Releasing a CD, EP or album these days with the ability of even the most rudimentary of bedroom artist able to add to the voracious cacophony of ‘hear me see me feel me’ must be akin to throwing a Frisbee into the Pacific Ocean. Wave upon wave of musical hopefuls crashing against the shores, the roaring noise and competing static drowned out by swells, undertows and the ferocious currents of fate, chance and discovery.
In that mix it’s very easy to get lost at sea, overlooked and ignored in a vast expanse of blue, with the result that too often something of real value slips through the net. Indeed, Steve Lamacq, BBC 1s resident champion of the independent and undiscovered said in a recent interview that he lies awake at night, afraid that in this current climate, he has missed the next big thing.
Well Steve, baby, I have got news for you. Your fears are about to be allayed, because I bring you a giant pearl from the ocean’s killing floor: ‘Clear The Decks’ by Boardwalk Isabella.
In an age when the craft and depth of song writing has been wrestled to the ground by mannequins masquerading in Emperor’s new clothes, where musical excitement is at a premium and authentic energy and vibe fast becoming lost arts, the Boardwalk Isabella EP that landed on my desk this week represents a lighthouse beam of potential superstar redemption. One play told me that the Golden Age Of Rock and Roll is still alive and kicking, only this is R&R with a twist: some of the phattest, funkiest groove underpins rip-roaring, kicking anthems, giving you an irresistible hybrid of stadium-ready, rocking dance floor that will have you reaching for your air guitars and your dancing shoes. And it hasn’t been off my multi media player yet.
As an American werewolf in London, I was amazed to discover that Boardwalk Isabella are virtually unknown in the UK, and yet have been quietly gaining traction and momentum in the States, South America and Canada through being embraced by the burgeoning internet, underground and Independent alternative radio networks on the other side of the Golden Pond – a sort of Jimi Hendrix in reverse situation. One day, and it will be soon, the UK will wake up to what they have on their doorstep, and if this taster from the forthcoming album, Headed For The Promised Land is anything to go by, they will recognize that in Boardwalk Isabella they have an export to rival the early Stones, The Who and The Faces, albeit one that borrows their low end in spades from Sly & The Family Stone and Funkadelic.
Resurrection Man kicks off the EP and sets the tone with a confident, powerful, defiant swagger. This is the flag-bearer of the Boardwalk Isabella sound, their first single, and one that moved a BBC Introducing DJ to proclaim that it makes you want to shout out a gospel-style hallelujah – a Primal Scream for the new power generation. What we have here is their essence distilled, the unique marriage of heavy rhythms, big beats, guitar hero wind milling, Chic-style syncopation and natty lyrics played out with verve, adrenalin-flowing energy and gunslinger braggadocio, prompting one Las Vegas spin jock to call it, ‘like TRex straight outta Harlem.’
The World Is A Mirror with its killer, thumbs-up line of, ‘lord I’m a sinner, and my reflection’s fine’ is up next, and bombs along the heat-shimmered, two lane blacktop, propelled by Bonham-era drums, searing guitar spikes, and brass section stabs until the chorus whacks in with the irresistible groovy synths of mid-70s Parliament with Bernie Worrell at the helm – and a new one nation under a groove is born right there.
Oh The Ground Was Hard is the dirty gospel joker in the pack. This song, inspired by a true-life Hail Mary suicide, could have been written in a shotgun shack Mississippi church full of snakes and fainting congregation, and sung by a fire and brimstone Preacher from the pulpit. Slinky groove, naughty guitar licks, moog bass, choppy rhythms, big Hammond organ chords, sweet country choir, and a lyrical master class on life, death and the power of hope – this is exile on Quality Street.
The EP comes to a close with current single The King Of Rock. A paean to the love and sex magic that turned Elvis Presley’s head in the direction of Priscilla Ann Wagner, The King Of Rock is a sassy strut through Memphis, Graceland, Cadillac fins, Jukeboxes and Jambalaya, and is chock full of the spirit of the South in word and deed, a rocked-up, heavy spiritual that is as joyful and exuberant as it is dirty lowdown – a triumph, and as catchy as hell.
Boardwalk Isabella main man, James C Hughes, is a force to be reckoned with as a new breed of singer, song writer – a fully clothed Emperor and creator of songs brim full of rocking funky Asha, with groove and feeling, depth and meaning. His music is retro, it’s modern, and it gels together perfectly. The Clear The Decks EP, is a statement of intent, a musical bench marker, it moves you, gets you out of your seat, and yeah, now that BBC DJ makes total sense, ya just want to shout out, Hallelujah. Amen. Free At Last. His outfit Boardwalk Isabella is full of pedigree, know how, feel – swaggering, new wave frontiersmen. Nathan Porter will be your next guitar hero, kids, and the rest of this funky bunch conjure up a bitches brew of Rolling Stones, The Meters, acid-era Temptations, and glam rock rewritten for the now that cooks and swings with audacious mojo and menace – the perfect musical storm. Clear The Decks is proof positive that you’re not drowned in sound, get on the good foot and hitch a ride on the groovy ship Boardwalk Isabella.