Album Review: Hyde & Beast – Slow Down

By on Friday, 26th August 2011 at 2:00 pm
 

Hyde & Beast‘s album ‘Slow Down’ is a collection of deceptively simple, dreamy psychedelic pieces. There are some obvious comparisons with Sgt. Pepper arrangements and vibe, with reverse tape loops, droning sitar, parping horns and dreamy, double-tracked vocals; an eagle ear might notice the Sunderland accents in place of Liverpudlian ones. The muted bass on lead single “Never Come Back” is an exact copy of Paul McCartney’s: impressive attention to detail.

‘(and the) Pictures In The Sky’, the album’s only cover, is an unashamed T. Rex rip-off in terms of structure and sound. Production is impressively up-front, without any digital affectations, even though it was made in a computer. You get the impression that the emphasis is on vibe, soul and dynamics rather than any particular instrumental proficiency – indeed on the short, ramshackle instrumental ‘Wolfman Blues’, the guitars are less played than dismissively twanged at no more than cursorily accurate pitch and rhythm. But in a strange way it all works as a cohesive whole.

Hyde is an unassuming frontman. Whether or not his downbeat, almost somnambulant demeanour comes naturally, or is the consequence of a few hours in the pub between soundcheck and performance, is unclear. His voice will never trouble the judges on Opera Star, but suits the dreamy tone of the music, and is regularly bolstered by surprisingly accurate three- or four-part harmonies. He appears to know only one chord shape, the classic rock power fifth, but again it’s surprisingly effective in its deployment. Much like on the album, the guitar is approached as a means to creating sound appropriate to the mood of the song, rather than a melodic end in itself. An almost idiot savant approach, but it works.

The band offer a literal, if not sonic, wall of guitars – including the bassist, there are four vintage axes all in a line on stage. But each player knows their role – never is the sound cluttered by too much distortion; no two guitar tones are the same. The band have the all too rare virtue of knowing that the space in the arrangements is just as important as the notes. Bassett is a superb drummer, loose-limbed and deliberate, with an innate feel for the music. The balancing act between endearing imprecision and utter chaos would not be possible without him holding the highwire tight.

This project means very different things to the two men behind it. Hyde is filling time while the Futureheads sort themselves out, taking the opportunity to air his own material, knowing that the popularity of his other band is likely to transfer to this one. For Bassett, this is a great opportunity. Aside from anything else, this is an astute career move – not only does the clear, directional production on the H&B album demonstrate his ingenuity and effectiveness in the studio and will surely prove to be good for business in the longer term, he gets to have fun behind the drums in an act that is attracting a lot of attention.

Their respective characters complement each other well – the young Hyde bringing a sense of occasion, a dose of glamour and I daresay possibly excess to the party, whilst Bassett is the more mature, level-headed partner, essentially a businessman now, keeping tabs on things from behind the kit. Neither could do it without the other; an essential attribute for any successful partnership. What makes this rise above the level of vanity project is the simple fact that the songs have something special, a quality that transcends the vintage stylings; a psychedelic Indian summer of sound which rewards enthusiastic listening.

Drummers, then – maybe they’re more astute than they get credit for. After all, who wouldn’t want to get paid for just hitting stuff?

7/10

Hyde & Beast’s debut album ‘Slow Down’ is out now on Tail Feather.

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