Big day today. A red-letter day, as Rews release their debut album, Pyro, to a legitimately eagerly awaiting world.
Well, this little corner is perched on its seat at least. And I suspect I’m not alone. Half of Glastonbury, for one. Marc Radcliffe for another. No doubt some friends and family. The Hawley Arms. The Railway Inn. The list continues…
Birmingham Review first saw Rews back in February this year, when the ferocious twosome came to The Flapper & Firkin – headlining a somewhat smug support band and nailing every second of it. Fun and furious in all the right ways, Rews were a clear win. So much so, in fact, that along with a couple of other acts that we love more than is probably good for us we’ve invited them to play our Christmas bash at the Actress & Bishop (…Sat Nov 25th, 8 quid, for more of this shameless plug click here).
Signing to Marshall Records pretty much around the time we saw them at The Flapper, Rews have been busy building momentum and recording an album over the past year. A busy festival season, some hand-picked showcase gigs and a pretty healthy portfolio of radio plays took care of the first bit, whilst Shauna (Tohill) and Collette (Williams), aka Rews, locked themselves into a studio to deliver the second bit. And the result is Pyro – released on Friday 3rd November, through the amp wielding rock monster that is Marshall Records.
Live, Rews are unassailable. So, then… is Pyro any good?
As I’m listening to Pyro, courtesy of sneaky stream from their management, I’ve got the other ear on Radio One – not a station I usually listen to, but Rews are dropping a triptych of teasers from their debut album during the Huw Stephens Show. I’m steadily working up to my own opinion, but I also want to hear what it sounds like in the middle of Playlist A.
Kicking off (a deliberate metaphor) with ‘Let It Roll’, it’s pretty clear from the start that Rews have come to play – Pyro is not pulling punches, as the album’s opener unleashes an unashamed barrage of grab you by the balls rock. ‘Rip Up My Heart’ continues in the same vein, and I can’t help but think of the heavier end of Seattle in the late 90’s and the first time Mike Patton turned up for rehearsal – but that might just be me.
Tohill has those gifted vocals that can range from an almost conversational calm to a high pitched TEAR YOU FACE OFF ROAR, then duck back under the covers as if nothing ever happened. ‘Violins’, track three as we march through this debut, is a near perfect example of this, backed to the hilt by the animalesque thunderclap machine that is Collette Williams. And trust me, this combo is something quite phenomenal live. Then ‘Shine’, the first taste of this here album, comes out with its slightly darker claws; there’s something unflinching about this track and I want it to push, push, push… but how the hell am I going to throw myself down the abyss in under three and a half minutes?
Then back to the back catalogue, before signatures and deadlines, with two of the pop-rock-fingers-up-slapped-face anthems that dragged us into this chaos in the first place, as ‘Death Yawn’ and ‘Miss You in the Dark’ run over you in quick succession. Rews have an unnerving knack of penning easy to catch earworms, a phrase I’m borrowing for this review, and are absurdly fun with it in the process. ‘Death Yawn’ is perhaps my favourite example of this here (especially when you paint the picture what, and whom, it was inspired by) although both these tracks have been stuck in my head since I first heard them over eight months ago.
Speaking of which, I am a tad dismayed not to see ‘Can You Feel It?’ on the track listing for Pyro. Despite appropriating one of the world’s most tired clichés (and using another for the title) it’s a crazy fun track – one that is not only backed by a great melody, but that explodes with the raw versatility of what two talented people can do if you just let them run. Anyway, not my album. And if I’m being supercilious with my lexicon, plonk me in front of an upright piano and get your own back. Drunk spiders…
Then perhaps the cream of this particular crop, or at least the bright forward face of Rews to come, as the album’s second single, ‘Your Tears’, jumps out like Fonzi over shark infested water (Google it). A simple message of self empowerment, a rough edged beginning, that pause… then a chorus that will napalm itself to your brain. Awesome. The danger for Rews, as with every rising balloon, is how firm is their grip. But if giving them a ticking clock, an advance that one day needs to balance out, and enough public pressure to make any normal human want to curl into the foetal position, brings out tracks like ‘Your Tears’ then the plan seems to be working.
Not, however, for ‘We Explode’. I am always asking Birmingham Review contributors to balance their reviews, what I call ‘the velvet glove punch’, and this is where I rein in my adulation. Not a fan of this track; from the staccato start, across the store bought chorus, and through the Pumpkins appropriated spiral into discord, this is Pyro’s weak link. To me. But go out and buy the album then you can argue me down, I just know Rews can deliver better and I have nine other tracks at hand to prove it.
‘Shake Shake’ quickly remedies this dip, with a restrained verse leading up into the kind of chorus that makes you… well, the title maps the landscape out quite clearly. A cracking song, again awesome live, and one I suspect may have been lined up with ‘Can You Feel it?’ in the track listing lotto.
And to kiss the whole thing goodbye, another wonderfully promising glimpse of Rews to come – as ‘Running Against the Wall’ builds a glorious intro of percussion and keys, into a joint vocal message of fuck you adversity. Then it just rocks. Something Rews do with an unashamed and infectious success rate.
There you have it – one man’s opinion. We laughed, we cried, we drove recklessly and punched a hole in the wall… but I’m backing this band. Rews have proven themselves time and time again in a live setting and now they’ve nailed an album. I sense greenfields, bloodshed and glory. Plus, Pyro kicked the front teeth out of everything that got played around it on the Huw Stephen’s Show, so job done on that front too.
Mark it on a calendar, carve it on a wall; Friday 3rd November, in the year of our Lord 2017. Pyro came to pass. And if anything deserves ornate calligraphy in bull’s blood…
‘Your Tears’ – Rews
Pyro, the debut album from Rews, is released via Marshall Records on Friday 3rd November, For more onRews, including online sales of Pyro and live gig listings, visit www.rewsmusic.com
Rews play at the Birmingham Review Christmas Party (Winter Showcase) on Saturday 25th November at the Actress & Bishop, 36 Ludgate Hill, Birmingham B3 1EH. For more event info, including links to online tickets sales, click here.