Undertones from back in 1978 can be seen in our feature on the "Good Vibrations" movie in the Blog archive here.

For more info on the band please check out their official The Everlasting Yeah web-site.

1 comment:

  1. Great review as always and the photos are brilliant hope to get to the Half Moon