Take four groovy guys from Cambridge, mix them with a whole load of raw, intelligent lyrics and bone-shatteringly good rock/metal/stoner/psych/grunge/alternative music and you have a truly special combination. The Simpletone want their music “To be heard by many” – well count me in.
When the first track of third independent LP Angels’ Share opens up, you know you’ve hit a goldmine of an album. “Outta Control” tears into a full throttle heavy rock/metal ride with additional screaming vocal layers to give it extra oomph. I was just beginning to wonder if I would like an album full of tracks with that same vocal style, when track two starts and we’re transported to a totally different place altogether.
This second track “Love Street” is an upbeat but more stripped back and simple song. It isn’t a sound I was expecting to hear and the vocal style strangely reminds me of Paul Weller, both from The Jam and his later solo work as well – maybe that’s just my hi-fi! Musically it’s actually verging on psychobilly and would not have been out of place on a Damned album.
What happens next is quite bizarre. “Storm Chaser” is what happens and my god, what a song! It’s pretty unusual to have an 11:23 minute epic on a rock/metal album these days but it just works. It doesn’t drag on or get laborious or repetitive. We enter a cascade of beautiful lyrical layers with finger-picked guitar which surges forward into chunky metal riffs, thundering drums and the satisfaction that you are now fully enveloped in this epic journey of a song. At 5:00 minutes the track unfolds into what you might determine is the bridge and the sound is stripped down. We’re then led into a repeated chorus as the band get ready to reach down, pick up the chanting crowd and lift them up while the track then builds in soundscape and pace to be finally topped off with a masterclass string-stretching solo. At this point I’m left almost breathless as this stunning gothic-edged track winds down and draws to a close. It’s utterly divine and all-consuming.
This really is an intriguing collection packed full of very well-produced sonic delights with layers, genres and styles galore.
Though I feel I could write reams on each track I’ll move onto “Nehemiah” – the next highlight for me. Opening slowly in a heavier, sludgier style with lyrics lifted from Lord Tennyson’s epic poem “Charge of the Light Brigade” – OK they may not be the first to do this, but, it’s as if this tribute is not only a very fitting soundtrack to the poem but to the battle itself as well.
“Day by Day” is another jewel in this unpredictable crown. Opening gently with finger-picked guitar (a little reminiscent of The Tea Party – anyone remember them?) it delivers a beautiful moment of downtime before gradually building into some stunning solo work accompanied by a brilliantly melodic bassline. It’s a fully instrumental track but by no means a filler.
The catchy “As Above So Below” transports us into a mighty Alice in Chains/STP style groove which loses no points for having a definite grunge overtone. It was actually my earworm when I woke up this morning, proof that this album is swiftly making its way into the mainstay of my collection.
This stunning album parades a kaleidoscope of sounds and genres but it doesn’t leave you feeling lost, it leaves you wondering what else The Simpletone can pull out of the bag. There seems no end to their talent and if there were ever a right time for a band to get a break, it’s got to be now.