|The Virginmarys — Divides (May 6th, 2016)|
The Virginmarys — Divides (May 6th, 2016) ■ Identita kapely zůstává. Podobně jako mnoho kapel, snažících se najít nový pohled na svět nebo zaplnit uvolněné místo po těch, co mezitím vyklidili pole, The Virginmarys zůstali věrni sobě, zatímco ukazují růst. Je to něco reálného, být nekorektní a zároveň úspěšní a tímto způsobem drží basu na tepu doby.Location: Macclesfield, England
Album release: May 6th 2016
Record Label: Wind–up Records
Genre: Alternative Rock, Garage Rock
01. Push The Pedal 3:56
02. For You My Love 3:39
03. Halo In Her Silhouette 3:21
04. Free To Do Whatever They Say 3:19
05. I Wanna Take You Home 3:26
06. Walk In My Shoes 3:52
07. Kill The Messenger 4:20
08. Into Dust 3:31
09. Moths To A Flame 3:56
10. Falling Down 3:43
11. Motherless Land 3:25
12. Living In My Peace 5:57
℗ 2016 Wind–up Records, a division of Concord Music Group, Inc.
■ Ally Dickaty lead vocals, guitar
■ Danny Dolan drums, backing vocals
■ Matt Rose bass, backing vocals
■ Highly charged with political vitriol, the Virginmarys channel their dissolution with government, societies, modern culture into their power packed songs. They’re here to start a dialogue their lyrics are meant to both inspire and provoke. More than just being political, the band looks at the world around them and makes a comment to their listeners it’s about being engaged, involved in the world, and caring about what they see. And what do they see? Control and divides with governments, wars, people.
■ The Virginmarys have evolved as a band since their debut King of Conflict, both musically and personally. Having expanded their sonic influences and worked with legendary producer Gil Norton, the band shows new depth in their songwriting and lyrics. The resulting album is an adventurous (and loud) record, taking the listener on lyrical and sonic ebbs and flows of anger, frustration, happiness, self–acceptance, and love. The album has exposed and vulnerable elements too, all packaged into a unique twist of rock, punk, alternative, and even blues. The Virginmarys sum up their music, and themselves, perfectly as drummer Danny puts it, ‘it kind of sounds like rock, but not as you know it.’
By Ross, APR 9, 2016
• Three years ago I heard the best debut album since Appetite for Destruction. It was called King of Conflict by The Virginmarys. I still remember being transfixed by the artwork as I tore off the cellophane on release day, desperate to jam it into my laptop and found myself listening to it on repeat after another generic day at work.
• In the intervening years, a lot of music has come and gone but nothing has stuck like those two albums. There’s a lot of well-justified excitement towards Divides. It’s the follow–up to a mighty debut effort which gained significant recognition from some heavyweight publications and the expectations of fans are subsequently (and rightly so) pretty damn high.
• So did the trio manage to beat the curse of the “difficult second album”? They smashed it into a million pieces then blended said pieces into a fine puree.
• When we spoke to Ally and Matt last year before their gig in Stoke (shared with some awesome people), they mentioned they didn’t want to make another King of Conflict. Needless to say, they haven’t. There’s a sense of evolution whilst retaining their identity. It’s instantly recognisable as The Virginmarys. There’s a myriad of influences permeating their music to bring us something unique and there’s so many different branches of the rock “tree” you can hear in their songs. It’s always been so. There’s your straightforward rock, blues, punk (one they’re often pidgeon–holed into), psychedelic, grunge, indie, Britpop, the list goes on…
• There’s a similar quality to this in the individual songs. Each one is brilliant in its own right to make Divides undoubtedly one of those albums you’ll listen top to bottom without skipping a track. Then there’s the individual makeup of the songs; Ally Dickaty’s vocals, lyrics and guitars, Matt Rose’s thunderous bass lines and Danny Dolan’s ferocious drumming skills.
• Through all twelve tracks, not one of these parts is absent. It strengthens the quality of the album but at the same time, I struggle to pick out a stand–out track because they’re all so bloody good. Not to disparage the other parts of the songs but one of the highlights of The Virginmarys’ songs has always been their lyrics: rich and full of imagery yet balanced with thought–provoking and relatable topics. Songs like “Into Dust” deal with the insincere bullshit of modern living and as with any good lyrics, there are so many interpretations that could take. It’s a song infused with the power of your own feelings finally being put into words.
