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  Camden Rocks 2019 - Day 1

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The Reads Return in Style

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The Reads CROSSFIRE. The Reads Records

“We know you must be wondering; what’s been happening with us?  Well, 6 years on from the release of our second album, LOST AT SEA we’re happy to report that we’re about to do it all again! We’ve written and recorded new music; inspired by the heady mix of sadness, chaos and joy that life puts us all through. Love, loss, lust (ooh er, missus!), anguish and even a touch of optimism; the new album is a reflection of where we’re at these days and we hope it strikes a chord. We’re VERY excited and are busy making plans to share CROSSFIRE with you this spring.”

Since the inception of this North Wales band, I’ve been impressed with their songcraft, accessible musicality and live performance capability. But the fact remains that to survive and prosper in this industry takes guts, REAL skill, determination and self-belief. And all things considered in these troubled times The Reads have managed to survive and after a 6-year hiatus once again deliver the goods. Not bad for part-timers! And the band even have a new (and very good) website…(https://thereads.co.uk/).

The Band

Stuart Bennett - vocals and rhythm guitar
Marcel Delrue - keyboards and programming
Matthew Goddard - drums
Jamie Russell - lead guitar
Clare ‘Fluff’ Smith - violin and strings
Clare Stevensen - bass and lyrics

Well spring has indeed arrived and along with the desperate coronavirus situation a new Reads album to inject some badly needed inspirational and entertaining musical respite.

After 6 years the band has maintained its distinctive sonic signature with class-leading harmonies and song-writing. The record opens with ‘Prettiest Scars’, a bittersweet romantic ballad: “How much can you teach a man in three short days?/Enough to calm his temper and set the sheets ablaze?/And introduce him to all the elemental fotrces/That will gallop in his chest, like they were wild, wild horses.” The combination of Clare Stevenson’s lyrics, Stuart Bennett’s convincing vocal and Jim Spencer’s production/mixing have created an epic opening gambit full of drama, atmospheric impact (with wonderful instrumental/programming) and instant accessibility. Brilliant!

‘Never Spoke Of’ reminds me of past Reads glories and is all the better for it. Bennett sings in virtual monotone over dramatic instrumental sequences until the chorus when the vocal raises several decibels while becoming substantially more expressive, and the instrumental rush clinches it (the drumming is a key feature here). The Reads know a good melody when they see one and this record goes from one great melody to another with welcome regularity.

‘Top Of THe Rock’ opens in explosive rhythmic style with bass thumping out a relentless beat as Bennett’s vocal floats overhead. This highlights something new with this album and that’s the diverse pace and mood - this is a tangible and vivid dance number. Wandering electronics introduce the stunningly beautiful and moving ‘Oblivion’. Bennett’s vocal dominates with its contemplative style and moments of electronic echoes. The melody is huge and the lyrics typically accessible, meaningful and real: “How long has this thing been over?/How long have you known?/Hold on, so your co nscience told yer/How long would you have me hold on?”

The thoughtful ‘Birdcage’ repeats the dose but with the addition of flashing guitar moments - the brilliance continues…Acoustic strings introduce an instrumental hidden track that totally captivates with its overpowering melody and emotive ambience. Tiny silent moments add to the beauty of this song. For me it’s one of the best instrumental tracks I’ve heard in several years. I only wish that the next track, ‘The River’ followed immediately so the instrumental served as a long introduction. Acoustic instruments open this song before Bennett’s gentle conversational vocal intervenes. There’s a distinctive alt-country flavour to this which is carried along on another wonderful melody.

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‘The Abyss’ is a simple folky acoustic number with a vocal of pure clarity and stripped down arrangement, with major hooks supplied via military snare chorus. The snare rhythm stays for ‘Drawing Pictures’ while keyboards add spice and lyrics add meaning: “Beauty be a stormy sea/Wishing, washing over me/When I feel like there’s nothing left to be/Well then my friend, I draw a picture.”

The topical, mystical and brief ‘Oh Brother’ completes the record with space sounds before the vocal travels the scale. It’s an effective goodbye. “Another world averse to go my brother/See you on the other side/Cross my heart and hope to survive.”

The Reads have excelled themselves with a record that should be in anybody’s best-of-year list. It’s uplifting, highly emotional and accessible. In short, it’s essential.

5/5

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https://www.facebook.com/The.Reads.Music/
https://thereads.co.uk/

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