Sunday 24 October 2010

In Debt - Jonny Cola & The A-Grades (Corporate Records)

Jonny Cola & The A-Grades are bastards. Their idea of quirky promotional material is a letter with FINAL NOTICE typed large across the top – so at first glance your heart leaps into your mouth, argh! what? Oh ha ha, the album is called ‘In Debt’.

And your hammering heart isn’t allowed a moment’s respite ‘cos ‘In Debt’ is stuffed with sparkling, strutting glam-Brit pop. Imagine that Britpop hadn’t become a sorry, degraded thing. That the initial shine and shiver had led to euphoric epiphanies and perfectly puckered pop kisses in a starburst universe where guitars scrawled and caterwauled like alleycats. That kind of thing.

Alex’s rather fine voice - a little clipped and Bowie-ish here, glammily sneering there - is shown off to full swooning advantage on slow-burn anthemic opener, ‘Fireworks / Gunshots’, an urban torch song that bursts into beautiful bombast, guitars squiggling all over, setting the tone for this album of rocked-up grubby glam.

A double-handed attack from A-Grade guitar heroes Mauro Venegas and Jez Leather powers the songs along, guitars slashing ‘n’ sneering, hurtling between full-on widdly skree bits, skydiving shimmers and strutting, fuzzed up, headstocks-akimbo riffing.

The glorious ‘Postcode Wars’ speaks of floaty shirts, fly-away scarves and dubiously dyed hair and is a teensy bit disco. Get the louche bass in the chorus, oh yes! ‘Greenhouse’ is deliciously hips-out-of-joint funky. ‘Offline’ is a fist in your face squall of feedback and ferocity, and the darkly luxuriant ‘Hideaway 37’ shivers with strategically placed glitter.

But the elation is cast with shadows, even as the chorus of ‘Marlborough Road’ soars skyward, pulling your heart along in its vapour stream, Alex is singing, “I fell apart on Marlborough Road”. And is that a slightly barbed remark I detect in stompy, snarly, snarky single ‘The Party’s Over’? “We might as well move to Luxembourg, though not for the sake of your bank account”.

For all the pose-striking and pop heroics, ‘In Debt’ has a ferocity of intent, an underlying defiant anger. It’s an album that delivers viciously glamorous battle songs for fighting back against the gloom. A useful arsenal in these dark times.

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