Scarlet Rebels – ‘Where The Colours Meet’

June Album of the Month

Scarlet Rebels - Where the Colours Meet
(5/5)

For fans of classic rock, ‘Where The Colours Meet’ is set to become one of the most emphatic and cohesive album releases of 2024. An album that is unrelenting from start to finish, not a filler track in sight and the band’s understated resilience now replaced by a sense of directed confidence. The practice run is over – as this album marks the moment when Scarlet Rebels will become one of the spearheads of British classic rock.

Scarlet Rebels are a band that Great Music Stories has had a long and loyal association with, stretching back to 2017. Almost every week on my Friday rockshow, ‘Practice Run’ and ‘Let Me In’ would storm the airwaves. The rest of the world didn’t really seem to care but, within the vibrant rock show community, Scarlet Rebels were already a benchmark band. They wrote good songs, they’re good people and they engaged with listeners. A few years later, ‘Heal’ followed as another premiere that we ran for many months and then ‘These Days’ and ‘Leave A Light On’ took things up to a whole new level. In our world, these were songs of enormous stature and proven resonance with listeners across Europe – people building a bond with a band based on the perceived merit of the songs: the way it should be.

From the many on-air and off-air discussions I’ve had with Wayne Doyle over the years, I’ve sensed the quiet determination of the band to keep creating, to focus on the songs and also to endure the moments of despair that are part and parcel of looking for a breakthrough. I understand it’s hard being in a scene, forging and creating, when you think people just don’t care.  Despite the highs and lows, V0id became Scarlet Rebels and they have kept to their craft. They’ve done the long road miles – their apprenticeship – driving home through the night from far-flung towns after playing to 40 people. The Rebels have released fine songs that often haven’t been picked up by big media, perhaps because they’ve not been the ‘in band’ of the moment. All this makes the triumph they are gravitating towards something for us to celebrate. Progress has been hard fought and the music collection on this new album has both an attack and an intent that makes clear the band’s resolve to build on their last Top 10 album. That was no flash-in-the-pan. Scarlet Rebels are a band that have done the support slots for too many years, they’ve put great songs out that have been largely ignored by national media. The practice run has to end and a new chapter is already starting. ‘Where The Colours Meet’ will be the convincer.

The band’s signing to Earache Records – and the marketing machine that comes with it – finally gives the band the opportunity to be heard by more people. Views may differ on the vinyl multi-buy model and the noise campaigns that drive a week in the charts. But the important point is this is a band whose music is too good to go unnoticed by the many. The arrival of ‘Where The Colours Meet’ will put the band on a very different trajectory by the end of this year. For anyone that has been part of their story, this is something to celebrate.

The last album, ‘See Through Blue,’ was written before the band signed a one album deal with Earache Records – so, in many respects, ‘Where The Colours Meet’ represents the start of a new creative and commercial partnership for Scarlet Rebels, as they work to a new growth strategy and vision for their future path. And already, few would dismiss the likelihood of another Top 10 album – and the elevated opportunities that may come as a result.

Back in March, I was honoured to be the first person outside Earache HQ to be sent a copy of the new album to listen to, and it was also hugely appreciated that Great Music Stories was the first radio show anywhere to roll with a new song a week or so later. In that spirit, I’m excited to share my early review on the album.

Power is the word the resonates with me as I reflect on another full listen to this fine album. And relentless would be another word. In every sense this is a muscular, heavy-rocking tour de force – packed with powerful music and intensity of delivery. But the relentless point I make in a good way: ‘Where The Colours Meet’ unleashes a track-after-track sequence of bona fide bangers and whilst fans have been treated to the opening singles, the new collection of songs has the rare hallmark of a great rock album – namely that no one will agree on what the best songs are. I see car park fights breaking out across the UK this August, as friends argue to the death on what the best song is and which should have been the first single. I also feel very sorry for the band in having to pick the half dozen songs that will make the live set-list – and how on earth they’re going to keep everyone happy. All I will say at this point is the best three songs on the album have not yet been singles. Matron.

