There are some bands that are quite understated. Whilst the likes of the Arctic Monkeys get the plaudits and the Black Keys finally get the recognition that they deserve, there are other bands that for whatever reason didn’t get the praise that they warranted.
Some of their tracks you might have heard on advertisements due to it being cheaper for the company to use rather than say using the Rolling Stones. Anyhow here are my recommendations that are worth a listen. Who knows you might be pleasantly surprised.
Hailing from Maumee, Ohio, USA the Soledad Brothers really should have become big. In some ways they were the promising youth player who everybody confidently predicted was the next Ronaldo. Sadly despite the talent they never quite made it.
The band consisted of Johnny Walker (vocals), Henry Oliver, and Ben Swank on drums. A garage blues band that stood out from the usual paint by names of similar bands.
Indeed you could imagine yourself in a small, crowded, cellar as you feel the heat and sweat as the loud, rough, and menacing guitars growling loudly. Johnny Walker’s voice had real attitude which literally made you sit up and take notice.
It is quite hard for a blues band to stand out as it’s difficult to already surpass the greats such as Elmore James, Robert Johnson whilst some new blues bands are just too polished and neat to be really labelled a blues band.
Admittedly the Soledad Brother’s appear to be influenced by the Rolling Stones, Canned Heat, and Led Zeppelin but like many blues artist make their own take of their influences unique.
Five albums were released between 1998 and 2006 before they sadly broke up with Johnny Walker going back to medicine and becoming a paediatrician. It’s hard to pick a specific album but it might be best trying the live album whilst the other albums are Soledad Brothers, steal your soul and dare your spirit to move, voice of treason, and the hardest walk.
Tracks to try
Break ‘em on down, Gospel according to John, Gimmie back my wig, cage that tiger, Truth or consequences, Downtown paranoia
(Gospel according to John above)
The Bees (or A band of bees as they are known in the USA)
Hailing from the Isle of Wight there’s a good chance that you might have heard a Bee’s track on various adverts. The influences vary from the blues, psychedelic, reggae, jazz, and country to name just a few strands.
The Bees second album ‘free the bees,’ (which was released in 2004) should have propelled them to the top. Despite the album receiving high praise from critics it’s highest position was only 26.
Unlike the first album Sunshine hit me which was recorded in the front man Paul Butler’s garden shed, free the bees was recorded at Abbey Road. This though is the album to have with every track a joy. From the opening haunting track to ‘these are the ghosts,’ to the jovial ‘chicken payback,’ it is a joy to the ears.
Maybe it’s because you can sense the fun, energy, and love that they have in their music but ultimately it’s an album that warms your heart and more importantly great to listen to.
Album to try: Free the bees
Other albums: Sunshine shine on me, Octopus, Every step’s a yes
Tracks to try: A Minha Menina, Chicken Payback, These are the ghosts, Wash in the rain, Horsemen
(Wash in the rain above)
The Beta Band
With the release of heroes to zeros in April 2004 this really should have been the album that propelled the Beta Band into the lime light. Sadly internal strife within the band (mainly due to the singer Steve Mason’s depression) they broke up in August of that year.
During that period from when they formed in 1996 they produced some fantastic tracks with a variety of influences that it is hard to pigeon-hole the band. There is a blend of electronic, rock, and experimental sounds that they somehow hit the mark.
Songs such as ‘Dry the Rain,’ are so mellow that you can imagine yourself sat in a large armchair in front of the fire with your eyes closed as the sounds sooth you after a hard day. Nevertheless some of the lyrics can be quite dark such as ‘choking on the vitamin tablet that the Doctor gave me in the hope of saving me.’
Like all good bands should, the Beta Band can raise a variety of emotions that somehow connect you to the songs.
Incidentally the Beta Band are name dropped in the film High Fidelity with John Cusack’s character declaring ‘I will now sell five copies of the three E.P.’s by the Beta Band,’ which helped raised the profile of the band in the USA.
Albums: The three E.P’s, The Beta Band, Hot Shots II, Heroes to zeroes
Tracks to try: Dry the rain, B&A, Assessment, Outside, Dr. Baker
(Dry the rain above)
There’s a good chance that you will have heard a Django Django track either from an advert or a video game. So far they have only released one studio album which got critical acclaim but unfortunately did not score high in the charts.
However don’t let this fact put you off. Indeed right from the opening track appropriately called ‘introduction,’ the throbbing drum beats and vocals give you the sense of the beginning of an adventure as it breaks into a sense of urgency.
The band quite clearly have a variety of influences from electronic, neo psychedelia, and west coast sound to name but a few. Like the Beta Band the harmony of the vocals are reminiscent of the Beach Boys.
Once again the band know how to capture and pull your emotions whether it’s an energetic track like ‘default,’ or the very mellow ‘hand of man,’ each track is a delight with not one filler on this album.
In short if you love music and enjoy a band that love to experiment then you will not be disappointed. Let it be said there is not one song that will have you rushing for the fast forward button.
Album: Django Django
Tracks to try: default, waveforms, Love’s dart, WOR
Default above (P.S. It is not the former Spurs, Chelsea manager Andres Villas Boas on drums).