Beat Hotel – “The Best of Our Years”

Beat Hotel
"The Best Of Our Years" b/w "The Fire"
Random Acts Of Vinyl

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Already in Beat Hotel you’ve got Arash Torabi, one of the finest pop bassists in the land (no matter what land you’re in) with a CV that includes the June Brides, The Distractions and Granite Shore. You’ve also got Paul Pascoe, whose not only a bit of a production wiz with the likes of Barry Adamson on his resumé but also the six-string slinger of long time Brighton outlaws Mudlow. That alone could quicken the pulse of most of us here at CITC. Add in Jim Shepherd, voice of the Jasmine Minks, and Dave Morgan, erstwhile drummer for both Pete Astor-helmed outfits The Loft and Weather Prophets among many others (Vic Godard, ATV, Jazz Butcher) and, assuming it lives up to its pedigree, it might be wise to have a cadre of EMTs standing by outside the office, paddles gelled and at the ready (note: we don’t really have an office, it just sounds better). With a release like this, the expectation of something almost unbearably savory is very high indeed, there’s a kind of giddy anxiety as you put the thing on (or hit ‘download’), a slight tremble might be noted as the finger zeroes in on the ‘on’ button. Will it or won’t it? That is the eternal question, right?

Well, worry not, pop-addicted reader, CITC is here to set you mind at ease. This double A-sided single not only delivers it to your door but does so with firecrackers, a shot of adrenaline and a ticket to 25 years ago punched for 2013.

Brimming with confidence, you know you in for a ride from the off when Torabi’s bass walks into the room, jumping nimbly about for a couple measures before Morgan and Pascoe come aboard. I’ve had Arash’s bass style described to me as ‘toppy and melodic’ (thanks, Nick H.) and both those qualities are on immediate display here. In fact, on both these tracks, as on last year’s Distractions album, it’s just this close to lead bass playing but not, the rumbling tripping spirit at the center off which the rest of the band play. And hand it to Paul Pascoe, he plays it to full advantage. Somewhere on the scale between Roddy Radiation and Brian Setzer, the guitarist brings the rebel jangle to the proceedings (he also, no surprise, produces, and this single sounds a deuce) and ‘The Best Of Our Years’ would snuggle neatly into the Creation stable if it had been built in an early 70s American garage. Which, when thought about, is not a long ways from what the Jasmine Minks sound like, an authority of sound guaranteed by the presence of Jim Shepherd behind the mic. TBOOY just plain bustles along, wrapped in the kind of classic audio tropes that make you stop and go ‘Ooh, this is nice, I’ll have some of that.’ There’s those vocals, that blend of yearning and strength, Shepherd’s phrasing, its three-beat glides, so adroit at capturing ache (by the way, the song’s not sung to a lost lover, as might well be presumed, but to a lost mom; the singer’s died when he was a teenager). There’s the subtle wonder of Sally Megee’s Hammond organ, laying a foundation that evokes the crucial Stax Studios vibe (you don’t notice it til you notice it and then it’s everywhere). There’s Pascoe’s utterly satisfying solo break two-thirds in that draws impeccably from the grand canon of such things and let’s not even discuss the drumming except to say the word ‘legend’ that attaches to Dan Morgan in the press material is hardly misplaced. Brilliant, precise and BANG!

And that’s just the A-side. Then there’s the other A-side, or doube-A, like the battery, which turns out to be appropriate.

Coming on with all the garage psychedelic Crazy Arthur Brown drive its name suggests, along with enthused but mush-mouthed rounds of doot-do-oo’s that suggest Demosthenes singing back-up vox on ‘Sympathy For The Devil,’ ‘Fire’ storms in the front door, razes the roof in all directions then jumps out the back without taking a breath, or, rather, more precisely perhaps, taking everyone’s breath away with it. Recalling an actual incident in the singer’s life and again connected to his mum, Shepherd’s voice inhabits the frantic, panicked heart of a vested witness, a fierce determined sadness, a fear palpable, while Pascoe’s guitar playing flares with urgency and that vaunted rhythm section is, well, on fire. Despite the tragedy inherent, ‘Fire’ is a rousing, unstoppable romp and it’s easy to imagine a throbbing sea of heads were the song ever to find its way to a live setting (one can hope). Think of ‘Think!’ only darker and even more relentless, the chimey rush of guitar ratcheted up a notch or two, shoutier, brasher, a crashing multi-tracked wall of sound that takes in flames, sirens, running, the whole desperate scene with, ultimately, a finely controlled chaos. Bit of a tour de force, frankly, and one of the few times I’ve encountered a flipside of a single capable of setting off the smoke alarm.

Though released just two weeks into 2013, there has to be considerable doubt as to whether any forthcoming contender will be able to beat Beat Hotel to single-of-the-year. Hats off, lads (and Sally), I don’t mean to be pushy but, more please.

(Soundcloud link: http://soundcloud.com/beathotel/sets/raov11/)