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Take a look at the album cover to this self-titled debut from Liverpool's Joe Symes & the Loving Kind. Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover, and this is no trick. It's an old-fashioned look, it harks back to the 1960s, even the back cover (of the CD!) says "LONG PLAY 33⅓ R.P.M.". The whole thing is stylised to take you back to the golden age of vinyl and a golden age for British music. You might be thinking this is going to be a '60s garage ride, and opening track 'Fallen Down' would definitely make this assumption appear correct. It's upbeat, it's energetic and it has that timeless sound, but it's not representative of the rest of the album. With the success of The Strypes and the inevitable imitators (of this band of imitators) that will follow, this is probably for the best. This is a record that's still locked in that decade though, and the other tunes here prove it, with perhaps the overriding influence being The Kinks.
By all accounts, it's in the live arena that Joe Symes & the Loving Kind made their name, and despite this being a very good collection of recordings, that may be where they consider that they excel the most. They've caught the attention of fellow retro-loving rock royalty such as Noel Gallagher and Steve Cradock, both of whom can be counted as fans. They even launched the album at Liverpool's Zanzibar club with an introduction by Beatles promoter Sam Leach. I think you're beginning to get the picture. Recreating sounds from this era can be good and it can be bad. At the tail-end of Britpop the sheer amount of bands that were attempting to pillage from the past made the whole scene become a joke. Dad-rock was invented and Noel, Weller, Ocean Colour Scene and co. were accused of promoting (and creating) tired old stodge. These guys don't suffer from that problem. These might be vintage songs in style, but they're not dull regurgitations or over-earnest tunes for people who want "real" music (is there such a thing as fake music?). There's a freshness here and indulgence is barely even considered.
You can look at early Small Faces, The Kinks and even Donovan when listening to songs like 'Fine Line'. They touch upon blues without going off into real dad-rock heaven by incorporating drawn-out guitar solos and twelve-bar bores. 'Ready To Ride' does the job nicely with simple guitar and piano, the quirky nature and brushed drums adding a certain idiosyncratic quality. 'Lovers Undercover' is simply classic songwriting that could have come from any period since the "rock era" began; the same could be said for 'Happy When It Hurts' and by now the whole garage idea is long forgotten. This band are as focused on songs as style, although they rarely sound modern and are certainly far from being cutting-edge in any way, but that's not the point. An entertaining spoken-word interlude interrupts the album, announcing that the next song with be their last and thinking everyone for listening, perhaps to give some connection to their live shows. What follows is more piano-led rock/pop in the form of 'Love Is The Reason', maybe the most electrified track since the opener, but one with a whole different vibe. It's a definite highlight. Naturally no live show is finished without the encore, so (and despite none of these songs actually being live) we get two "bonus tracks". 'A World Out Your Window' pales slightly compared to what it had to follow, although it's hardly a bad tune, but the ending of 'Where Do I Belong?' is more slightly madcap '60s psych-pop and brings things to a close nicely. Well, almost. They couldn't resist one last surprise with an unnamed secret track that's little more than some messing about for a few seconds. Joe Symes & the Loving Kind have a refreshing disregard for what the music world is doing. They do what they do, and for that they deserve some respect.
Joe Symes & the Loving Kind's website
Buy the album
Catch them live:
2nd - The Zanzibar Club, Liverpool.
9th - White Rooms, Warrington.
15th - Salford Arms, Manchester.
22nd - The Water Rats, London.
6th - Alan McGee's 359 Records night at District, Liverpool.
13th - Eric's Live, Liverpool. (Blockheads Support)
14th - Bumper, Liverpool.
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