Now on to a quick review of some of the songs:

‘Secret Drug’ will need no introduction to hardcore fans of the band. The album opens with flavours from AC/DC and The Cult. It’s a perfect album opener and, on first listen, I thought ‘well there’s the rock radio song right there.’ A pounding heavy rock classic that ticks all the boxes for what a radio banger seemingly needs to be. In some ways this song felt like a bit of a departure from the classic Rebels sound, but it’s a very strong album opener and sets the mood perfectly for what will follow.

‘Let Me In’ is one of two old songs that have been re-recorded for this album – two songs that have been mainstays of the GMS rock show for years. ‘Let Me In’ has twice been recorded before – the dramatic, indie-infused original followed up by the electrifying recording for the ‘Sonic One’ mini album. The new version is closer to the Sonic One version and has a few new twists and flourishes that give it a fresh character. This is one of those songs that lends itself to new interpretations and, in its new clothes, it stands up as one of the better songs on the album. It’s track two on the album and a perfect follow-up to the heavy rock opener, ‘Secret Drug.’

Back in March, I presumed ‘Secret Drug’ was being lined up for a big premiere elsewhere, so we ran with ‘Grace’ on the Monday rockshow, the first song aired anywhere from the new album. Following the sensational listener reaction to ‘These Days’ which ran for two-years, this new song picked up the baton and, in terms of what listeners expect from Scarlet Rebels, I felt it was the right song choice – offering something familiar but with a fresh twist. After its first spin, more than 200 requests came in for ‘Grace’ over the following two weeks; the song had a seven-week run with us and was the Number One requested track for the month of April.

Ever since my first full listen to ’Where The Colours Meet’, my pick from the album has always been ‘It Was Beautiful.’ For fans of ‘Heal’, ‘Practice Run’ and ‘Leave A Light On’, here we have another thoughtful masterclass in song writing. Wayne I think was under a little pressure from the producers to jazz it up a bit, and what we have is a wonderful result: A beautiful heart-wrenching Wayne Doyle-penned classic that grows as a song. ‘It Was Beautiful’ doesn’t go in a straight line. If I was still doing my show, this one would already be huge with us, but I’m sure someone else will pick it up and make something special happen. ‘It Was Beautiful’ is not a banger but it’s still the best song on the album. My view over the years is Scarlet Rebels can do the rockers like any other classic rock band – but it’s the songs that deliver a break from the norm that elevates the band, making them stand out from a crowded peer group.

The nicest surprise on the album is the band’s duet with Elles Bailey. When I read something last year about the band doing collaborations on this album, my first reaction was concern – fearing the marketing might take over from the music. But I officially eat my hat (and a few custard creams) on this. ‘Out Of Time’ is a wonderful song. To me it doesn’t feel like a Rebels signature dish, it’s got all the trimmings of one of those huge 80s power ballads. But they do it so well and the counterpoint between the two vocal performances is sumptuous. If we were back in the 80s when rock was on big mainstream radio, or if rock radio today played ballads (never understood why they often don’t) this song would be a huge hit. I have a feeling quite a few rockers will be prone to singing this one in the car – or in the shower, with the Radox power scrub. Shampoo bottle doubling as a lead microphone is fully permissible on this occasion.

Five or six tracks in and the relentlessness just continues into the second half of the album, without any dip in quality. Beyond what people may have already heard on the radio, there are a number of album tracks that long-standing Rebels fans will adore – tracks that exude the band’s much-loved signature sound. ‘Declining’ is a new Rebels classic, finessed with what feels like the kind of Wagons-esque production we heard on the ‘Full Nelson’ album. ‘Streets of Fire’ brings Welsh fire and ‘How Much Is Enough’ carries through the protest spirit from the ‘See Through Blue’ album. This song is classic Rebels and some veteran fans will wonder why it wasn’t an early single. For me ‘How Much Is Enough’ is a better, classier social commentary song than the spitting rage of ‘Divide and Conquer.’

Artistically, when it comes to protest songs, I don’t think anything will top the despairing venom of the previous album’s closer ‘See Through Blue’ – but it’s good to see the political activism of the band is continuing into this new album. If rock wants a future, it needs to be relevant – and there are so many issues in the world today for bands to champion and get angry about. It is good that Scarlet Rebels are standing up and sticking it to the man – rather than writing songs about cowboys, mustangs, guns, pole dancers and the other dated rock cliches that no one needs to hear anymore.

