England's Medway Delta region has long contributed a steady stream
of excellent, yet under-appreciated, garage rock and power pop bands,
going back at least as far as Billy Childish's earliest works,
through to the present day. A good number of these acts over the years,
from Thee Milkshakes to The Prisoners to The Bresslaws,
often go unnoticed beyond the area's working class pubs or the occasional
hard core garage rock aficionado. With the release of The Len Price
3's latest full-length, Pictures, there is now yet another
opportunity for the broader audience to move beyond the past and revel
in the underground legend that is the Medway sound.
In line with their previous work, The Len Price 3 (in which there
is no one named Len Price, naturally) once again paints a masterful
canvas using a palette of colors appropriated from freakbeat, mod,
and traditional power pop song structures, and borrows somewhat liberally
from the same type of working class lyrical ideas typical of Ray
Davies. The sound is big and jagged, with boomy toms, crackly
snares, alternately jangly or fuzzy Rickenbacker guitars, effective
harmonies, and enough ferocity behind the pop façade to hint
at the frustration of one's station, while never forgetting that rock
and roll is still about fun.
The thirteen tracks that comprise "Pictures"' clock in
at barely more than 30 minutes, and most individual tracks are here
and gone in under two and a half minutes. Within this idiom there
is really no need for anything more. Get in, get out, quit fuckin'
about. The album's opening eponymous track punches brightly with a
meld of Mick Jones spittled verses and a chorus that is very
reminiscent of early Who, circa "Circles", and provides
a worth launching pad for the record. Additional highlights include
"Keep Your Eyes On Me", "Mr. Grey", "Jack
in the Green", and the Davies-esque "If You Live Round Here",
the latter replete with cautions against pretentiousness and warnings
to know your role, "You think you're better than the population/Don't
get ideas so above your station/You're gonna have to lump it, baby
if you live round here. You say you've had an education/Round here,
boy, that's an affectation/You're gonna have to lump it, baby if you
live round here"
Pictures is one of the more enjoyably buoyant and fresh-sounding
pop albums to come out this year. While much of the credit certainly
goes to the boys in the band, a nod is due in the direction of Graham
Day, one of the most enduring purveyors of the Medway sound from
his founding of The Prisoners through today, and one of the producers
of Pictures. In fact, much of the record bears his unmistakable
hand. Other tracks on the album hearken back to the poppier side of
bands such as The Easybeats or The Small Faces, particularly
"Jack In The Green" and closer "The Great Omani".
As a whole, the record is a triumph.
As with many of their Medway contemporaries, The Len Price 3 do not
seem to be interested in expanding the boundaries of popular music,
or breaking any new ground. Rather, the band seems to be intent on
simply making the most riveting and entertaining music they possibly
can while remaining true to the very essence of their creation. To
that end, Pictures meets the demands of that mission in spades.
Perhaps this will be the record to break through to the masses that
have heretofore missed out on one of the most vital subsets of rock
-David Meyer (mondogarage)
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