15 July 2015 (released)
10 June 2015
Ok, I have to admit to a ‘moment’ before I cued up the new album by The Pretty Things. It is over seven years since ‘Balboa Island’ (in my opinion one of the best albums of the century so far) and Phil May has had a near-death experience recently, you also have to bear in mind that they have been around since 1963 and no-one could say they have taken (or had) it easy in all that time.
So, tremble passes and I hit the play button and I am immediately knocked to the back of the room by a sound that is so vital, so fresh and so immediate that I can scarcely believe it – hot damn, this is good!
The sound of the Pretty Things was always hard boogie with more than a touch of psychedelia – they started out devoted to Bo Diddly and along the way were always the band that had the attitude and the heart that the Rolling Stones aspired to but never quite reached (guitarist Dick Taylor was actually the Stones original bassist but left in ’61 and he and vocalist Phil May hooked up in the early part of 1962).
May and Taylor are the only original members left but they have added young Jack Greenwood on drums and George Woosey on bass and rhythm guitar alongside Frank Holland who supplies 2nd guitar and Mellotron and their sound in 2015 has many links back to the classic PT albums such as ‘SF Sorrow’. ‘Silk Torpedo’ or ‘Parachute’ with stirring harmonies, pounding drums and Taylor’s guitar switching between psych solos and hard riffs. This is music that is both anchored in the sixties but as powerful and fresh as the best of the 21st century.
According to the blurb, the album was recorded in a couple of live-in-the-studio sessions with minimum overdubs and using the all valve amplification that the band have featured for many years. The result fairly crackles with atmosphere and electricity, with the band playing all new numbers, with the exception of the Byrds ‘Renaissance Fair’ and Sky Saxon’s ‘You Took Me By Surprise’, and the songs seem to have all the trademarks but additional hooks now that Woosey and manager Mark St John are also involved in the writing.
Opener ‘The Same Sun’ opens with a gorgeous riff and massive drums and Phil May on top form while ‘Renaissance Fair’ adds the Pretty Things feel to a classic sixties hippy number – the harmonies are pure sixties but it still feels utterly modern and ‘today’. ‘Dark Days’ has an edge of nervousness about it, a “looking back over your shoulder” feel that is still there even through the chorus and harmonies – Woosey’s insistent bass line carrying the mood perfectly while the bash and crash of Jack Greenwood’s drums suggests a collapsing society – one of the best Pretty Things tracks and definitely destined to be a live favourite. ‘Greenwood Tree’ has all the best attributes of sixties jams – including brevity; not a moment out of place and the mellotron and flute giving the number real hippy soul while the drum solo is actually worth the candle.
I could rattle on about the album but there really isn’t any point. If you are a Pretty Things fan it is a must but if your tastes go anywhere near rock it is as well.
It isn’t just a fine album, it proves that the best of bands can continue making music and being creative well into what others would see as the appropriate time to cash in with endless tours of old ‘stuff' (Rolling Stones, Metallica, Fleetwood Mac?).