This month our sonic safari takes in Starcrawler, Wess Meets West, Teenage Wrist, Mint Field, Black Light White Light and Bearfoot Beware, all roaming the, er, sound savanna.
Ryan Adams-approved rising rockers prize grit and grandeur
LA band Starcrawler take classic rock showmanship, punk attack and the fingernail grit of their Tinseltown forbears and present it within stinking proximity of your face. Henri Cash is the beaming, whirling dervish at the heart of their powerful sound.
“I’ve always been inspired by guitar players who aren’t just standing there,” says Henri. “Except Johnny Ramone, who’s in the power stance and that’s powerful in itself! But when you see Brian Setzer jump up on the kick drum and play this rad rockabilly solo, you want to do that - it’s more intriguing for somebody who doesn’t play music to watch that.”
That’s not to say Starcrawler are all style and no substance. Henri has previously indulged extensive excursions into tuba and drums.
“We are, surprisingly, a band that have a lot of technical knowledge,” laughs Henri. “When I came back to the guitar, I wanted to incorporate the other aspects as if I was a conductor.” Their live reputation is formidable, with fake blood, bruised bodies and solos performed the way they should be - with flailing limbs and wild abandon - all supported by an underlying tightness. Their Rough Trade-released, self-titled debut was recorded with a similar philosophy and helmed by Ryan Adams.
“I learned [from Ryan], to just go for it,” says Henri. “We were doing this one solo and he was like: ‘Hit it on the ground!’ I was like, ‘Dude, I’m not going to throw your Strat on the ground!’ But you want the record to be fierce - and the record sounds fierce because of things like that… “[My favourite players] have balls, man. When you listen to them you feel power. Listen to Kick Out The Jams and you get this deep feeling in your gut - that, for me, is the reason why guitar players play guitar.”
- For fans of: The Ramones, The Cramps
- Gear: Fender Tele Custom, Les Paul with Bigsby, Fender Super Reverb
Wess Meets West
Go ’West, where the skies are blue
Since 2005, Connecticut’s Wess Meets West have been crafting the type of airy post-rock that encourages the creation of montages involving sped-up footage of the natural world. Pondering life and death, new album A Light Within The Fracture (due 6 April) channels some suitably big themes, but with vocals a rarity, it’s a diverse and absorbing listening experience.
“I like that you can take different emotions from the music depending on your mood,” reflects guitarist Sam Stauff. “We also demand some patience from the listener at times and I think that’s great in the fast-paced world to be able to take a second and slow down and just listen.”
Tracks build and crash, tension is beautifully balanced and there is something near-meditative about WMW’s segues between stormy distortion and oxygenated reverberation.
- For fans of: Explosions In The Sky
- Gear: Les Paul Double Cut Classic, Verellen Skyhammer
Shoegaze for cloudy days
If your default reaction to world events is to envelope yourself in layers of warm, fleecy fuzz and hope it goes away, consider Teenage Wrist your new security blanket.
The LA trio share a common ground with the likes of Philadelphia’s Nothing in their blend of shoegaze, punk rock and pathos, but they produce a more diverse, brighter sound. “My chops are awful,” says guitarist Marshall Gallagher. “But I have a good ear for composition and layering parts, so I play to that strength. I’m a big fan of the wall of sound.”
Modesty aside, Marshall’s a dab hand at a killer lead line - Swallow’s scything whammy solo cuts across the fuzz folds like a hot knife through butter - and we can already assert that debut album Chrome Neon Jesus offers some of the year’s best distortion sounds.
- For fans of: Nothing, Rain
- Gear: Ibanez Roadstar, Orange Rockerverb
- Who: Tijuana psych rocker Estrella Sanchez
- Sounds like: The Durutti Column’s Vini Reilly having a jam in the desert after a krautrock binge
- Gear: Fender Starcaster, Roland Jazz Chorus, MXR Phase 90, MXR Carbon Copy, EQD Talons
- For fans of: Warpaint, Beach House
- Hear: Viceversa
Black Light, White Light
- Who: Danish indie popper Martin Ejlertsen
- Sounds like: Scuzzy electronic baroque and roll - think retro synths, vintage fuzz tones and wide-brimmed hats
- Gear: Gretsch Tennessee Rose, Vox AC30, Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face
- For fans of: Temples, The Horrors
- Hear: Teenage Dream
- Who: Leeds-based guitarist Tom Bradley
- Sounds like: Smarty-pants punk rock for people who like late 90s Dischord, Falco projects and exorcising existential anguish in the pit
- Gear: Telecaster Custom, Vox AC30, Carl Martin PlexiTone
- For fans of: Mclusky, Les Savy Fav
- Hear: Point Scorer