Scratchy Records (label)
03 April 2013 (released)
04 April 2013
Rock ‘n’ roll’s a prostitute. It should be tarted up, performed. So goes a quote from the 1998 movie ‘Velvet Goldmine’. It’s a quote that could have been written for London glam-rock pop quintet Jonny Cola & The A-Grades, who bounced back full throttle after one year ago, frontman Jonny was diagnosed with end-stage kidney disease.
It’s thanks to Jonny’s fiancée, Glamracket promoter and DJ Heidi Heelz, that the band was able to carry on again and work on their much-anticipated return. For it was none other than Heidi who volunteered as a living donor! If this ain’t true love, I don’t know what is.
What better way to celebrate a successful and life-saving operation (and share the joy) than dishing out a double A-side single: ‘Straight To Video / ‘Marlborough Road’ comes in retrolicious 7" vinyl and is available via http://tinyurl.com/stvmr and via Amazon and iTunes (digitally).
Frontman Jonny Cola and his glam rebels (Mauro Venegas and Jez Leather on guitars, Simon Drowner on bass, and Marco Testa-Ryan on drums) have a knack not only for catchy tunes and glam-rock pop that’s been sprinkled with tinsel dust, but they score high in the visual stakes, too. Watch the promo videos for their songs on YouTube, and you’ll see what I mean (and you’ll also get my reference to ‘Velvet Goldmine’).
While the songs are strong enough to impress on their own, things get even more impressive if you watch the videos too. Music and visuals complement each other – really, has it ever been any different in the realms of glam rock?
‘Straight To Video’ is the more complex and fleshed-out arrangement out of the two. Starting with a dramatic keyboard sound that’s emphasized through Jonny’s exaggerated cabaret-style frolics, the first half of the song bears all the passion and panache of a Marc Almond torch song. It’s moody in tone, yet catchy and melodious enough to make for a memorable chorus. The second half of the arrangement is decidedly heavier, with emphasis on guitars as opposed to keys. Frenzied instrumental solos combined with Jonny’s witty lyrics draw comparisons to bands like Pulp and Suede, but also 70’s glam.
On the visual front (I’m talking the video here) we get to see a lot of glam and glitter, sailor boys who seemed to have swapped roles in ‘Querelle’ for an appearance in this A-Grades short, and androgynous birds of paradise. Also – and in stark contrast – the ghastly ghost of Sadako from the Japanese ‘Ring’ horror movie creeps out of a video recorder... Your life goes straight to video, while the dead crawl out of it…
‘Marlborough Road’ is much harder and punkier in its arrangement, with lots of choppy guitar work and an edgier vocal performance by Jonny. The video depicts a messy flat in which the guys get ready for a night out – there’s a poster of Bowie on the wall, perhaps indicating that ‘boys keep swinging’. Later, during a cab ride through a nightly London, and we see the band members applying make-up and nail varnish, while a t-shirt bearing the Stiff Records logo indicates yet another musical reference. As the band arrive at their destination (a makeshift stage in someone’s basement) they totally trash it out, it’s killer riffs set against a pounding beat.
What’s reassuring about Jonny Cola & The A-Grades is not just the fact that Jonny has overcome his medical trauma thanks through a few guardian angels and a very special lady. Just as reassuring is the fact that here is a band that puts style back into music, yet maintaining the musical quality.
Welcome back on the scene, Jonny, and may your star sparkle brightly for a long time.