Listening to The Cubical’s debut album is a bit like being in a timewarp 40 years ago. Come Sing These Crippled Tunes’ strong brew of blues-garage-psychedelic rock sounds so authentically late 60s that it is hard to believe you haven’t stumbled on a long-lost record now suddenly re-discovered.
While The Cubical share something of the retro style of fellow Scousers The Coral and The Zutons, they are a much raunchier, rougher proposition, proudly bearing the influences of The Sonics, Howlin’ Wolf, Dr John and above all Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band.
The authentic sound is perhaps not so surprising since The Cubical and producer Dave Sardy (whose long list of credits include Oasis, Primal Scream and The Dandy Warhols) recorded the album at the famous Sunset Sounds studio in Hollywood where the likes of Beefheart, The Doors and The Rolling Stones cut their records. And Sardy has done an outstanding job by using just four intensive days there to capture the band’s raw and wild energy.
While the album presents nothing new musically, it’s a helluva buzz to listen to. Lead singer Dan Wilson may sound as if he’s doing a Don Van Vliet impression, but his gruff, gritty and growling vocals are impressively raucous (as though he lives on a daily diet of raw meat, Jack Daniels and Marlboros) even if his lack of range is a limitation, and his bizarrely unsettling lyrics contain plenty of black humour, while lead guitarist Alex Gavaghan comes up with some tasty licks.
Opener Great White Lie is a pulsating blues-rock number, with Wilson warning darkly, “Take your chance/And get away in the night”, accompanied by infectious “Whoa-oh-oh” chanted backing vocals. He continues to roar menacingly in the hauntingly psychedelic Edward The Confessor, amid a mel�e of twangy guitar and swirling organ. The rhythmic frenzy of Poison Pen builds a brooding atmosphere, including the macabre line, “Dance with your own death a while”.
In The Night is a slower blues song with a catchy chorus, while All Is Well is a ballad for acoustic guitar and piano, with Wilson’s delivery giving a more rounded expression than usual, though the generally mellow feeling is belied by the addition of ‘for now’ which hints of storms ahead.
The current storming single Like Me (I’m A Peacock) blows you away with its echoing drums, booming bass and reverberating guitar in a shameless display of male attention-seeking. The equally strong previous single Baby Don’t Treat Me Bad has Animals-type guitar riffs and wailing harmonica plus great backing vocals.
Everything You Touch boils slowly rising to a frenetic climax before subsiding into oblivion. Woman I Need Your Love is reminiscent of Them‘s Baby Please Don’t Go, featuring thundering slide guitar with a bit of a country feel and slide is also used in Ratty where blues meets rock’n’roll. Final track Would Be Lovers is a Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds-style epic murder ballad, containing the memorable lines, “And he told her that he’d sailed the world in the belly of a whale/She just put it down to the ale/Another predatory male.”
Come Sing These Crippled Tunes is an easy album to get into first time round, full of melodic songs with driving rhythms. Inspired as it is by so many artists from the past, it may seem more like a homage or a pastiche than original rock music, but when it’s done so well as this, does it matter?