Until I met my wife, I’d never heard of skiffle. To me, Lonnie Donegan was a weird name that cropped up with disconcerting regularity in the Mojo crossword. I first heard “Rock Island Line” when her Uncle Joe unleashed it on stage at a dinner dance. From there it has been a slow introduction to old school rock’n’roll, country and rockabilly sounds: often relatively simple constructions (although sometimes that simplicity masks highly technical touches, and a lot of incredibly tight musicianship) but with immense power to move and energise.
Those sounds have of course never really gone away but there is definitely something of a resurgence of roots-influenced guitar bands exploring the history of rock’n’roll. And that leads us to Carnabells, a five-piece from Leeds fronted by singer and guitarist Luke Thompson, backed by brother Mitch Thompson on lead guitar, drummer Tom Webster, pianist Jack Mattison and bassist Louis Appleyard.
Their publicity material describes them as ‘Coal Mine Rock’ so before hearing their music I was expecting something with a much rougher and visceral sound, wondering whether or not there was going to be a hefty dose of politics or at least a strong sense of locality and folk traditions. Well, that’s not quite what we’ve got here. If anything this is straight-ahead indie guitar pop that only occasionally does something more than proudly nod to those old-time-rock-n-roll stylings. Sure “All I Wanna Do” kicks things off with some classic hard-shuffling drums and diving/soaring guitar lines but “Magazine Dreams” (in particular), “Diggin For Gold” and “Life In Pictures” show Carnabells in a truer light. These are songs built on the interplay between perky indie guitars and poppy keys, backed by well-paced drums. Sure, they want their crowd to have a great time and dance (and there’s no reason they shouldn’t – this is exuberant music) but we’re not going to the hop, we’re going to indie disco where “you smoke because you think it’s cool, you drink because you think it’s cool, do drugs because you think it’s cool”. This is bright, snappily-performed and you can’t knock anyone who wants to make music for people to have a good time to.
The EP, which was recorded at Cottage Road studios in Headingley and mixed in Newcastle, will be released on 7 October. There’s a launch party on 4 October at The Library’s 360 Club in Leeds (if you go along you’ll get a copy of the EP) but get in there quick as tickets are shifting at a pace. Watch out for the forthcoming video to “Magazine Dream” (to be directed by Leeds’ “Shot By Sodium”) and listen out for the band on the BBC Introducing show (Alan Raw) on 12 October on BBC Radio Leeds (including a live acoustic session).
- New Music: My Body – Make it good (backseatmafia.com)
- The Provincial Archive – Common Cards (time-limited download…) (backseatmafia.com)
- New Music: Puzzles/Paul Conrad/Violet May (backseatmafia.com)
- See: Daniel James – A lonely man video (backseatmafia.com)
- Burning Condors – Love On The Rocks (backseatmafia.com)