Saturday, October 17, 2020

Connor Bracken and the Mother Leeds Band - Nightbird Motel

Right, let’s get the obvious bit out of the way first.  Who the hell is Mother Leeds, and what’s she got to do with the price of fish?
Well, legend has it that Mother Leeds was the mother of twelve children in the backwoods of Noo Joisey, way back sometime.  Child number thirteen was the last straw for mother dear, who cursed it – and it metamorphosed into a creepy creature with wings and hooves known as the Jersey Devil.  And Connor Bracken and the gang come from New Jersey, see?
And what Connor and co seem to have been getting up to in the land of the Sopranos is cooking up their own brew of Gaslight Anthem-esque, post-punk, scratchy Strokes-like pseudo-Iggy garage rock.  Or something of that ilk.  I bet they like to get all sweaty into the small hours on the cramped stages of NJ clubs.
Connor Bracken and the Mother Leeds Band - no wings, no hooves
As a singer, front man Connor Bracken makes for an energetically spiky guitarist.  His vocal style is of the throw it out there and see if it locates the melody variety – not bad, but a bit shaky, and now and then prone to wander.  Which, to be fair, kinda fits with the shouty backing vox his pals chuck in here and there.  That barbed wire guitar playing is engaging though, bringing a likeable edge to proceedings.
The opener, ‘When The World Stops Turning’, combines jagged riffing from Bracken and his guitar sidekick Jeff Linden, the aforementioned teetering vocals, a propulsive bass line from Chris Dubrow, and a spiky guitar solo.  It’s also said all it’s got to say about a minute before it ends.  But all in all, it’s pretty good fun.  And that pretty much sums up these rock’n’roll Jersey Devils.
They do like to incorporate some light and shade now and then though, in the form of prickling, intros like the ones on ‘Read On You’ and ‘Nightbird’, before they burst into exuberant life.  Actually, ‘Read On You’ sounds a bit like the less sophisticated little brother of 4 Non Blondes’ ‘What’s Up’, but in a good way.  On ‘Nightbird’ though – well, did I mention that they hail from Asbury Park, New Jersey?  No?  Well I didn’t want you making assumptions.  On ‘Nightbird’ though, the twinkling intro ultimately leans into some distinctly ‘Darkness On Edge Of Town’ chords, and a Springbean-like plaintive Sixties-ish vibe, and they dial things down quite nicely too, notwithstanding Bracken’s sometimes caterwauling vocal.
On ‘Blame On Me’ they make good use of nearly six minutes, emerging from a droning intro into a reflective verse before getting all angsty and fiery to the strains of a somersaulting guitar line. They follow that up with the simple fun of the jingle-jangling ‘Liquorstore’, a slice of punky pop with a bridge decorated by jostling, ringing guitars that would suggest The Undertones if only they valued brevity a bit more.
That last comment sums up the key learning point for the Mother Leeds boys’ – when the song’s done, move on.  They don’t always overdo it though – on both the aforementioned ‘Blame On Me’ and ‘Voice On The Radio’, with its pulsing bass and drums overlaid with scraping, ghostly guitar, they extend themselves to imaginative effect.
Anyway, you know what?  I like ‘em despite their flaws.  So what if they’re not the finished article?  There are some decent hooks kicking around, Bracken’s guitar work has a ragged charm, and it’s kinda hard to sneer at their naïve enthusiasm.
Connor Bracken and the Mother Leeds Band are still a bit immature, still learning their trade, but Nightbird Motel shows promise.  I expect better things to follow.

Nightbird Motel was released on 25 September, and can be ordered from Bandcamp here.

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