Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Contrast

Perfect Disguise: Introducing the Contrast
Wicked Cool Records

I received a copy of Perfect Disguise: Introducing the Contrast almost a week before the official US release, so I was pretty excited to review a release that was not yet available. They're a great guitar driven powerpop four piece from Middleborough, Cambridgeshire, UK. This release is full of shimmery guitars, great melodies that are unique, short songs, all really catchy stuff.

Perfect Disguise is full of great songs. From the opening "Mystery 1" starts off with a catchy guitar riff that tells you to pay attention to them, "Can't Stand the Light" has a slower feel with some great jangle guitars and a few other surprises that you're going to have to listen to it to find out. The Contrast are a band that have combined the best elements of different bands into something their own. Off the top of my head, I can think of The Buzzcocks, The Bangles, The Plimsouls, and The Stranglers with Tom Petty and Paul Weller writing the songs together, with a good touch of The Smithereens. With great influences, the work retains its own and doesn't sound like anyone else because great powerpop relies on the tried and true: Simple chords, great guitar hooks that get you interested, some great harmonies, and a beat that you can't help nodding your head along with in the least, as well as obvious references to bands that came before. However, almost every song on Perfect Disguise is unique and memorable. Most of the songs will have something different in them that makes you stop and listen, from the higher pitched guitar bridge on "Caught In a Trap" to the occasional voice only song closings like "Ansaphone". Lead singer David Reid's vocals are really hard to place, but have a deep, resonant quality that although quite different both in tone and range, rises above a foundation of great music where each player has their own distinction and lead, much like Roger Daltrey's voice emerged as a competitor to his fellow bandmates during the height of The Who.

This is a must own for any serious powerpop fan, but after listening to Perfect Disguise, I felt very disappointed to find out The Contrast have been putting out music on Rainbow Quartz Records for 8 years and that the CD is a compilation of tracks from earlier releases with two new songs, "World's So Different" and "How to Tell." Little Steven has played them regularly on his Underground Garage show and regards them as "One of the best bands on the planet – and ....England.... too," and they have five previous full length releases that are worth finding. At the same time, Perfect Disguise: Introducing the Contrast is their debut on Wicked Cool Records and it's only too obvious why it's mostly a compilation of previous material. Like most great garage and powerpop, great music is most often overlooked and only appreciated well after it's time since it's influences are obvious. A little bit of background research resulted in finding reviews that often said something to the effect of "They would have been great 15 years ago," which is a pathetic copout of a music critic in not understanding what makes great rock 'n roll. So according to him, I bet The Dirtbombs would be considered a band that would have been great on Motown in the late '60s and early '70s since their music has both the Motown influence and a '60s garage rock fuzz on it, or The Ramones were a noisy '60s tribute band since over half of their catalog are '60s soul and garage covers. The truth is that it's great rock 'n roll. Even if something sounds different, some low self esteem critic is going to say it sounds just like something else they've heard before or it's not cool since it doesn't sound like current popular music.

If you think of countless other bands that many of us really like, they have the same story of not being recognized in their own time for being as good as they were because they took their queues from great rock 'n roll bands that came before them and are happy to show that, and although it's not really the record label's fault, a lot of indie labels simply have limited resources to bring their artists into circulation so people will know about them, no matter how great the band is.

Perfect Disguise: Introducing The Contrast lives up to its title. The songs are mostly older and repackaged since they didn't get their due when they were originally released, but because of their lack of exposure and new release on a record label with a lot more recognition, this signals "The Contrast has arrived. Hear for the first time what you've been missing."

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