'Up The Rollocks' EP by The Rollocks

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'Up The Rollocks' EP by The Rollocks

Review

Here you go: the first (and hopefully not last) article in the magazine telling you about a relatively new (2022) band who are attracting more than their share of talk locally: The Rollocks.

I'd call them a local supergroup except, as far as I'm concerned, all the bands I write about have an element of the super in them. Nevertheless, members previously delighted you in other great groups such as Luna & The Moonhounds, Resurrection Men, Shanghai Hostage and Superhooch, so we can expect music which reflects that pedigree.

Their (imminent) debut EP 'Up The Rollocks' (produced by the band with Jon Webb at the Moonbase) has half a dozen tracks: five self compositions & a cover of The Stooges' 1973 track "I Need Somebody".

Not particularly surprisingly, by choosing to include someone else's song on their first release, it sounds like a carefully selected entry point to their own music. Taken from an album which is called 'Raw Power' is itself possibly part of that statement & so is I think the fact that, unlike a lot of the best known Stooges tracks, its power & impact lie in its measured menace rather than berserk thrashing. As with other instances where a song switches gender for the singer, it's intriguing to hear a female voice singing it & as well as an excellent showcase for the band's ability to produce a swampy blues snarl, it provides lead vocalist Aimee "Tina Tennents" Goodall with one too.

Not that the band actually lead you into the record with that song: the honour goes to their own "Fever Dreamzzz" which is another scuzzy rock exercise with the characteristic Moonbase quality of taking the dirtiest tracks and managing to retain the dirt & sleaze without denying you access to hearing the excellence of each element: a tricky & difficult balance but achieved again here. Once again there's a carefully calibrated racket going on from Chris "T-Wurz" Worsley and Martin "Motion" Hudson's guitars, Murry "Muzzle" Walsh's bass and Zeke "Zeke Street" Martin's drums, but Aimee's vocals sit on top of them enough to be easily discerned yet integrated sufficiently to be organically part of the whole.

 The band have kindly listed their influences as including Tina Turner, Black Sabbath, Etta James, the aforementioned (obliquely) Iggy Pop, Motorhead, Aretha Franklin and the Sex Pistols. There certainly are hints of the staccato guitar style of very early Pistols (e.g. "I Wanna Be Me") coupled with the later wall of guitar sound which Chris Thomas helped them devise.

 "Get Outta My Way" (the debut single) which follows, has the most overtly retro sound on the EP which the production plays ball with, for example with the vocal reverb. A much busier strut of a song than the preceding track, you can easily picture Aimee striding purposefully along a crowded sidewalk (the sound is more USA than UK & to the list of their influences I'd wonder how much they listen to the MC5?) shoving lesser beings out of her way: with her force of personality as much as her elbows.

"Down the Drain" manages to squash the initial guitar sound more than I can remember hearing before: almost to the point where it sounds like the massed basses of Spinal Tap's "Big Bottom". Consequently, when the second guitar cuts in (and so great is the treble that cutting seems the best word) the contrast becomes almost traumatic. Since the track is the most overtly punk in terms of theme (the lyrics would have fitted in perfectly in 1977), this unsettling extremism hits the mark exactly.

When we come to "Diamonds in the Wax", again we hear that aspect of the Rollocks which seeks to mess with our expectations: the very heavy opening so suddenly changes to a very spiky & urgent song (this time it's the lead vocal which is compressed) that you might assume an editing issue had occurred and an intro from a different song had inadvertently been grafted on.

In fact I think the answer is that The Rollocks like surprising us & would rather we didn't have any opportunities to fall into complacency while listening to their EP. Diversity is great, but excessive diversity within a small group of songs issued by a band as their debut can confuse & prevent an audience from getting a clear sense of identity. There is enough here to delight & stop us from considering a song as "filler" or routine but the sense of who The Rollocks are comes through the elements which unite the various tracks.

"Yo' Mama", which I've saved to last to describe, is, at seven minutes, by far the longest item on the menu, on an EP where succinctness in creating impact is otherwise the apparent aim. This is not a bloated track though: not by any means. Quite the opposite, it provides the band with an opportunity to hurl off any restraints & to take a song as far as it will go under its own head of steam. That Chris tells me that audiences particularly warm to it (as do the band themselves), is a good indicator that it was a worthwhile decision.

The debt to Black Sabbath is clear from the start as the heavy riffage kicks in, leading to a song of epic proportions: and the duration is merely one aspect of that. Since it's clear that it's emerged as a band signature song already, it deprives me of the reviewer's option of predicting it, but it is really handy for the band, albeit within the context of an EP whose whole identity is a statement of intent, for them to have available so early in their career, a song which to build sets round for a considerable time.

Considering that (among other terms), the band self identify as playing "psycho-delic" hard rock, they really needed to have one song to wig out to & this is the one: all of them sound like they are having a whale of a time: liberated enough to go where their instinct leads them, but tight enough to hold it together and cause it to make sense. You'll love it.

For the record, they also call the sounds they make "raucous and sassy, glamorous-but-gritty" : four words I'd endorse from hearing the evidence, but even more interesting is that the group seem to see themselves less in precise discrete terms than in dualities like the above: tensions and contradictions & this is another clue to how they made the songs: frictions, sharp changes, clashes between extreme elements: a restless energy which obviously kept them on their toes & serves to do the same for us: which is handy when you aim to make an impression. They want to "..to violate your ear holes.." with the EP apparently. Fair enough.

The one thing they didn't mention (and I'm not surprised as you don't hear people talking about it any more) is any connection to freakbeat: and this music would fit in well in any freakbeat compilation. Since one the major freakbeat bands, The Sorrows, came from Coventry, I can only speculate through what filters & intermediate stops along the line, any influences reached The Rollocks.

I've not yet had the pleasure to catch them live (though I've heard reports of their prowess from those who have) but anyone who is apparently "wild and hypnotic" entices me to say the least. These "..working-class artists who demand to be heard…" are certainly making all the right moves to ensure that they are.


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