Monday, 24 June 2013

The 444s at Lion d'Or (BANDSTAND)

THE 444S  |  Cabaret Lion d'Or


If I had to describe the 444s in a few words, I’d say it is a band whose members just do whatever the hell they want. “Isn’t that true of every musician?” you ask. No. It’s not. Come on. Musicians often listen to their publicist, or their brand manager, or whoever else is cashing off their music to make their mortgage payments every month. People like Somalia-born rapper K’Naan, that is, people who have the courage to admit they had to sell out a bit to conform to the fearsome “industry” are rare, very rare. As we know, there are a lot more sell-outs who prefer to pretend they have full creative freedom than sell-outs who are honest enough to come out in such a way.

In that light, the 444s are a fun, refreshing unit. “You know, other bands too refrain from selling out,” you declare, not sure if you should be offended that I’m not talking about your favourite band. Yes, I know. Thankfully, the 444s are not alone in their pack. However, the unit they form is a beautifully unique specimen.
First of all, the band’s rock identity is permeated by all kinds of aesthetics. Its very clever song writing is laid on top of animated bass lines, funk-flavoured electric guitar riffs, tight little organ sequences, folky acoustic guitar strumming, classical-sounding fiddle melodies, hints of piano, a dash of mandolin and banjo picking, all kinds percussions, and stunning gospel-like backing vocals. I weigh my words when I say that none of the songs the 444s perform sounds the same. They zigzag candidly between genres and techniques and come up with a delightfully diverse package. As a matter of fact, I am not alone to be pleased by their decidedly fun music. Local legendary songwriter Jean Leloup seems to agree, he who co-produced their record, titled The Harbour.
They showed the extent of their capabilities in grand fashion when they performed at Cabaret Lion d’Or on May 29th, for the second night of Bandstand. The folks sitting down in front of them could not help but jiggling their shoulders a little bit when that irreverent rock and roll goodness was thrown at them. Fuzzy-haired lead singer and guitarist Tim Smith looked like he was at the top of his shape, and his energy was contagious enough to spread to the rest of the band, composed of a bassist, a drummer, and another guitarist.
First and foremost, something has to be said about Mr. Smith’s vocal chords. His voice is the kind you hear and go, “wow, this dude should speak on the radio.” It is truly stunning; a thick, full-bodied sonic articulation of awesomeness. Unsurprisingly, hearing him sing was a true charm that night. He seemed to let the notes fly effortlessly, never losing that gigantic grin of his. Moreover, he was accompanied in his vocal efforts by his fellow band members, with whom he highlighted one of the band’s signature features: astonishing harmonies. A quick look at the audience revealed just how efficient these choir-esque moments were: the crowd was eating it up, wide-eyed and transported.

But hey, the 444s are no choir; they’re a rock and roll band. Proofs of that were numerous. For instance, its members dove into several long jams, which were progressively building up to utterly inspiring moments of rocking mayhem. Furthermore, the guitarist executed the kind of up-to-no-good funky electric guitar riffs that are likely to induce appreciative squinting from the most dedicated music lovers among us (you know, that facial expression that some people jokingly call ‘cum face’). That already very healthy audio meal was seasoned by unbelievable guitar solos, to which quite a few people (me the first) reacted with fascinated enthusiasm. Whether their stuff sounded like rock, folk, or funk, it was fun times all around, without much in the way of inhibitions.

Funny thing, when the judges had the chance to speak, one of them said: “It’s good, but I think you should trim into the fat.” I beg to respectfully, but completely differ. What fat? The long jams? The crazily funky guitar playing? The prodigious harmonies? Is that the ‘fat’ we speak of? If so, I must say I enjoy the fat. I love it, and I want the 444s to keep bringing it. It is great fat, like the grease dripping of the bacon strips on the morning of a hangover, like the junk in the trunk of a sumo wrestler, like the fluffy dawn in an oversize pillow.

One thing reassures me: I am pretty sure that the 444s are not planning to do much trimming of any fat. For all listeners out there, that is great news.
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