To me, a recording branded ‘demo’ means something rough and ready, made in a garage with distinctly lo-fi equipment (one band I was in used a £10ish unbranded microphone stolen from school and Sound Recorder for Windows – that really was lo-fi). Cowley’s own The Graceful Slicks, however, have produced a gracefully slick (stop it) introduction to three of their neo-psychedelic/surf/rock tracks – ‘Railroad’, ‘Teacher’ and ‘Blood Red Hair’.
‘Railroad’ opens up with a bass riff that I instantly disliked, however when the full band kicks in it seems to make more sense and the discordant guitar is especially pleasing. The vocals are like a southern Ian Brown with more melody and when they come in hard at 2.34 with an echo effect it is hard not to be impressed. However there is a distinctly annoying phaser loop towards the end of the song which makes the listener feel as though a very cumbersome mosquito is flying by your right ear.
Next up ‘Teacher’ leads with a dreamy riff, layered with more laid back guitar lines bringing visions of smoky rooms or late night drinking outdoors in summer, two staples of psychedelia, and the chorus is only really signaled by slightly louder drums and vocals, adding to the dreamy feel. The mix for the middle 8/guitar solos kind of ruins this with its imperfection in stereo. One side begins louder than the other and then the two guitar channels begin an abrasive battle for supremacy, lasting for nearly a minute before consolidating into a surprising and fitting ending for the song. I guess I can’t complain though, it’s only a demo!
‘Blood Red Hair’ is a hard song to define. This reviewer is willing to go with ‘surf punk’, think The Sonics’ ‘Have Love Will Travel’ but more poppy and with more echo and delay. The middle of the song descends into utter chaos which could easily confuse the listener into thinking they are having a mental breakdown. This, by the way, is a good thing for what The Graceful Slicks are trying to achieve and the mad middle of the song contrasts well the fervent verses and choruses that it breaks up.
Ignoring the occasionally offensive mix-down, The Graceful Slicks’ demo showcases three pretty good songs fitting into a genre that isn’t given much thought these days, giving the band somewhat of an advantageous base from which to spring. I have no doubt that this won’t be the last we hear from them.
Released on 12th February 2012.