Tea Time Music is this new indie record company in Jo'burg who, on the basis of this the first release on their label, are soon going to be big players in the burgeoning SA rock market. Tea Time Music have four hot new bands on their hands and instead of going the one-EP-per-band route, have released this compilation which features four songs by each of the bands at a very reasonable selling price. It is an idea that works as both an effective marketing exercise as well as extremely good value with its 16 new and hot tracks.
The four bands featured here are FUZiGiSH, Tripping Billy, Ethel My Love and Mao. They have all been playing around the Gauteng area for the past few years and all seem to be mining the same heavy-rock territory which gives this collection a consistency of style, although each band manages to establish their own particular identity and sound. FUZiGiSH kick off the programme with the jangly, Stray Cats-ish 'How Rude' and their Modern Rock Chart-topper 'Drivin''. Their sound is hard and tight with clean guitar lines and crisp vocals. 'No 17' slows the pace down a little before vocalist Jay-P lets his testosterone take over with their manic punk moshed tribute to that "ball-machine" 'Louise'. Lovely stuff!
Up step Tripping Billy with their four contributions, slightly less berserk with a powerful yet understated guitar backing to Dan Berkowitz's intense lyrics and vocals. 'For Frank' and 'Second Best' are well-worked and arranged. Guitarist Gavin Steingo wrings all manner of screeching emotions out of his instrument with a patience and looming presence not heard since the days of Free. 'Tastes Like Sugar' and 'Tumble In The Hay' are slower numbers with Berkowitz crooning his "backstreet loving and a little bit of f-cking"-type of emotionally expressive words with his band working hard to support him.
Ethel My Love are a change of pace from their heavier labelmates. With a sound best described as Jonathan Richman fronting the Buzzcocks, the Ethels offer four snappy, happy pieces of power-pop. 'Resentful Awareness' is all chainsaw guitars and yearning vocals with Modern Lovers-ish harmonies and ooh-wey-oos. 'Blissful Love' is just that: vocalist Paul Dylan (mmm, real name??) has a sweet and genuine style that makes lyrics like this, which would sound trite and soppy if sung by anyone else, sound ecstatic and truly "blissful". 'I Suck' and 'Jelly Bean' up the pace a little with just the right amount of self-deprecation and lack of confidence that these lyrics deserve.
Mao are the senior citizens in this crowd. Their repertoire has been described as a variety of styles from mbaqanga to folk trip-hop and that's not half of it. 'I'm Going Up' is a bluesy jig similar to the stuff currently being covered by the Alabama 3. But then it's straight into the drum 'n bassy 'Have A Nice Day' with its crunchy guitar chorus and strange background sounds. 'Cease To Exist' slows the pace down again with an acoustic ballad that threatens to erupt into a noise but doesn't, contenting itself to groove along at its own speed. Mao's radio favourite 'Enigmatic' finishes off this compilation with style, swing and suss.
Overall this is a damn fine CD that adequately showcases the individual talents of these four bands as well as the general taste and vision of Dan Joffe and his hot new label. If you really want to support SA music and don't want to feel cheated when you do buy something "local", then this great Tea Time Music compilation should be top of your shopping list.
Stephen "Sugar" Segerman
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