Little Triggers – St.Bernard (part 2 of Backseat Mafia on Tour: York)

After a little while browsing the record stacks in the aforementioned Inkwell, I came across some, er, Stax. It was one of those record label-issued compilations of their great artists – combining a big hit with a relative ‘flop’ by each. I managed to persuade myself that no matter how brilliant the combination, I already had enough of the individual tracks; I was trying to stay focused on the main task – the local. I kept on flicking but then I found a man in there. I mean a MAN, man. Staring me in the face was the enormous, er, face of the titanic Baby Huey. That was one big fella. I was first made aware of him by my dear friend Peter Duncan, through a compilation called “Twenty Upper Cuts – the Sequel Sampler”. Inkwell graciously priced Huey’s debut (only) album a little above my exploratory budget. Your time will come, Baby.

To the counter then, a fistful of postcards in hand, to chat to yer man Paul.  We talked Leñnon y McCartneje for a little while, I remembered to him the equally experimental Latin LP “Tequila & Cream” by Ruben Rodriguez and his Guadalajara Kings (great version of “Blueberry Hill”) which is somewhere in my old record box. He confessed his affliction with DJ Shadow-itis, endlessly flicking racks of records searching for something obscure from which to excavate breaks, and then he sold me the “St.Bernard” EP.

Well, I’ve been enjoying the energy of this little peach ever since.  Little Triggers are on York-based independent label Rag N Raw Records and are located in the same fair city themselves (if you haven’t read about my delightful time there, check it at the end of this review).  They describe themselves as playing Yorkshire Rock’n’Roll and they’re a four-piece made up of Lewis Shapcott – Licks, Rob Mckenzie – Grooves, James Lawes – Melodies/Licks, Danny Whittaker – Beats.

There’s not a song on here without a really strong intro – whether it’s the feedback-into-menacing-bass of “Mirror Image”, the fuzzy, melancholy opening chords of “Joanne”, or “Otherside”, where gentle strumming seems to presage a ballad, before they hammer you with some of the pounding drumming that is the powerful foundation of these strong tunes.

It isn’t just beginnings that they’ve got going for them (although we’ll come back to the endings in a bit).  “Mirror Image” kicks the CD off in style with a big, full sound that still protects the clarity of the individual elements.  There’s a really subtle throb and hum that runs behind the track which combines with that crackerjack drumming (I really like this guy’s work) and when James Lawes lets slip (a little of) the fury he can show in his vocals, this song has considerable force and impact.

I can’t stop listening to “Joanne”.  That set-up really is excellently delivered – from those teasing chords into a controlled concentration of guitar and drum noise. And it just gets better, moving into a simple and effective rhythm guitar and drums double-act of focused momentum that makes you want to move. “Joanne” contains great evidence of the intelligence of James Lawes’ singing and songwriting: playing around with metre throughout, adding an extra edge of rawness to his delivery, and adding plaintive lead guitar at the beginning of the second verse.  I can’t shake the feeling that the song shouldn’t end the way it does, however – it seems a slightly lazy, attempt-at-cool-disdain collapse to an otherwise commendably tight single.  Also, for my money, there should have been two guitar solos.  I would have moved the existing solo to after the second chorus, so that the song ended on that emotive series of high notes, as the final desperate, highly-strung evocation of the titular addicted anti-heroine (pardon the pun). They could have slotted something else after the first chorus – perhaps an expansion on that opening barrage of guitar and drums. Still, not all that much of a problem: here I go, putting it on again…

After two punchy numbers, “St. Bernard” ends with something a little more extended in the shape of the 4:26 of “Otherside”. When I first heard it I was terrified that this otherwise fruitful musical journey was going to finish with some questionable rock-reggae; if you are listening to it and wondering about the same thing, carry on my friend, and do not fret. That opening bounce is vital, and they build on it so well.  By the time we’re into the second verse that psuedo-skanking guitar is reinforced by a ringing lead part and Lawes’ refusal to let the lines, and the listener, settle. Again, though, the ending lets the whole down a little, fizzling out instead of taking a cue from “Mirror Image” where they time and execute the close perfectly.

Inkwell done gave me a solid recommendation with this EP; Little Triggers’ music is a welcome new acquaintance and I can see myself happily playing this for some time to come.  All that remains is for you to get out there and buy it too – take a trip to their bandcamp site now ! Once you’ve done that, if you’re able, check them out live in York on 25 May.

And now, just for the hell of it, here’s the Big Guy to play you out…

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