DECEMBER ALBUM OF THE MONTH
Perfect symmetry, the year closes at it began. In thinking about our final album review of the year, I’m drawn back to the first new music I heard in 2021. In the early days of January, Scarlet Rebels sent me a top-secret link, to listen to the new collection of songs they had been working on. Following their signing to Earache and the completion of the music, the Earache-chart-maestros refined the selection that would make ‘See Through Blue,’ which is out in January. For me, I’ve been privately familiar with the music for a while and, significantly, it’s music that has held my attention for the whole year.
This is the first time I contemplate writing an album review fully knowing in my mind what I think of the music. The perspective you get with time is sometimes more telling than the impulsive reaction to a first listen of new music. And this album demands a thoughtful response, rather than just a few passing comments.
Without doubt, ‘See Through Blue’ will be one of the benchmark rock n roll releases of 2022 – and it’s well worth a pre-order. The anticipation has been growing for months and, for longstanding fans, there is a belief that the band’s long-overdue moment in the sun is about to happen. I have absolutely no doubt this album will impress; fans of the band will be delighted and the collection has the freshness and quality to win over new audiences too.
In the coming weeks, a lot of people are going to ask the question “Is the new album better than ‘Show Your Colours’?” For me, it’s the wrong question to ask. ‘Show Your Colours’ was a triumph for a band relaunching under a new name, opening with classic rock howitzers to establish the band firmly in the new rock scene. And it did the job brilliantly, powered by Peter at TMR Management. The new album is a different beast. Recorded during Covid restrictions, the music is a product of its time, more direct than the relatively safe but polished ‘Show Your Colours.’ The new music more fully embraces the band’s creative evolution from V0id through to Scarlet Rebels – and its political protest lends the music a rasping edge and personality that gives it immense relevance and life. Rather than comparing it to ‘Show Your Colours,’ the more apt observation is to consider ‘See Through Blue’ as possibly the most politically and socially relevant album recorded by any UK rock band during the Covid era.
For this album review, I’m going to do something different. I don’t want to do an A-Z narrative through the track-listing, as is the norm. For ‘See Through Blue’ I’m going to focus on five keystone songs. The album as a whole is strong but, over time, I have increasingly been drawn to five very strong tracks which, for very different reasons, are great examples of the song-writing prowess that this band should be much better known for.
We have to start here! Recently crowned ‘Single of the Year’ during our 7th annual awards, the emphatic and universal listener reaction to this accolade underlined what this song now means to people. Possibly the best radio single the band has ever recorded, its magic is that it both protests and also inspires you at the same time. On first listen, I believed this was ‘the song’ and Earache kindly let me premiere it on my Friday rock show back in June. And the timing was just right, a song that raged against the inequalities of life through Covid and yet, as we slowly re-emerged from lockdown, it conveyed an empowered sense of hope as the summer sun came back into our lives. The song had the same reaction on listeners as Wagons’ ‘Ratio’ had with us back in early 2016; a song people wanted in their lives – and it’s been notable too how many bands and industry people have commented on what a great song ‘These Days’ is. It has the magic of a great radio single – simple, accessible, popular and empowering.
‘These Days’ is not a staple ‘rock banger,’ it’s something far more important – a great song that can appeal to people from very different walks of life. And it’s songs like this that stand Scarlet Rebels out in an over-saturated market.
I Can Sleep Now
If ‘These Days’ is the best radio single the band has ever done, then ‘I Can Sleep Now’ could well be the best album song that band has ever done. For fans of ‘Heal’ – you’re in for a treat! The opening of this song has a similar personality to ‘Heal’, but it goes further – as if doors are opening into brand new rooms. As with ‘Heal’, there’s strong lyrical narrative and the evolving build to the song is both seamless and majestic.
‘I Can Sleep Now’ works to the signature Scarlet Rebels oeuvre, but this song goes further than its predecessors. I won’t say more and spoil it here, it’s a song for fans to enjoy themselves in January.
Leave A Light On
Classic rockers today seem to have a problem with the word ‘ballad,’ which I have never quite understood – especially given a large percentage of the greatest rock songs of all time have been ballads. And here we have one from Scarlet Rebels. When I first heard it, I thought to myself that it was the follow-up to ‘Practice Run’, although that song is more a heavy indie anthem than it is a ballad. For piano and guitar, ‘Leave A Light On’ is a ballad in the true sense of the word. Vulnerable verses met by a timeless ‘Let It Be’ vibe with the choruses that open with ‘Mother Mary.’ The great thing about this song is the control – you’re waiting for the crashing rock finale which never comes and this is to the band’s credit. Some songs don’t need to be over-cooked, the mood is maintained through this song, it’s almost understated – but therein lies the beauty of the song and the intelligence of the song-writing. A song that effortlessly resonates and leaves you wanting more.
