Freitag, 21. Februar 2014

Puppet Rebellion - 'No Means Yes': no puppets on a string, authentic and straightforward music makers, keen and rebellious music making

Music has its own voice. One that speaks up, stirrs and fascinates with intensity, one that moves and lingers on with smooth vibrancy. It unleashes a narration, one of growth and change, personally experienced or depicted somewhere else, one of cherished memories, sentimental, lyrical, cordial moments of life, now and then, of history, made and recalled. Either whispered or heralded, it is able to bestow a glimpse of alien, yet not unfamiliar stories on you - as long as its echo lasts - and makes you embrace tales told, evokes empathy and understanding for what messages are conveyed. It's indeed the music's voice that bears the message of a song, it's the sound though that transports and makes it audible, accessible to the listener as the instrumentation and vocals equally make demands, call for the listener's best attention and lure him in once he has been attracted by the tonal dimensions unfolding, the lyrical contents revealing themselves. It's a balanced, interveawing yet accentuated interaction between both the music's voice, id est lyrics and message, and its sound, id est instrumentation and vocal performance. Whilst each instrumental layer contributes to create an inviting atmosphere for the message to be heard, the vocals carry it out, they make the audience believe the words sung, allow them to welcome the melodies that envelop and support the compositional subtext. Eventually the point is reached when the audience opens up, trusts what the vocalist is content to share, as it is charmed by his degree of emotional involvement, taken in by his honest, though to a certain extent imaginative approach to music. His music.

It is obvious that it's not the listener's first concern to learn whether the musician speaks from own or 'loaned' experiences anyway, he's rather sensitive for and appreciative of the artist baring his soul in front of him, letting him witness an inspiring, intense, somehow sentimental moment in the process of music making: it's when a song reaches out to the listener, when both lyrics and sound speak to him at last - after months spent by musicians to breathe heart, soul, life into it. It's a mesmerizing moment, a magical moment, one that comes in naturally, if the musician behind the composition understands what it takes to avoid artificial, exuberant and pretentious songwriting and arrangement, and instead let the music's voice and sound speak for themselves.

Manchester's very own rock outfit Puppet Rebellion have understood. With 'Chemical Friends' (2013) the band has made an applaudable debut showcasing that it's the lyrics where it's at. Dealing with topics such as pretence and conformity, the band encourages to escape routine, monotony and hypocrisy, commends to stay true to oneself and strike one's own path with confidence, alerts not to aim for fitting in unconditionally, but to trust and follow one's nature and believes. It's straightforward (social) critisicm yet of the light kind and comes in with sharp and perky vocals, able to scratch and tickle your mind, with a tense and vibrant sound, a laid-back one still, leaving room for the lyrics to grown on the listener.

Moving on with their second EP 'No Means Yes' Puppet Rebellion stayed true to their music's voice by maintaing the lyrics' trenchant, forthright and intense character, yet began to be more audacious and diversified in sound, as the record's tracklist introduces the listener to dynamic and brisk but also to less edgy, nonetheless pungent compositions.

Embrace staggering and orotund drum beats, tension preluding, brisk riffage, an imbuing bass undercurrent to set the stage for pointed, clean and expressive vocals. As they lament about an unsteady, failed relationship, the steady tonal enviroment allows them to shine and stress the lyrics. Merging, almost fuzzy instrumental bits soon adapt to the more aggressive and vigorous vocals of Simon, shouting out accusations with certain bitterness, yet also with emerging serenity: 'You've been lying to him, you've been lying to me, what have you achieved?' The anticipated, most certainly rousing chorus is then first delayed by a shaky yet suspenseful interlude, heralding: 'So I made my escape from the great unknown', then replaced by a swirling instrumental solo. Dimly resoanting, rhythmic drum beats and an escalating yet thoughtfully framed guitar arrangement convey the impression of losing oneself in the vast tonal landscape unfolding here. A felicitous escape in music has come about for the listener indeed. After that we're back to the steady, still atmospheric tonal setting of 'Pirouette', taking notice of edgy vocal moments, waiting for a thrilling change in sound once more. After the blurred yet gripping interlude played for a second time, we're given what we have been craving for: an impetuous instrumental finish with strong vocal highlights - it's an evocative and striking interaction between guitar and bass melodies, there's even a slightly frantic touch to them, eccentric instrumental depth is revealed. We're eventually left with a confindent lyrical and tonal resolution: 'So I made my escape from the great unknown.' For good.

