Let me just say this from the start; we like The Carnabys here at Riot Towers, we like them a lot. We like the melodies, we like the two guitars playing off each other, we like the variety of the rhythms, we like Jack Mercer’s lyrics and we love the incredible energy that’s injected into each and every song.
You can look at influences as far back as the beat boom groups of the sixties, but the sound of the suburban power pop bands of the late seventies/early eighties (and I’m including The Jam in that) resonates strongly in the sound of The Carnabys. And finally, Jack Mercer’s lyrics bring the contemporary edge to the songs with tales of life in the modern metropolis. The songs are about people, real people, people you can believe in, people you could bump in to in the pub or down the shops. The people that appear in songs by Jamie T, Mike Skinner and Akira the Don.
“Too Much, Never Enough” sounds like it was meant to capture the band’s fresh, spiky and exuberant live sound without squashing the dynamics too much, and it’s worked a treat. The single “Elizabeth” pulses along, powered by Ben Gittins and Frankie Connolly’s guitars alternating beats from the left and right of the stereo spectrum and punctuated by an almost a cappella breakdown, while the album’s opener, the slightly surreal “Great Dane in the Graveyard” (a true-ish story) is so fast it could easily fall apart if the guitars weren’t so locked in to James Morgan’s frenetic drums and Mike Delizo’s pounding bass. This is a band in the proper sense of the word. They create a glorious noise by playing together; no big guitar solos, no egos, everyone plays a part in creating each perfectly-crafted little suburban story.
Special mentions as well for “Peaches and Bleach” which in Jack’s words is about ‘working on something important and someone else inadvertently fucking it up’, the self-harm and self-denial of “Scars and Safety Pins” and “Down He Goes”, the story of a friend of the band who finds trouble whether he looks for it or not; apparently he has a glass jaw as well. Not a great combination.
No glass jaws, Achilles’ heels or cauliflower ears for “Too Much , Never Enough”, though. It’s arms of iron, tapping toes and brass necks all the way.
“Too Much, Never Enough” is out Friday August 19th or you can still pre-order here. All profits from pre-order sales go to the Music Venue Trust.
Here’s the video for the current single “Elizabeth”:
This album was released less than two years ago in May 2011, although Akira the Don (or Adam Narkiewicz) has been making music as an artist and a producer for nearly ten years. He also became a dad this week, so it’s perfect timing to revisit his brilliant second album “The Life Equation”.
If you listen to 6 Music at all, you’re bound to hear songs that grab your attention instantly and won’t let go. I heard “Babydoll” while listening to 6 Music on a lazy summer Sunday in 2011. When the song had finished, thirty seconds on a search engine brought up www.akirathedon.com; a few more clicks and a waft of a credit card and the album was on its way, along with a handwritten thank you from the Don and a couple of badges as well. It was a good experience before the CD even came out of the case.
If you have to describe Akira the Don with one word, then that word is “eclectic”. The musical styles, the beats, the samples and the arrangements take their influences from British popular culture of the last 50 years and it’s almost totally unpredictable. The Don also manages to use humour in a way that most rappers can’t in that he’s actually funny. You won’t find any of those hapless “skits” that are obligatory on mainstream rap albums, but you will laugh at the knockabout humour of “A Cautionary Tale” and the social comment of “I Don’t Own a TV” (featuring a sample from the’70s Squeeze classic “Cool for Cats”).
“The Life Equation” is a great advert for buying a physical copy of the album; all the lyrics are included in the CD packaging and it’s an album which should be heard from start to finish for maximum impact. There isn’t a bad track on the album and even the throwaway final track “Big” has some clever and entertaining wordplay. There are more ideas and poetry here than on a dozen mainstream rap albums and you really don’t know what to expect next. The rap breakup song “Nothing Lasts Forever” (featuring Envy) moves from amicable split to bitter recriminations before seamlessly shifting into the hugely upbeat Motown pastiche love song “Babydoll”.
Listening to “The Life Equation” is a bit like throwing a lit match into a box of fireworks; you have no idea what’s going to happen next, but you know that it’s going to be entertaining. From the 100mph rock beats and breakneck-speed rap of “Video Highway” through the melodic Phil Spector feel of “We Won’t be Broke Forever” to the seven-section cycle of the title song, the album absolutely fizzes with musical and lyrical creativity and humour. Just give it a listen.
Normally we would have loads of Spotify links to this article, but the album isn’t available there so we’ve set up YouTube links where we can. If you want to hear anything that doesn’t have a hyperlink, you can listen to it The Don’s website here and if you like it, you can buy it as well.