Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Album Review: Responsibilities by A Great Notion (by Emma Prew)

A Great Notion are a three-piece punk rock band from Peterborough. Their sound has evolved from a one-man acoustic act to a louder, full band folk and Americana-influenced band. We recently caught some of their set at Manchester Punk Festival and I was particularly impressed by them – their sound is certainly my cup of tea. Their new album, Responsibilities, was released the week after MPF, on the 28th April by Aaahh!!! Real Records. Jordy kindly posted us a copy of the CD, after reading our MPF review, and I was keen to take a listen.

Responsibilities kicks off with Save Me Jerry, a fairly distortion heavy song that has an almost grungy feel to it – almost. But Jordy's vocals are clearly more rooted in folk or Americana-style rock and that’s just how I like it. The song is about drinking (Sailor Jerry rum, for example) in an attempt to solve your problems. It’s a short song at just over 2 minutes and is very much suited to opening the album. The alcohol theme continues into the second track, Whiskey & Blood. Unlike the first however, this one features pounding drums, a fast pace and far more of a punk rock intro. Gruff punk meets Americana that is sure to get your head nodding, whilst metaphorically hitting you in the face. This is a singalong, fists-in-the-air feel good punk rock affair and the vocals on the chorus actually remind me of The Bouncing Souls, weirdly.

Les McQueen Was Right continues the more upbeat nature of the previous track, this time taking a turn away from the alcohol theme – just when I was starting to think the band were alcoholics (just kidding!). Instead the subject of this song is nostalgia. Or more specifically, thinking back to a time when things seemed simpler – you could call it the good old days and it’s something we’re all guilty of doing. ‘We move on, We grow old, We look back, We hold on, Then realise it’s all the same.’  It almost seems like the songs so far are paired together in their themes, as the fourth song, Something To Lose, is also about looking back at the past to a certain extent. Things were easier ‘back then’ when you didn't have anything to lose. This song features some great harmonies, showing that the full band adds more than just volume. A fairly repetitive but catchy track. Great stuff.

Next up is Hey Happy!, a song that, ironically, doesn't sound too happy to start with thanks to a melancholic solo guitar riff but when the drums kick in with more melodic guitar the mood lifts. This song is simply about being happy because you know someone else is happy, perhaps after they've been through a rough period. There’s a great little folky almost country-style guitar riff and layered vocals that really make the song. After Hey Happy! comes Favourite Lines, a song with a big sound and a big intro. It is slower paced than previous songs on Responsibilities but the change in pace is welcome. Favourite Lines has slightly different sound altogether really, it’s maybe even a bit bluesy and is packed full of emotion. There are some great melodic guitar parts in between verses to once again get your head nodding along. Just when I thought this was a more negative-sounding song we come to the end and the line ‘It will be alright’ is repeated in an uplifting manor.

The next song is one that I recall hearing live when we watched A Great Notion at Manchester Punk Festival in April, just before the album was released. It's The Waiting I Can't Stand is a punchy little number with vocal parts dispersed with the drums, bass and guitars. I guarantee the chorus of ‘Are we just waiting? For this to go wrong.’ will be lodged in your head after one listen. This is another head nodder – hell, they all are – and maybe a bit of foot stomper too. The eighth track, Stronger From Mistakes, brings a surprise with it. Here A Great Notion returns to their roots for an acoustic track – the only one of the album. As much as I'm loving the full band sound, this is a refreshing change for the album. ‘You know I’ve got to go get away, Got to go find away, I’m never going to change my mind, No, no not this time, All that I can do is try, All that I can do is try, All that I can do is try, try, try, try.’ If at first you don't succeed, you know what to do – try, try, try. You can do it.

The penultimate song of Responsibilities is titled Medicine & Books and it sees the full band return and on top form too. This song has shouty gang vocal verses while the chorus is far more melodic. It’s a great combination and there’s no denying just how catchy that chorus is – even if it is only two lines repeated over and over. ‘Don’t wait for me, I’m not coming home tonight.’  Five Thousand Strong is the album’s closer, an almost acoustic track to begin with that weirdly reminds me a bit of Dolly Parton’s Jolene – haha (sorry). The first part of the song features simple muted electric guitar and vocals alone before the drums tempt the listener into one last full band party around the halfway mark – it definitely feels like an album closer. Listening to the recorded version of this song for the first time, I realised that this is the track I spoke about in my MPF review. Five Thousand Strong is about playing music for the love of it, regardless of who is watching and, if just a handful of people turn up, you'd put on the same show as if there was a hundred people in the room – or five thousand in this case. ‘Even if there’s only 5 people in this room, we’re gonna sing like we’re 5000 strong, Our tongues’ will spit the words while our hearts keep the beat, and we’ll sing like we’re 5000 strong.’

I knew I’d like this album because A Great Notion play my sort of music but I wasn’t prepared for Responsibilities to be quite this good. I love it. I hope you do too.

You can download/stream the album here on Bandcamp and find A Great Notion on Facebook here.

This review was written by Emma Prew.

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