Waves of Fury


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Back in the 1940s and ‘50s, rhythm & blues artists were often accused of playing The Devil's Music, taking the stylistic foundations of gospel and twisting them into a secular form that celebrated the pleasures of the fallen world. It's been a long time since that's been a popular viewpoint, but British band Waves of Fury seem intent on making R&B seem significantly more evil than it has in years on their debut album Thirst. Waves of Fury may be a rock & roll band, but the swagger of the melodies, the hard punch of the rhythms, and the peal of the horns make it clear these guys dig vintage soul and R&B. However, the thick, fuzzy tone of the guitars, the layers of noise and feedback, and the fierce, petulant bite of Carter Sharp's lead vocals take this music into the dark sonic whirlpool bands like the Jesus and Mary Chain or My Bloody Valentine once called home. There's a precedent for this mixture of soul and dark-hued rock in the Afghan Whigs, but where Greg Dulli and company took Motown-styled melodies and gave them a minor-key overhaul, Waves of Fury clearly dig Northern Soul and strive to play on the dichotomy of the confident horn lines against the murk of the guitars and the tortured tone of the vocals. Actually, those vocals are this band's greatest failing; the guitar work from Fil Ward and Carter is potent, Jamie Bird's piano gives the melodies welcome embellishment, drummer James MacPhee has plenty of muscle and a good feel, and Bim Williams' horn overdubs are inspired, but Sharp's lead vocals either sound like a sneer or a whine when he needs to roar as strong as the musicians behind him. Thirst is stylistically ambitious and often quite successful for a debut album, but while the rest of the ingredients are there, Carter Sharp needs to get his vocals whipped into shape before Waves of Fury can be as nasty as they want to be.

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