December Album of the Month
Our final album of the month for 2017 – and after a staggeringly good year for debut and new album releases, could the best have been saved ‘til last?
The self-titled debut album from Broken Witt Rebels has been a long time coming but, like a fine wine, it is well worth the wait. The album chronicles the band’s journey over the last two years, remastered EP tracks in the company of new studio recordings.
Few albums make an immediate impression in less than a minute. Here though, within 20 seconds of album opener ‘Loose Change,’ the character of the whole album is defined and the listener is immediately aware we have a very different rock sound from this band – visceral, full-blooded and totally contemporary. This is the sound of rock for 21st century Britain: no yearning for a classic rock past here, but an explosion of fresh energy and music that is firmly rooted in ‘the now’ and is forward-looking.
‘Georgia Pine’ will be familiar to many from the last EP. The music draws on a range of influences but in sum could only be a Broken Witt Rebels song. A signature of great bands through the decades is that their music is instantly recognisable as their own. Danny’s vocals crown the band’s music making, wonderfully combining soul, blues and rock and, throughout the album, Danny’s performances a have range, feeling and intensity that mark him out as one of the most distinctive singers of his age. Danny could only be Danny, he’s not imitating past heroes.
Over the last two years, I have followed the Broken Witt Rebels story. ‘Shake Me Down’ was the first play we gave the band on the Friday Rock Show back in 2015 – a song that instantly arrested listener reaction, as well as turning heads at the station. Followed by ‘Bottom of The Hill’ and ‘Howlin’ the band had repeated play listings for the rest of the year and finished the year in the top 10 of our ‘band of the year’ listener poll. It was a sign of things to come.
In my various interviews with the band in the months that followed, I was struck by the importance of getting to know the people behind the music. The band have a firm sense of their roots; they combine boyish humour with a passion for original music making – and the swagger that’s clear from the band’s stage presence is counterpointed by a humility they have off-stage. This combination of elements plays out directly in the music – giving them a range that can be both brash and tender, powerful and soulful, uplifting and calming.
In ‘Snake Eyes’ and ‘Breathless’ we have another brace of finely crafted songs that could effortlessly win the hearts of mainstream radio. ‘Snake Eyes’ delivers arresting grooves and a seemingly restless vocal of immense power that crescendos during the finale of the track. ‘Breathless’ offers a softer, more soulful side to the band before another grand finale.
There would probably have been a riot if fan-favourite ‘Guns’ wasn’t included on the album. A rousing anthem, listening to it again brought back memories of Wildfire Festival in June 2017, when the Rebels turned up to a heavy rock festival and stole hearts and minds of the black T-shirt clad audience in less than an hour. Whilst the band has toured extensively for the last few years, Wildfire was the moment when it was clear to me that the Rebels were setting the standard for a new generation of bands. The showmanship, vocal prowess and tightness of the band defied the band’s relative youth – and these qualities they bottle well on the studio sound you hear on their debut album.
‘Low’ and ‘Getaway Man’ we played extensively in support of the Georgia Pines EP. Whilst ‘Low’ proved to be yet another listener favourite, it was ‘Getaway Man’ that I picked for multiple play listings. Once again the Rebels had delivered a song that brought something entirely new and fresh to a radio playlist. The song sounded both classic and modern in one. It didn’t need to fit into a genre box, it was just a good song. End of.
‘Wait for You’ we first played on the Friday rock show some weeks ago, and it’s been requested every week since. A lighter, perhaps more commercial side to the band, it also underlines that whatever change of direction the band take, the music remains unmistakably Broken Witt Rebels – fresh, interesting and unlike the songs you played before or after.
As 2017 draws to a close, a crop of young British rock bands have achieved long-awaited and deserved breakthroughs. Support bands have done first headline tours and promising bands have been signed by bigger labels. All these welcome pieces of news give hope to the future of guitar music but, with the arrival of Broken Witt Rebels debut album, we are also reminded of something even more important.
For guitar music to have a future, the new music itself has to be modern and relevant to today’s world. Broken Witt Rebels draw on past influences, for sure, but the freshness and relevance of their music makes classic rock sound markedly like something from the history books. Broken Witt Rebels look, sound and talk like a young guitar band firmly rooted in the Britain of 2017 and, make no mistake, they are only looking one way – forwards.
Broken Witt Rebels are a guitar band whose music is too big just to be confined to rock or blues media. Their music belongs in mainstream media – and to be appreciated simply as great music, free of limiting genre labels. And this is perhaps what all aspiring young rock bands need to achieve to reach new, younger audiences and to give guitar music a real future. Whilst the Rebels will happily joke that they have “more soul than a shoe shop” – in truth they may well also hold the keys to the future of British guitar music.
The album is released on 24 November.
PHYSICAL PRE ORDER IS AVAILABLE NOW #UpTheRebels #UTR
Mon 27-Nov Southampton / Joiners
Tue 28-Nov Brighton / The Prince Albert
Wed 29-Nov London / Boston Music Rooms
Thu 30-Nov Birmingham / 02 Academy 3
Thu 7-Dec Bristol / Thekla
Fri 8-Dec Manchester / Ruby Lounge
Sat 9-Dec Nottingham / Bodega