Give Me Memphis’ roots can be traced back nearly 30 years back to the Newport (Wales) punk/indie/non-popular scene, to the point where they were almost regular fixtures on the early Cheap Sweaty Fun (legendary local promoters) gigs put on at a variety of venues/dives in the city. Despite that presence, it wasn’t until the late 1990s that a debut album became a reality so it should come as no surprise that the band has taken another generation or so to release a follow up.
At this stage I’ll hold my hands up to knowing one of the current members of the band very well but I have ensured that this review is un-blinkered by that acquaintance. I’ll also say that I’ve not heard the first album, nor am I able to recall much at all of those gigs so I won’t be comparing this release to previous work. Therefore, I’m came at this full of expectation and curiosity, hoping for an enjoyable listen from a band which has been linked to the Three Johns throughout its career.
“Mix and Match” is not what I was expecting either as for some reason I thought the sound might be of the Americana genre but I’m quickly forced to reappraise that thoughts. What is on offer is something that is probably best quantified as “alternative” as this is not mainstream pop-rock nor does it fit into any one particular genre/sub-genre other than reminding me of a wide range of bands. What is evident is that the musicianship is what you would expect from folks for whom you would not use the phrase “spring chickens” and the guitar work, especially, is what stands out for me. These guys know what they’re doing and have constructed an album that is full of hooks, melody and catchiness which has surprised me in how often many of the songs just pop into my head without me even trying to conjure them up for myself.
Across the 12 tracks I hear moments of bands such as Squeeze, XTC, the Stone Roses, the Tansads, Meat Puppets and Dinosaur Jr, and that’s without the Welsh indie-ness that comes primarily through the vocals of Ken Moore. There is no doubt that there is a sense of this being a record that has its roots back in the late '80s and early '90s but without needing to do so in an overly nostalgic and rose tinted way. However, that’s not to say that this doesn’t sound fresh as it clearly is a record of 2012, moving forward as much as it is taking sneaky peaks over its shoulder.
At no time does Give Me Memphis seem to veer from a fairly unhurried approach, with none of the songs really kicking into anything beyond mid-tempo with one of the best examples being “Helen Heaven” which is impossible not to sing along to. Such a leisurely attitude might sound dull to some but I found it pleasing and relaxing to listen to an album that doesn’t want to rush through from start to finish, conversely the band seems happy to take its time in delivering small packages of musical goodness with some humorous and to be honest, just plain weird, lyrics.
Despite that laid back feel there are times when tracks have a bit of punch about them and when the band goes for it the results such as “Ocean’s Almanac,” “We Use (Dog)” and “Vultures” are hugely entertaining in addition to the other tracks. I was pleasantly surprised by this record and the way it’s eased itself into my life, showing no signs of wanting to depart and be forgotten, says a lot about its quality.
A final note for anyone who likes such information is that former Darling Buds vocalist Andrea Lewis lends her vocal cords to “Snowing.”