Set against the questioning, mistrusting narrative behind ‘See Through Blue,’ Scarlet Rebels have launched their album campaign with complete authenticity – not just the music, but the band’s project to support foodbanks warrants huge praise. For a band that walks the talk on important issues, in my mind I see a Christmas charity single with ‘Leave A Light On’ working with foodbanks or the homeless.
Set against the solid classic rock bangers like ‘Storm’ and ‘Take You Home,’ there’s no question that ‘Leave A Light On’ offers a very different song into the album mix – and compared to the bangers it’s not trying to impress, it just works. Further, the album would be a massively weaker collection without this song’s inclusion. Sometimes, it’s the quiet songs that roar like a lion – and this has been evidenced by the requests for the band on my Friday show, where ‘Leave A Light On’ has had a long run.
See Through Blue
The title track and album closer is a work of art. The political infusion and mission statement of protest washes through the album, but it comes to a head with this powerful song. The attack of the lyrical narrative drives the song – “gaslighting a whole damn nation to push your contracts through” – and the melancholic frustration builds into a sense of rage and chaos as the album closes. This isn’t a catchy song, it’s a song that makes you think – and long after the song has ended.
Currently the third single release, I possibly would have had it as the album opener – the urgent staccato verses balancing well with the soaring choruses for a song that is cleverly structured and expertly arranged. Billed as a modern-day Romeo and Juliet, even here the ‘See through Blue’ essence pervades, a song about toxic relationships that questions notions of image over reality.
The song, for me, is stronger as an album track and it presents something different from the band when it comes to their rockier material. And I guess that, given the essence of ‘See Through Blue,’ there needs to be a song about London – a city so often seen to be removed from other parts of the country, and possibly the home of the backroom deals and the spin.
Having really got to know this album, if I had one quibble it might be over the track-listing. For me, the opener ‘I’m Alive’ doesn’t arrest my attention as quickly as other songs on the album. Also, ‘Leave A Light On’ I would have had much higher up the track-listing. Number 9 leaves it too late, when in fact an early breather on the pounding rockers would have given the album a richer sense of variation early on.
So, there we have it, ‘See Through Blue.’ If music fans get behind the pre-order campaign in the next six weeks, I have no doubt the album will chart in January and that will herald a step up for one of the UK’s hardest-working rock bands, one that has been putting in the road miles and releasing albums for many years. A former Band of the Year with us (2019), Scarlet Rebels are the only band to finish the year in the Top 3 with us for three consecutive years. And make no mistake, this is down to the enduring quality of the song writing, songs that people feel they need in their lives.
Musically, the album marries two aspects of the band. On the one hand there’s Scarlet Rebels as the band that can be a new classic rock band and deliver the bangers that an older classic rock audience want to hear. On the other hand, ‘See Through Blue’ presents Scarlet Rebels as a band that has a proven track record in writing special stand-out songs that can take a band right into the music mainstream. Some like the band as the former, I prefer them as the latter – but the unique strength of this band is they can be both. Powered by team Earache, ‘See Through Blue’ will see Scarlet Rebels make their mark on 2022 and start a bold new chapter in their story. The practice run is well and truly over.
See Through Blue is released in January 2022
Album pre-order – http://www.earache.com/scarletrebels
The opening three singles are available to enjoy on all streaming platforms.
‘These Days’ and ‘Leave A Light On’ continue to be featured on my Friday rockshow.
Official site – http://www.scarletrebels.com
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/ScarletRebels
Twitter – https://twitter.com/scarletrebels
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/scarletrebelsofficial
YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzr2HqnGa5-fi75XDAmtM9w
Spotify – https://open.spotify.com/artist/1gVWbJsabbAcgkD24oEVR9
Apple Music – https://music.apple.com/gb/artist/scarlet-rebels/1466928458
Amazon – https://amzn.to/33J82WD
Bandcamp – https://scarletrebels.bandcamp.com
January headline tour dates
20/01 – The Musician, Leicester
21/01 – Nightrain, Bradford
22/01 – Dreadnought Club, Bathgate
28/01 – Hangar 19, Swansea
29/01 – The Asylum 2, Birmingham
30/01 – Think Tank, Newcastle
31/01 – The Live Rooms, Chester
01/02 – B2 Brickmakers, Norwich
02/02 – The Black Heart, London
03/02 – Bannermans, Edinburgh
04/02 – Waterloo Bar, Blackpool
11/02 – The Victoria, Swindon
12/02 – The Bread Shed, Manchester