Bands to Watch #235: The Hummingbirds

By on Wednesday, 11th January 2012 at 12:00 pm

My mind is filled with the bits and pieces of my musical upbringing; there are plenty of memories of the first band I ever fell in love with, the Beatles. (Sorry if this was predictable. I’ve been told that because I’m American, it’s predictable.) They were the first band I was ever obsessed with: our public television station ran a documentary on them called The Compleat Beatles narrated by Malcolm McDowell, and I watched it so many times, I could quote all the narration word for word from memory and had mastered the Scouse accent, though it would be years before I even knew what “Scouse” meant. The Beatles came from a land faraway called Liverpool, England that sounded like a gritty yet fun place to my young, 8-year old mind. Lucky for us, years later Liverpool is still churning out great bands, even if the city is often passed over in favour of that other Northern musical hotbed slightly east that is Manchester. So today, I’m going to tell you about my latest Merseyside discovery via Twitter. (I would like to point out that I’m not suggesting that all the unsigned bands out there rush to follow me on Twitter. But it appears Twitter is acting admirably as the new MySpace in terms of musical discovery…)

If you go further back to the Fabs’ earlier days, when they started out playing skiffle, they had a more folk and bluesy-type sound and before they tried writing their own songs, they mostly played covers of their favourite American rock and blues artists. (You can hear evidence of this on the first CD of ‘The Beatles Anthology 1’.) This is the fond memory that is triggered when I get hearing the Hummingbirds’ ‘Bankrupt Blues’, which sounds more Eddie Cochran’s ‘Twenty Flight Rock’ than anything else of recent memory I can think of; it’s blues done right, a little rough around the edges but still fun. It’s a back to basics rock style the band is calling, rather accurately I think, “modern skiffle”.

I’ll be honest, when I opened up their official Web site and saw their header photo, my initial thought was, “oh no. Plaid shirts and acoustic guitars. Another Mumford and Sons?” I was however rewarded when I had a listen to their Soundcloud tracks. In addition to ‘Bankrupt Blues’, there is the excellent ‘Back to Liverpool’. Jay Davies’ clear and winsome voice in the verses rises above the admirable backing vocals of his band compadres. Since the days of first hearing the Beatles ‘This Boy’, beautiful male harmonies always slayed me. And good god, this song slays me. To death. If you like the Crookes, I’m pretty sure you’re going to love this band. It’s like a less frenetic ‘Backstreet Lovers’. The guitars and drums chug along satisfyingly as they would in Lonnie Donegan’s day.

The main differences are that the Crookes have electric guitars and favour a darker, Smiths-like lyrical direction, and the Hummingbirds are taking a more acoustic approach, and the approach is also much lighter. See ‘Awaiting Your Call’, a yearning ballad that is deceptively simple but if you look closer, it’s a clean, well-arranged song allowing for Matty Brougham’s guitar lines to shine in the bridge. My only complaint is that it goes on a lot longer than it should. But I’m not worried: when (not if) they are signed, I’m sure someone will recommend to them to trim the song down so the BBC can play it. These songs are available as part of the ‘Talking of Tomorrow’ EP released last autumn that I’ve embedded below so you can listen to them.

This is probably heresy to many Fab Four fans but the era of the Beatles that is nearest and dearest to my heart, owing to a ‘80s Christmas present of a new fangled thing called a CD of ‘A Hard Day’s Night’. Something that seems to get lost in the focus of the Fabs’ experimental and post-psychedelic periods is the gorgeousness and innocence of their early records. If you haven’t, have a listen to ‘Please Please Me’ and you will see what I mean. The Hummingbirds appear to have bottled this kind of innocence and nostalgia and gone for a simplified approach to pop/rock without sacrificing quality. “There’s things I’d like to say to you / when you’re back in Liverpool”: a warm welcome as any from five Scousers who could be the next big thing. Also included below is a band documentary. And yes. I am a sucker for a cute boy with a Scouse accent…


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2 Responses

[…] Bands to Watch #235: The Hummingbirds […]

10:18 am
15th January 2012

Your Comments.
Hi Mary. Great plug of this band. They are taking their own city Liverpool by storm with their brilliant songs and performances and are gathering a huge following which im one of. The Beatles they may not be but can still leave a legacy to the Merseyside music scene. Cheers

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