• Another thing to consider is, many of these songs, if you’ve seen The Virginmarys in the past couple of years, you’ll have heard them. I remember seeing them in Edinburgh in 2013 and instantly floored by “Kill The Messenger”, the menacing punk–infused riff enrapturing me and the next time I saw the Macclesfield lads; the same thing happened, instantly recognising it. However, in Stoke, I felt the punk side had been peeled back to reveal a bluesier version of it and that would be what we would hear on the album. What we’ve been given instead is a more brooding and darker version of it, loaded with fuzz and wah on the intro and it sounds even better. With much of the songs on Divides, it’s a social commentary (just like the album title) with lines like “We think we think for ourselves”.
• One of my favourite things about Divides is how well it’s been mixed. Matt Rose’s bass work has never lingered in the background but at several points it acts like a caged wild beast finally unleashed on the world. It adds a layer of danger especially on a track like “Into Dust”, featuring the gnarliest bass line since Velvet Revolver’s “Slither”. Taking command of production duties is Gil Norton. Look at his CV and tell me it’s not impressive. Many of the bands he’s worked with aren’t to my tastes but it’s undeniable that he’s contributed to some pretty significant albums in his time. Example: he’s one of the reasons The Colour and the Shape sounds the way it does. I’ve never heard The Virginmarys as polished as they do here. It’s no wonder Norton has the reputation he has, the work here speaks for itself.
• As a band, they’re an even tighter unit than they were on the previous album which is no mean feat. You can hear in the music Norton has pushed them to their absolute limit. Ally Dickaty’s throaty vocals are loaded with emotion as he sings, hitting the high notes with vicious, guttural screams that make his previous efforts look tame. It’s a voice which is utterly unique and I can’t think of a single singer who sounds remotely like him, also reflected in his guitar work and is a recurring theme with the band. No one plays drums like Danny, no one plays bass like Matt. No band sounds like them, full stop. Danny has always hammered his drums as if his life depends on it but with songs like “Halo in Her Silhouette”, “I Wanna Take You Home” and the goosestep of “For You My Love”, he’s clearly upped his game, bringing in so much extra passion and skill. I’ll reiterate what the band has said in the past: Gil Norton has pushed them to their absolute limits and gotten their best work from them.
• Divides has even been brilliantly sequenced. Too many albums have a running order which detracts from the impact it could have. Like the tour a couple of years ago, it opens with the momentum–building “Push the Pedal” before moving onto new pastures, the lead songs of “Into Dust” and “Motherless Land” having been put near to the end (ever noticed how many singles come from the first half–dozen tracks on an album?) and ends with “Living in My Peace”. Starting off acoustically, it builds slowly into a massive climax like an impending maelstrom; the crescendo a fitting parting shot.
• For reasons too numerous to mention, I wanted Divides to be good. It’s not good. There isn’t a superlative with enough force to underline how magnificent it is. It’s a statement of a band staying true to their word; it’s not just a carbon copy of the previous album, the identity of the band remains. As so many bands try to find a new niche or fill a vacated spot, The Virginmarys stay true to themselves whilst showing growth. It’s something real. ■ http://www.moshville.co.uk/
Andy Thorley, April 26, 2016, Rating 8.5/10
■ King of Conflict (2013)
■ Divides (2016)
E.P.s/ Mini Albums:
■ Cast the First Stone (2010)
■ Just a Ride (2011)
■ Portrait of Red (2011)
■ Dead Man’s Shoes (2012)
• When The Virginmarys look at the world, all they see is control. Uncaring governments controlling supressed masses. Drugs and alcohol controlling the bodies and minds of the vulnerable. Warmongers controlling the fates of entire nations. Record labels’ controlling naïve, trusting rock bands. It’s what fuels the vitality and vitriol of their second album, and it seems, to them, impossible not to address.
