THERE’S SOMETHING SCRUBBED UP AND OUT ON THE TOWN ABOUT THE EPONYMOUS FIRST ALBUM FROM HIGH HAZELS (RELEASED THIS WEEK ON HEIST OR HIT).
Across ten tracks, including latest single MISBEHAVE and ace debut HEARTS ARE BREAKING, the quartet walk the same neighbourhood as fellow Sheffielder Richard Hawley on his steel city brace COLES CORNER and LADY’S BRIDGE. But where his romantically defeated croon was vested with a dirt-in-the-groove midlife melancholy, High Hazels swagger with the thrill-of-the-moment buoyancy of youth.
This is a sturdy, trustworthy, sound with one ear on the dancehall beat-groups of the late 1950s and early ’60s and the other on the tightly knit and more discerning indie gangs of the post-Smiths era. The High Hazels’ line stretches back through Alex Turner’s brooding SUBMARINE soundtrack to The Coral, The Bluetones and The Housemartins and the skiffle tingles of RUSHOLME RUFFIANS, and from there to the last dance ache of The Beatles’ THIS BOY and the nascent sexual charge of Buddy Holly’s PEGGY SUE. Handsome hollow-bodied guitars glisten and twang as rhythms shuffle and melodies soar. On Saturday night the streets are ours, and all hearts are decided before last orders.
Opener VALENCIA, singer James Leesley “drifting off in Spanish alleyways” rather than dreaming on South Yorkshire side-streets, is effervescent and sets at least two thirds of the upbeat tone for the album’s remaining half hour. Perfect – solid, melodic – pop singles HEARTS ARE BREAKING and MISBEHAVE could be joined by either HOW LONG’S IT GONNA BE? or BANGING ON MY DOOR. SHY TIDE – McCartney-style picked acoustic guitar and tender vocals – is plain and affecting as the album’s one low-key moment, while the other ballads (HANGING MOON and PROMENADE) have a grandiose quality to them. There’s no place here for the four tracks from essential recent EP IN THE HALF LIGHT (no SUMMER RAIN or, in particular, FRENCH RUE seems quite a loss and a bold and brave decision) which suggests that High Hazels, sure-footed, may already be moving on.
James Leesley appeared on The Mouthcast earlier in 2014. Listen again here
Order HIGH HAZELS on CD here or download here
Order IN THE HALF LIGHT on 10″ here or download here
Sun 2 Nov GLASGOW Broadcast Tickets
Tues 4 Nov LEEDS Oporto Tickets
Thurs 6 Nov CARDIFF Gwdihw Cafe Bar Tickets
Sat 8 Nov SOUTHAMPTON Lennons Tickets
Tues 11 Nov LEICESTER Cookie Jar Tickets
Thurs 13 Nov NOTTINGHAM JT Soar Tickets
Sun 16 Nov HARROGATE Blues Bar Tickets
Thurs 20 Nov SHEFFIELD Leadmill Tickets
Weds 3 Dec LONDON The Lexington Tickets
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