Sunday, 5 June 2011

ELECTRIC BOYS - And Them Boys Done Swang

swang

As part of the funk metal boom of the very early 90s, Sweden’s Electric Boys were briefly MTV stars, thanks to their singles ‘All Lips ‘n’ Hips’ and ‘Electrified’ and Bob Rock produced debut album ‘Funk-O-Metal Carpet Ride’. These things never last though, and by the time of their second album, 1992’s ‘Groovus Maximus’, the band had modified their sound. They eschewed some of their earlier funk-metal tendencies and in places – on tracks like ‘Mary In The Mystery World’ especially – indulged in a few Beatles style influences. This was probably encouraged by the fact that the album was recorded in London at the now legendary Abbey Road Studios. Some fans wanting ‘Funk-O-Metal Carpet Ride’ volume two were disappointed, and by the time the third Electric Boys album ‘Freewheelin’ was released in 1994, the band’s popularity had decreased even farther (especially in the UK).

The band broke up soon afterwards, with permanent fixture Conny Bloom moving on to other projects. During this time, he spent four years as a member of Hanoi Rocks as well as performing alongside The Wildhearts’ frontman Ginger in his side-band Silver Ginger 5. Following the release of a ‘best of’ album in 2009, Bloom reformed Electric Boys – with the original ‘Funk-O-Metal’ line-up (featuring bassist Andy Christell, guitarist Franco Santunione and drummer Niclas Sigevall). Live shows were played and eventually the four musicians returned to the studio.
The resulting album, ‘And Them Boys Done Swang’ is not a completely shameless return to the funk-metal grooves of 1990, though it’s probably the closest in spirit the band have ever come to recreating the magic of ‘Funk-O-Metal Carpet Ride’. Across twelve cuts, they blend hard rock, blues rock and occasional Hendrix-isms with a slabs funk, creating something which sounds like a heady mix of all of their previous musical dabblings on one release.

‘Reeferlord’ combines a heavy, fast guitar riff with a blues-rock aggression on its choruses and bridges, while on the verses the band give a nod to the past with funky verses, driven by rattling bass strings. Via a shameless rock ‘n’ roll guitar solo and shouty gang vocals, there’s a feeling that Bloom and co could be over-compensating, but their brashness allows them to get away with it. The groove laden rock feel carries on through ‘My Heart is Not For Sale’, a track that owes a great debt to Aerosmith with a swaggering riff. There’s a bigger focus on rhythmic qualities than big hooks, but even so, it comes with a great riff and solo – and here, that’s all you need. The bizarrely named ‘Father Popcorn’s Magic Oysters’ (“popcorn” surely a tribute to James Brown?) pays homage to two elements of Electric Boys’ musical past. The guitar riffs are funky with a tough end sound, proving that although the funk metal concept is somewhat dated, it sounds much better without the trebly, late 80s production most of it came with at the time. Vocally though, the harmony filled chorus is far more in line with the Beatles obsessed material from ‘Groovus Maximus’. Also, if you’re looking for riffs, ‘Angel in an Armoured Suit’ has plenty of swagger (once again), alongside another solid chorus.

‘The Day The Gypsies Came to Town’ indulges the band’s blues-rock side, with a number which may suit Stevie Salas. It’s core sound comes from a circular Hendrix style riff, overlaid with a great drum shuffle which occasionally resembles Hendrix’s own ‘Manic Depression’. Despite some great, busy playing on the verses, there’s not much of a hook to be heard here, since the chorus just decends into some multi-layered voices. With a few great multi-tracked guitars and solos, it still has enough decent elements to pull it through, though. ‘Welcome To The High Times’ is a stand out, especially if the funky sounds of Electric Boys are your thing. The guitar riffs are fairly monstrous, but it’s during the verses where the magic occurs, with those big riffs giving way to staccato choppiness, gang vocals and a rattling bassline. The end result is more than reminiscent of fellow Swedes Its Alive in an aggressive mood. The solid bottom end returns for ‘Sometimes U Gotta Go Look For The Car’, a funk-jam laden with wah-wah guitars. Since it’s largely instrumental, it gives the band plenty of room to stretch out; and while the grooves are the best feature, Bloom’s blues rock soloing creeping in here and there should not be overlooked.

#‘Ten Thousand Times Goodbye’ is the closest the album gets to a ballad; it’s harmonious chorus recalls those more psychedelic parts of ‘Groovus Maximus (never the Electric Boys’ strongest work), while musically it’s fairly workmanlike, occasionally sounding like an Enuff Z’nuff cast-off – it’s the kind of stuff which filled MTV rock ballads in those days of yore... Without question, the biggest nod to the Electric Boys’ past comes from ‘Rollin Down The Road’ which, in part, turns those funk-metal grooves up to 11, brings in a horn section and delivers a decent sized punch. While the instrumental breaks are slightly reminiscent of Extreme circa 1991, the chorus takes a u-turn and is of the rather more standard rock variety, with no trace of funk whatsoever.

‘And Them Boys Done Swang’ is well produced and well played throughout, easily Electric Boys’ best offering since ‘Funk-O-Metal Capet Ride’ (although, to be fair, there’s not much competition). Absolutely drenched in attitude and retro-cool vibes, it’s the closest you’re likely to get to a follow up to Its Alive’s ‘Earthquake Visions’. A surprisingly consistent and highly recommended disc.


May 2011

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