Big, fun, funky bands are not a thing of the past, and Charlie Wood & Almost Midnight are here to prove that you don’t need to be a moody indie band to be modern. The band from Aylesbury released their debut album in February: Hate Mondays – a straightforward funk record. The album opens with ‘Hate Mondays’, which is obviously about how much the singer and songwriter Charlie Wood dislikes the beginning of the week. The song is quite obscure, with touches of Queen and Charlie’s voice rings soulful with plenty of character, which unfortunately doesn’t happen often in this album.
‘Linzi’ kicks off with the inevitable, but well played brass section, lifting the mood up after the darker first track with large hints at Jamiroquai; and it’s likely to get your foot tapping. The next three tracks bring us more solid grooves and clever orchestrations; but, at this point, it starts to become clear that each song is a marker for this band’s influences. As where ‘Linzi’ brought us references to Jamiroquai, ‘Degree of Solitude’ gives us a healthy dose of The Police’s ‘Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic’ and ‘Always Happy’ sounds like Red Hot Chilli Peppers in their ‘Californication’ days.
Luckily, Almost Midnight have the skill and focus to echo these funk greats, however this comes at a price. Paying tribute to your influences is all well and good, but it seems as though this band have lost some identity and personality in trying to cover all the bases.In ‘Do You Know How It Feels?’ Charlie regains his power and the vocal performance is once again able to match the high standard of the rest of the band. The lyrics are also not the strongest point on this album. They sometimes sound a bit simple and cliché; though it often seems to be the case in funk bands, the rhythm and melodies have a tendency to overshadow any message in the lyrics, with a few notable exceptions.
Things slow down a bit with two ballads. The aptly named ‘Writing A Love Song’ delivers a sweet Wurli-driven groove that sounds promising through the intro, but fails to live up to expectations by the end of the first verse. Things remain down and dirty with ‘Stay Funky’. As the title suggests, the lyrics in this song are neither inspired nor profound with the main message of the chorus being “ if you wanna be my friend, change your key; and if you wanna stay my friend you must be funky”. Both are pretty songs in their own 80’s way, but lack the spark that a slower funk song should have.
Unfortunately, things don’t end on a high with ‘Internet Girlfriend’ – a stab at Britpop with a subject that’s equally as 90’s. Hate Mondays is not a bad album, is well played, orchestrated and produced – but lacks the innovation and personality required for a band like this to reach the masses.