The one track that didn’t do it for me was the re-make of ‘Practice Run’ and this may be because of my show’s longstanding and close association with the original – and knowing too what it has come to mean to so many listeners. When I heard a re-recording was on the cards, my view was there would be merit in giving the song a completely different treatment so as to avoid direct comparison with the original. Maybe have ‘Practice Run’ as a vulnerable, stripped back piano song to close the album, or go up a level and do it at Abbey Road with full orchestral backing – it is, after all, a song that naturally has a sense of panorama to it. Re-doing favourite old songs doesn’t always work. ‘Let Me In’ benefits from it but in my book ‘Practice Run’ should have been left alone. Changing some of the words, putting ambient backing vocals on at the end – for me the song has been updated but it’s also lost some of its soul. But that said, many people haven’t even heard ‘Practice Run’ before so if the new version registers with radio stations, influencers and new audiences I guess that’s a good thing. My suggestion here would be for people new to the song to also discover the original which, to this day, still stands as one the band’s finest recordings.

Beyond the music, and I do have to get this out the way – I really don’t like the album cover. It will, no doubt, fulfil its marketing purpose of grabbing attention and stirring up debate, but as an artistic statement the album cover for me massively under-sells what’s inside the sleeve. Others I’m sure may like the artwork – and that’s great – but for me, it was a big turn-off.

Back to the music – and back to the start of my review – my overall sense here is Scarlet Rebels have served up a compelling new studio album that I fully expect – and on merit – will be voted Album of the Year across the board later this year. For Great Music Stories, Scarlet Rebels were our ‘Band of the Year’ in 2019 and have also bagged both Single of the Year and Single of the Decade. I’ve put the hard yards in for this band and, for years, many GMS listeners have taken the band to their hearts and advocated them every week on X – long before it was the hip thing to. This album will be the moment when more people will discover the band.

Some years ago I had a sense that Wayne’s writing gave the band potential to break out of genre silos. While that will always be there, this new album is very much a classic rock beast. It’s an album of bangers, it’s full attack and ‘Where The Colours Meet’ will ensure that, within the classic rock world, the band’s status is elevated to an entirely new level.

As with ‘See Through Blue’, the pre-orders will give this album a week in the Top 10 in August. The buzz is building as Scarlet Rebels are getting more media traction now than they’ve ever had – which is great news. But it’s the legacy of the music that’s important here. Long after the chart noise has been and gone, this is one of those albums that people will be enjoying, advocating and buying for years to come. You know it when you hear it, this is an album with shelf-life. It’s not carte-blanche the best thing they’ve ever done – many of my favourite individual Rebels songs are still the ones on previous albums – but as an album in the full sense of the word, as a collection of material, it is (and by a distance) the most unified and cohesive body of work the band has done to date. On that front, Scarlet Rebels are set to become the new benchmark name in the British classic rock scene. Prepare for a musical tour de force people – something very special is coming ….

‘Where The Colours Meet’ is released this August

To pre-order a copy on CD, vinyl or download visit the Earache Webstore at
https://earache.com/collections/scarlet-rebels

A selection of some of the archive material on Scarlet Rebels on Great Music Stories

Audio Interviews
2024: Year ahead plans
https://greatmusicstories.com/2024/02/13/new-horizons-2024-scarlet-rebels/

2022: Bands and fans pay tribute to Scarlet Rebels
https://greatmusicstories.com/2022/01/24/feature-special-bands-and-fans-pay-tribute-to-scarlet-rebels/

2021: Scarlet Rebels sign with Earache Records
https://greatmusicstories.com/2021/03/10/feature-interview-scarlet-rebels-sign-with-earache-records/

2019: Live from Wildfire Festival
https://greatmusicstories.com/2019/09/09/feature-interview-the-scarlet-rebels/

Album reviews
See Through blue
https://greatmusicstories.com/2021/11/22/scarlet-rebels-see-through-blue/

Show Your Colours
https://greatmusicstories.com/2019/07/18/scarlet-rebels-show-your-colours/

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