Having been so impressed with the power and gravel of the Eight Rounds Rapid (ERR) single ‘Tricks’ I couldn’t wait to review the album Love Your Work. No third album woes for Jules Cooper (bass), Lee Watkins (drums), Simon Johnson (guitar) and David Alexander (vocals). They hail from Canvey Island, on the Thames Estuary, and in the Dr. Feelgood documentary ‘Oil City Confidential’ film maker Julian Temple talks about Canvey Island being the UK’s answer to the Mississippi delta that spawned or inspired blues artists like Big Joe Williams, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Bessie Smith. The blues (Delta or otherwise) often dealt with poverty and inequality and contained a bite and disaffection that Eight Rounds Rapid also channel in their work. Don’t get me wrong, Eight Rounds Rapid are neither a blues band nor a pub rock throw-back, they are as vital, and in-your-face topically angry as Idles or Sleaford Mods.
So make sure you put your seatbelt on and once the ‘tick-tick-tick’ opening of the first track ‘You Wait’ is over, brace yourself as ERR burnout from a standing start to complete this 12-track race course in a 30-minute thrill ride. You’ll struggle to catch your breath as ‘Passive Aggressive’ starts with tightly percussive drums, staccato guitar, and repeated shouts of “Regressive, excessive is passive aggressive” before descending into a cacophony of instruments and vocals; like the sound of a city dialled up to 11. Song after song dodges, weaves, and delivers swift combinations of jabs, hooks, crosses and uppercuts from both the intensity of musicians who must be fed a steady flow of electricity while playing. The vocals which have an upper-register urgency that brings a too-many-coffees judder to the mix and where the songs aren’t pell-mell with urgency, they can be sinewy and 50’s-nightclub like ‘Eating’ or wrong-side-of-town edgy like ‘Letter’, ‘Ageing Athlete’ or ‘Retro Band’ which cuts deep with a splintering guitar line that I’m sure the late Andy Gill of Gang of Four might have inspired and, no doubt, would have loved.
Eight Rounds Rapid create a rambunctious, tumble of sounds with production that somehow manages to be simultaneously crisp and chaotic. The playing is all in service of the songs and when you listen to the sharp riffs and fuzzed up chords, immense bass lines that plumb depths or sparkle higher up the neck and exclamation mark drums that sound like they’ve been recorded in a vast wooden hall and then tamed at the mixing desk (check out the swaggering bounce of ‘Eating’) you can hear that ERR know how to play but are not showing off. And this well-trained hurricane of sounds offers a crucible which contains the precious metal of the lyrics. Angry, wry, social commentary and, to borrow from what said in my review of the single ‘Tricks,’ the use of language and rhyme elevates this album. This is no simple ‘My baby done me wrong’ take on blues but a compelling clash between the raw energy of the music and the refinement of such fantastic language: “the minor movements and the small degrees, primary numbers and the minor keys”, ““Ragamuffin. Street urchin, toe rag, scumbag, fag drag” and rhyming ‘masterplan’ and ‘élan’ – delicious. I’m not sure if the vinyl or download come with a lyric sheet but it would be doing the listening public a favour to be able to read along as the words are too good to miss a single barbed syllable.
Eight Rounds Rapid are like one of the Chinese New Year dragons: animated, cohesive, and yet blurred at the edges with the ferocity and colour of the movement. They are a fireball of abrasive musicality and brain food lyrics, and the combination brings a gripping, propulsive momentum like The Fast & The Furious but written by Charles Dickens and illustrated by William Hogarth.
Review by Paul F Cook