Monday, 16 August 2010

EP Review: The City Calls - Dirty Tricks

The City Calls are a cool, fresh pop-punk band from Southampton. I caught them supporting Army of Freshman recently and have to say their set was brilliant; extremely tight and professional stuff. I got in touch and got my hands on their latest EP entitled Dirty Tricks, for which you can read a track-by-track review of below.

Track 1/Heroics - An explosion of noise grabs me like the start of any EP should do and makes way for a cool guitar/pulsating-kick drum intro. The arrangement and overall feel reminds me of the All American Rejects, whilst the vocals have a Patrick Stump tinge to them. I like the feel of the distant lead vocal lines hiding at the back of the mix giving the verse a little more as it's otherwise quite sparse with minimal guitars and grooving drums. Already the tightness of the band's song-writing and overall musicality is striking; the chorus is precise and punchy and the presence of the bass in the second verse is definitely welcomed. It's a cleverly built arrangement and the introductions of new parts layered within each new section is cool. The drum sound is great in the breakdown section; often big cymbal parts can sound washy and overpowering but the mix is spot on. I thought my iTunes had skipped on after a sudden end to the song, but was caught out when the chorus came back in, after the sound of a radio tuning! A cool and fun pop-punk song.

Track 2/It's Your Fault - The instant hook of the backing vocals in this song takes me back to the live show; it's a great thing when the whole band are singing and really filling out a song and it works perfectly here. Straight into the verse and the backing vocals are further explored, harmonising with single phrases which support the lead vocals well. It's a great singalong chorus and perfect for new and old fans alike. The rhythm section holds the verses down as the guitar builds throughout but I wasn't keen on the solo harmonic guitar lines before the second chorus; they downplayed the song a little for my liking. The breakdown/middle 8 section is really grooving though; it showcases the drums well and has a great feel to it. Definitely a crowd pleaser.

Track 3/Flaunt It - The All American Rejects feel is still apparent, now with a touch of Panic! At The Disco, although I never got into pop-punk massively so my knowledge is quite general. Having said that, I can certainly appreciate a hard-working band who know exactly where they're going in terms of the sound they create and The City Calls are definitely that band. Flaunt It is another great example of that, with big energetic drums, great vocal harmonies and cool guitar work. Within the context of an EP, the track blends in a bit but it's certainly nice to hear a guitar solo, especially one that dares to last longer than four bars. The chorus is strong and the ending surprising yet clever.

Track 4/Those Eyes - With a name as such and this position on the EP, I'm almost expecting more of a ballad here before the final song packs the knock-out punch. This is the anticipation I feel as the song is loading up anyway, but the opening riff doesn't set the scene I had in mind. I really like the feel of the pre-choruses though and I think it's as close as I'm going to get to a 'ballad' from a pop-punk band. The chorus sounds great; definitely a compromising mix of pop-punk punch with the calmer feel I felt I needed and the vocals sound great here. The breakdown is another great vocal showcase as the bass and kick-drum tie the song down; a song that's threatening to break free into an explosive solo...which is exactly what it does so there's a big tick from me in the listener's point of view. The half-time final chorus is once again expected but that's not a bad thing; it's important to give the listener what they want and sometimes an obvious twist is the best bet.

Track 5/Get Away(acoustic) - Aside step the walls of noise and crashing cymbals, the big riffs and pumping bass. This is a side I didn't experience at the live show and it's a welcome feel at the end of the EP. The acoustic guitar work is really nice and although it's still feels as if written as a pop-punk song, it works great as an acoustic number. Once again the backing vocals really take the song into new territory, they provide that little something extra that really make the song. I find myself listening, I mean really listening, not just part-listening, part-thinking, part-typing and realise that a good chunk of the song has passed without me thinking much apart from just enjoying the composition. It's unexpected yet welcomed and, in my opinion, the perfect end to a fantastic EP that showcases a band brimming with talent and energy. Definitely a name to watch!

The City Calls have, of course, got a Myspace page which I urge you to visit to check out their upcoming shows and have a listen to them yourself. You can check out Heroics, plus an acoustic version of It's Your Fault and a preview of the entire Dirty Tricks EP. Enjoy, and try and catch a live show soon :)

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Thanks for taking the time to write :)