• “All you need to do is take a look around you,” says outspoken drummer Danny Dolan. “Everything seems just so fucked up. It’s just a case ‘fuckin’ hell, how much more shit can we take before it gets better?’.” Yet so few acts tackle issues like these, right? “In the sixties, music groups weren’t divided into who’s political and who’s not, everyone was just singing about what was happening. Now when you turn on the radio, every song is about twerking, buying things or tipping a £5,000 bottle of champagne on a girl’s ass. It just makes me want to yell ‘Fuck Off!’”
• “You don’t really feel you live in the same world as the lyrics on the radio,” adds singer, guitarist and lyricist Ally Dickaty. “We don’t want to be preachy, but it’s stupid not to get people to start a dialogue about different issues. The album is directed at people at the top making big decisions, turning peoples lives into utter shit and scape–goating people that they shouldn’t. The whole concept is directed at people who can’t sympathize with what other people are going through in everyday life. The heart–breaking thing is that though it’s this bad, people just go on day to day without really caring about it.”
• The Virginmarys are old hands at soldiering on, but only because they care so deeply. Devoted Macclesfield lads — although Danny originally hails from Manchester and Ally moved there ten years ago from Helsby — they have carved a path to international acclaim with hard graft, hard knocks and hard talk. Having first met in 2000 at Mid–Cheshire Music College, Danny and Ally spent much of the decade in a “very different” early band inspired by Ally’s upbringing on the blues of BB King and early Fleetwood Mac and his teenage obsessions with Hendrix, Sabbath and “the attitude and aggression” of punk. The band signed and moved to LA, only for fall–outs with their label and dodgy contracts to send them back to Macc around Christmas 2009 determined to start again, but firmly in control. They came across Matt Rose in a pub and convinced him to take up the bass to join them in a new project, The Virginmarys, and the trio set about touring the UK with a rabid ferocity, recording an EP every year to self–release. Gradually, word of their vivid punk greatness grew, and they found themselves playing Download 2010 touring the UK and Europe with New Model Army, Skunk Anansie and Slash.
• Following a well–received self–financed debut mini–album Cast The First Stone in 2010, their first album King Of Conflict in 2011 attracted label interest on both sides of the Atlantic, eventually emerging on Cooking Vinyl in 2013. A collection of raw and honest tracks recorded for their previous EPs plus brand new songs — produced by Toby Jepson of Little Angels — it made them fans at iTunes, who made ‘Bang Bang Bang’ their Single Of The Week in the UK and US, and something of a hit Stateside. ‘Dead Man’s Shoes’ and ‘Just A Ride’ hit the Top 30 rock and alternative charts in the US and Canada and their live shows there were momentous occasions; they played “surreal” radio–sponsored festivals in stadiums with Soundgarden and Pearl Jam and a mammoth 14 shows at SXSW in 2014.
• Creatively too, they never slowed up: while touring the USA, Japan and Europe with the likes of Eagles Of Death Metal, Queens Of The Stone Age and Ash, they began piecing together the varied and staggering tracks that would make up their second album, Ally writing songs on acoustic before bringing them to the band to add the punk fire. On their return, though, things struggled to click in the studio.
• “We would’ve had it ready to come out in October of this year, but we wanted to get it just right,” Danny explains. “There were a lot of producers we would demo things for and it never seemed quite right. Then our A&R guy in America said ’come up with a list of producers that you’d like to work with’ and Gil Norton (Pixies, Foo Fighters, Funeral For A Friend) was on all of our lists because we just loved the records he produced, growing up as kids.”
• Gil loved the demos, so after four last shows in India at the end of 2014 (“We got off the plane and there was a girl in full Indian dress and gave us the same shit the Beatles got like flowers and yellow paint on our faces,” Danny says, “it was really surreal.”) they holed up in Rockfield studios in Wales for eight weeks over the spring of 2015 for Norton to jest, cajole and harangue the album of their lives out of them. “Gil was Incredible,” Matt says. “Really lovely and friendly guy.” “The typical rock songs over a riff that could’ve gone on the first record were the ones that just never got recorded,” Danny adds. “Gil was all about ‘the album has got to take you on a rollercoaster’. The way Gil worked and pushed us, I recorded very differently than I had done on anything else before.”
