UP FROM THE ASHES - The Cinders (ELP)
With a few exceptions, bands with anything remotely resembling a political agenda leave me cold, feeling like I’m trapped in an elevator with a Jehovah’s Witness. Arriving fully formed, The Cinders have absolutely no interest in changing anyone’s world but believe that the underdog can still somehow make a mark, slapping a big fat “FRANCE ROCKS” sticker across “Up From The Ashes,” whose contents collide in a flurry of brass, great tunes, and confidence. Why am I not surprised to learn of ties to the great Freddy Lynxx?
Guitarists Jeff Crane (ex-Ballbusters) and Laurent Ciron (ex-Dogs), along with the sturdy, steady, and steely rhythms of bassist Christian Rosset and drummer Sebastien Buffet, have managed to set themselves on a path to full-on, stretch-limo rock stardom with a thumb in the eye of pretension and an uncanny feel for songwriting, a fizzling ace in the pack for those of us old enough to remember a world without Pro Tools.
Once upon a time, many records sounded this way or at least the ones I used to pick up at E.J. Korvettes’ infamous all-label sales back in the mid to late ‘70’s, foaming cocktails of windmill-armed power chords and big-ass pop hooks, two things I’ve never managed to outgrow. It’s one plangent, impeccably-produced pontoon of songs, courtesy of Ciron and Manu Gares’ knob twisting, which sacrifices absolutely nothing in the way of guitar-punching craziness.
If Messrs. Osterberg, Asheton, and Alexander had plied a brass section with drugs and alcohol then squirreled them back to Packard Street, they may have dreamed up something like album opener “Jet Set Gypsy,” the horns of Cedric Richard and Olivier Laisney riffing behind Crane and Ciron’s up-and-at-‘em, speed-freak aggro like they had six strings at their disposal instead of valves, pistons, and slides.
“The Pleasure Is Mine” somehow manages to make Keef and Ronnie look stilted with a riff that sounds like it just rolled out of bed, reeking of beer and ashtrays and rubbing the sleep from its eyes, Crane doubling his workload by boogieing with Stu and channeling Mac. The only thing he needs now is a catchy nickname.
“Looking For Mr. Right,” “Girl Crazy,” and “Your Own Scene” are peppermint pop right out of the top drawer which punch all the neurons, leave no aftertaste, and kick your ass clear out of earth’s orbit. Now that’s entertainment!
With a little luck, The Cinders may become more famous and better dressed, but probably never again this pure, but that’s our problem not theirs. Long may they flourish, stay hungry and, above all, be heard. - Clark Paull
UP FROM THE ASHES - The Cinders (ELP)
Trans-Atlantic band The Cinders might be the best rock and roll band you've never heard. Till now.
Coming out of Paris, France, and Worcester, USA, this collaboration between guitarist/vocalists Jeff Crane (ex-Rick Blaze and the Ballbusters) and Laurent Ciron (ex-The Dogs and a touring member of the last Hydromatics line-up), recalls You Am I, the Replacements, The Eastern Dark, the Stones and ("Moronic Inferno" era) Hitmen DTK - plus a dozen more names you could toss in. Might be at least as good as some of their best moments, too. I shit you not.
Pete Townsend coined the term "powerpop" and it's one of the most over-used tags in music, its currency devalued down the years by bands that just don't get it. It's not so hard being powerful or even playing pure pop, but it takes considerable skill to blend both. The Cinders make most so-called powerpop bands sound sicker than a month in a hospital bed with bird flu. The Cinders have bigger balls than a Brahman bull and manage to imbue their songs with a kick that's as hard as it is well-directed.
Mr Crane and Monsieur Ciron met while the former was in Europe, playing with Thunders-inspired guitar slinger par excellence Freddy Lynxx. That led to a US tour for French vets The Dogs, of which Ciron and future Cinders rhythm section Sebastian Buffet (drums) and Christian Rosset (bass) were members. That tour was cut short when band leader (and French underground legend) Dominque Laboubee died suddenly from lung cancer. The others soldiered on with Crane filling in on guitar.
Fast-forward a year and after decviding to record together, Crane and Ciron had bounced enough songs between each other over the Internet to have an album's worth of material ready. They convened in a French studio - Laurent's kitchen actually - with Rosset and Buffet in place. The Cinders are born. literally, "out of the ashes", although since most of them are French we can assume that they didn't burn much.
There's a big supporting cast on piano, strings, brass and dobro but the core players are clearly at the heart of things. Their songs range from storming soul work-outs ("Jet Set Gypsy") to a sensitive "Exile"-styled ballad ("Snow" - with Crane sounding uncannily like Ol' Rubber Lips) that closes the album, and all manner of pop and out-and-out rockers in-between. About half should be hits - the rest are merely fabulous.
They might have recorded in a kitchen but you can't say The Cinders were over-cooked. They came together with no rehearsals. "Up From the Ashes" was put to tape in just five days. Viva la spontaneity.
The songwriting honours are just about even with Ciron contributing six tunes and Crane five, with "Jet Set Gypsy" a co-write and Adam and the Ants respoonsible for "Deutscher Girls" (don't laugh - it rocks.)
This is a rock and roll record that's near impossible to pigeonhole but it's still cohesive. The principals bring their own influences to the party but they still sound like a band.
Hard to pick a highlight. "Jet Set Gypsy" was an obvious single but there are other contenders. Ciron's "My Favourite Audience" and "Looking For Mr Right" both soar with a rocking majesty all their own while Crane's "Girl Crazy" plays with you while it's dragged along by a throaty guitar sound and handclaps. "The Pleasure is Mine" is another more measured but no less killer cut, with classy piano accompaniment getting behind a mid-tempo groove.
Dave Edmunds would have recorded "Girl Crazy" if he'd written it first. "Eliza" vaguely sounds like "Don't Fear the Reaper" at the outset and employs an '80s-sounding spoken word breakdown before throwing out its hook.
This whole album boasts more hooks than a fleet of tuna fishermen. (Don't dismiss that as hyperbole until you've heard it).
Go to our shop and track down a copy. Now. Might be the best thing you did this year.– The Barman
TO THE REVIEWS PAGE
BACK TO THE BAR