By NEIL RIDDELL
THE COMMON characteristic of so many records released by the never-ending stream of bands who sprung up across the country in the aftermath of the much-lamented Libertines’ departure has been dull mediocrity, as what passes for a UK rock scene lurches from bad to worse.
Happily What You’re Looking For, the second EP from two-thirds Shetland indie group Little Green Machine, is one of the pleasant exceptions, its lead track bursting out of the speakers like a runaway freight train with an intuitive sense of song.
It sounds just like an establishment-baiting rock’n’roll band in their early 20s should: an urgent, ballsy and tuneful rocker full of menace, bad language and a vocal from frontman Jack Sandison containing added purpose and vigour. The tight trio throw in nuanced touches of Nirvana, the Pixies, the best bits of some of the more respectable elements of the UK indie fraternity of recent times and even, vocally at least, a hint of Placebo, employing frantic guitars and rasping drums to propel us through the title track’s three minutes in rapid and urgent fashion. “You could walk to the end of the earth and never really find home,” wails Sandison, but it is clear from this evidence that he has found the perfect place for his songwriting to dwell.
As a teenager the frontman, now 21, cut his cloth in local bands including Death By Monkeys and Jezebel, before spending some time writing solo. Little Green Machine – Sandison plays bass and the line-up is completed by another Shetland man, Arthur Nicholson, on guitar and Cat Myers, from County Durham, on drums – was formed two and a half years ago in Edinburgh. Sandison has just graduated with the same degree in popular music at Napier University that his band mates completed last year and he is unsure what the future will hold, joking that the band will probably “become rock’n’roll clichés, drive Bentleys into swimming pools and that sort of thing”, before reflecting: “Nah, [I’ll] probably get a job in Tesco’s and busk”.
The band began work on the self-produced, concise four-track EP last summer and Sandison describes it as a “major progression”, with the songs developed in more of a three-way collaboration than before. After the title track’s scintillating assault on the ears, Take Me By The Hand represents the calm after the storm. “Does my opinion matter at all to you?” begs the singer on a track which lays bare some morning after the night before insecurities. Again it indicates Sandison’s rapidly maturing and diverse vocal range, showcasing Little Green Machine at their most poppy with some nice touches of light and shade from Nicholson and Myers.
While the song itself maybe does not quite match the fractured melodic beauty of Cocaine Daisy Chain, the closing track and standout from 2006’s self-titled mini-album, it again shows the tightness of the band as a unit, intense in places but still allowing the songs plenty of room in which to breathe.
Next up, the opening bars of Honeybee herald the resurfacing of grunge-style rock, replete with another deep, raw vocal and a fine chorus, though it is arguably the weakest and least interesting of this batch of recordings. EP closer Jelly Baby, meanwhile, was initially considered as the title track and it certainly gives What You’re Looking For a good run for its money as the best song here, its sweet and appealing verses set against an all-out blazing rock’n’roll chorus which sounds made for filling the dance floor at death discos around the country.
Despite the frenzied level of competition within the music industry today, the frontman refutes any suggestion that the EP could be a “make or break” moment for the band in terms of record company interest. “As far as we’re concerned popular fads tend to come and go; many of the popular bands a year or so ago are nowhere to be seen now. Our favourite bands became successful by securing longevity in their musical career from developing their sound and building up an underground fan base. We are going to carry on with what we are doing whether record companies take heed or not.”
The EP is to be launched at Edinburgh’s Voodoo Rooms early next month and Little Green Machine should be making a live appearance in the isles later this summer, when they are also hoping to attract some new bands to make the trip north to perform. “The amount of bands interested in performing in Shetland is incredible,” Sandison says. “Watch this space.”
His voice here sounds much more his own than the Americanised manner in which he fronted bands during his teenage years, though Sandison insists he feels no different singing now to when he was 15. “The only conscious effort I have ever made was to sound a bit more like myself. I wanted to sound Scottish but without having ‘The Proclaimers cringe’. When singing with an American accent, you tend to slur your vowels and make it much easier to pronounce words. Many British musicians do it; however, I find that using your own accent, although more difficult, adds personality to your music.”
He seems to have pulled the trick off: this record is distinctively Scottish, but not overbearingly so, and at less than 15 minutes long certainly could not be accused of overstaying its welcome – indeed, as should happen on all good records, the last ounce of reverb fades away leaving the listener wanting more.
• The EP will be launched in Edinburgh on 3rd July. It can be bought through the band’s MySpace website at www.myspace.com/littlegreenmachine and should be available in Clive’s Record Shop from 5th July, priced £4.