• The resulting album is undoubtedly one of the most impressive, adventurous and outspoken rock records of the year, tackling themes from the deeply personal to the vehemently political with punk force and melodic panache. From the gargantuan cavern riffs of ‘Push The Pedal’ to the epic finale of ‘Living In My Peace’, it’s a record unafraid to scale the barricades and bare its bruises.
• Ally sums it up with typical passion. “The overall theme of the album is the divides among people, freedom and power, injustice, inequality and corruption. Anger, disillusionment, injustice, frustration about where I feel we are in today’s society. History repeating. Restraint by systems that benefit the few and the choices left to take part or be cast aside and face persecution. The rise of depression and anxiety and use of anti–depressants and drugs across the globe. Disillusion in politicians and democracy. There’s a lot of divides with us in Britain, many created by the government and media turning people against one another. We are brainwashed with who to love, who to fear, who is good and who is evil.”
• On the political front, the furiously pop metal ‘Free To Do Whatever They Say’ — named in tribute to Bill Hicks’ legendary Go Back To Bed America routine — confronts “the control the system and government has on people”. And the love–as–warfare For You My Love has Ally sneering “they bring their wine and missiles, aim and fire for fun” and promising that “if I must fight, I will fight for you, my love”. “It’s scary how Iraq came and went and we said ‘we’ll never make that mistake again’, but now the threat of ISIS is on the horizon and people go ‘fuck yeah! Go in and bomb them’,” he explains, “I don’t trust our government, I don’t trust our media, and I know what I feel is right inside. So the only reason I will fight and die is ‘For You My Love’. Fighting the good fight.” Even a song like ‘Motherless Land’, ostensibly a rousing rock love story about a heroic, down–at–heels couple escaping down a Springsteen–style highway, is full of references to prescription drug addiction, environmental disaster and how the war on terror only creates more terrorists to fight.
• When he approaches personal issues, meanwhile, Ally always finds a wider significance. Giving up alcohol a few years ago — and the disillusionment, depression and boredom that followed — inspired ‘Into Dust’ and ‘Walk In My Shoes’, but he twists them into elegies for society’s most downtrodden, struggling under governments hell–bent on punishing them. ‘They’re continually making living conditions harder,” Ally says, “no equal opportunities, the ones worst affected have no one fighting for them. All the jobs that care for people are the ones that pay the least. It’s very fucked up. There are continual cuts to the NHS and then they blame of the nurses and staff who can’t juggle multiple jobs at a time. People working harder than anyone, making genuine changes to people’s lives, are getting paid below the living wage.”
• The stirring epic ‘Moths To A Flame’ also touches on drug addiction and the cruelties it brings. “The crimes associated with drugs are just symptoms of the bigger problem of drug abuse. Meanwhile, the people on top don’t want to take responsibility for the harm they’ve caused. I wrote it after Phillip Seymour Hoffman died. It’s so horrible when you know that incredible talents are fighting demons with substance abuse, and in the end it seems that the demons are too strong.”
• It’s not all bleakness and politico punk vitriol, mind. There are heartwarming — and occasionally sexy — bits too. ‘Halo In A Silhouette’ is a lusty roar of adoration over “an unconventional angel whose being true to herself. Kind of like a hippy girl with nettles in her hair rather than flowers”, while ‘I Wanna Take You Home’ is your basic, no–nonsense shagging song, right?
• Ally squirms for a deeper meaning. “The verse is a little bit about a social commentary about the church,” he says. “But the chorus, it’s about shagging.”
• It all ends in a good place too. The moving stadium ballad ‘Living In My Peace’ finds Ally — sober, eye–opened but struggling with temptations to slip back into his bad old ways — realizing “the only thing I need is buried deep in me… I’m on my way back home”.
• “It’s like a coming of age and being comfortable in my own skin,” he reveals. “Letting go of all that I hold onto and returning to the source of everything, returning home. you’re tempted by your old vices, but then you go home and realize there’s too much to give up because of your family. You’ve always got that and they’ll never take that away from you.”
• It’s a remarkable record full of heartfelt revelations, astute social commentary, rib–crushing noise and head–spinning melody. “I guess it kind of sounds like rock,” says Danny, “but not as you know it.”
• Buy in. Lose control.
Label: http://www.winduprecords.com/ © Photo credit: Alex Wright
|The Virginmarys — Divides (May 6th, 2016)|