Sex, quiffs, swamp ‘n’ roll – no other sobriquet really fits the Brute Chorus, who in this multi-leveled bar up in King’s Cross launched their latest single, Could This Be Love?. Bookended by Super Luckies (a fun little band, mixing up The King Blues with The Specials, adding a dose of humour and a ramshackle attitude) and DJ sets from Maximo Park’s Lukas and Trevor Horn, this wild, moustachioed and remarkably loud quartet raised the roof.
What of them? Mixing up rockabilly, punk, new wave, skiffle, and old-folk (a point stressed to me by their singer, guitarist and chief songwriter, James – none of that nu-folk around here), the Brute Chorus pounded through highlights from their first, live, LP, and some newer tunes. They deftly intermingle the blues and punk, but in a very British manner, drawing on all sorts of diverse influences. Hailing from across the countryside, but seeing themselves far more as a Whitechapel band, there’s a strong sense of Englishness underpinning it all. With Morris men and folk singers in their backgrounds, and the latest album recorded in a barn in Cumbria – it saves money on reverb kit, and took them away from London’s “distractions” – you couldn’t escape the country of origin, no matter how outlandish the quiffs or Little Richard-esque the intensity.
Big in Germany, looking to get into the American consciousness, and recording their first LP in Camden’s Roundhouse, there is an international tinge to what is still a very raw, new band. Those synths, the kazoos and the harmonica add a layer of complexity to the blues-punk template, and echo the depth in the songwriting. Not wanting to write about the urban grind, but reach something more universal, a common cause was found in frequent trips to the eye-opening cultural centres of London between classical mythology and the blues: great storytelling. James suggests that by using classical stories, embedded in the cultural psyche (such as those of Hercules and Nebuchadnezzar) he can reach a description of a character much faster than wittering on with cliche after cliche – after all, what is good folk music other than storytelling?
He wanted the music to do the talking – and too bloody right it did. The Brute Chorus create an unholy racket, blasting forth with tight, powerful grooves one minute, and huge, wailing, messy choruses the next. Once freed from his guitar, singer James cavorts around the audience, throwing himself into people to really bring the message to the people. Matthew, on drums, could quite easily have gone through more than one set, while the bassist, Dave (why are bassists invariably called Dave?) brought a low end of some force to round out Nick’s guitar, kazoo and keyboard freakouts. Remarkably, on their live record, they sound a lot tamer – although you can, of course, now hear the words. Musically quoting gospel, in one instance using “John The Revelator” as the basis for a bridge, could be risky, but considering the passion being brought to the mixing desk, you never doubt the sincerity at hand.
Could they make it big? Refreshingly, honestly, they don’t really think so – but then, if you wanted to make it really big, you wouldn’t write songs like this, and you wouldn’t plough the lonely-ish furrow they do – you’d sell out immediately. From what I’ve heard so far, Tape Records’ policy of getting “bands we like” on board is most definitely a positive one. Check these guys out as soon as you can.