'Cupboards Painted Red' depends on an arousing, poignant tinge of both lyrics and melodies. With its sweeping instrumental intro, the bright and brassy, emphatic cymbal resonance, the vivacious guitar riffs and ponderous drum beats, the listener is eluded to believe the track doesn't bring along heavy, cloudy content - way off the mark
Vibrant, incisvely pulled, soon high pitched vocals gloomily admit: 'You left me with no place to hide.' They bear witness to despair, a feeling of no belonging, of being neglected. Contrary to this lyrical confession, the second song on 'No Means Yes' unrolls serenely, in a rather frisky spirit and merges into an ambient, ardent and absorbing brief instrumental episode which sets up the song's outburst. 'You never meant so much to me, and I'll be waiting patiently for you' - a rising, elusively echoing, explosively seeming melodic arrangement resonates, accompanied by smooth and stirring vocals, screaming for help. The persona speaking within the composition, revealing himself to the empathic listener, nonetheless hopes for someone to point him a way out of his uncomfortable situation - lyrics and instrumentation tell so candidly: 'Lets turn a new page now', echoes several times, as the spirited, swift and avid key melody proceeds, embodies hope, as the persona's screams for help continue, leaving the audience in the dark about his future.

With 'Loner In Disguise' Puppet Rebellion have come up with an appolonian, reservedly streaming, still fervent composition, lacking any conspicious vocal and tonal highs or lows, quickly unveiling catchy and dashing hooks though. Whilst vivifying drum beats, energetic and keen riffage moves effortlessly forward, atmospheric, imbuing yet distant vocals genuinely recite: 'You're searching for someone to blame, what are you hoping to change?' In a firm and more feisty vocal response the solution is given immediately: 'Change yourself, change each other, free your mind to rediscover'. As simple as that, the song also grows easily on the listener - rather unchallenging in sound but pushing, minimalist yet with great effect.

'Green Eyed Monster' - the name says it all: there is an undeniably aggressive and forceful attitude about the fourth track of Puppet Rebellion's second EP. Cocky, bold and tense vocals support this impression, but there is more to the song than a ponderous, slightly bluesy bass line, than vehement and continuously sonorous drum beats, than fierce and erratic, therefore exciting and audacious guitar riffs. The sharp and dynamic overall sound, the severely challenging and dramatically flaring guitar sequence in the second half of the song impose beyond any doubt, what is most conspicuous about the composition are the lyrics though. As little as 'Green Eyed Monster' is controlled in sound, neither are those people who are jealous of the persona's affluence. Being 'a man of means', as he entitles himself, the track's persona blames others for letting their green-eyed tendeny determine their life and converse, and demands them to let him be if they can't fight it. It's a daring and cocky request, even worth to consider insolent, yet it's bluntly and confidently expressed, what makes it confusingly charming.

Remixes are there to bring something new to the table, to emphasize strong characteristics of the original song, yet to grow apart from the known measures and patterns, being audacious and risky, creating something colourful and complex. With his rendition, Cai Caslavinieri introduces 'Chemical Friends' in its familiar keen and electrifying buoyancy yet adds eclectic, erratic, eccentric and grave electronic layers to the picture. The in a good way provoking and obtrusive, orotund virtual percussion elements, the deep and vague yet incisive beats, catch the listener's attention immediately, it's the vocals distortion, their nonetheless vehement and clear colour of sound that commandingly communicates the song's message though: 'It's not the way your life should be, get out if you want to', accentuated by tense and jumpily wandering riffage.

Perambulating the tonal landscapes of 'No Means Yes', dwelling on the atmospheric and thrusting sound of 'Pirouette', on the ambient, moving and involving sound of 'Cupboards Painted Red', on the languorously melodic and vibrant sound of 'Loner In Disguise', on the evocative and rebellious sound of 'Green Eyed Monster' or exploring new, absorbing shades of 'Chemical Friends', the listener is always drawn back to the vocals' expressivity, their vigorous effect that puts emphasis to the thoughtout, thought provoking and reflective lyrics. Its the music's voice that lingers on, strongly, affectingly, pensively

.. and with it resonating inside, carpe carmina says 'NO' to Puppet Rebellion's second EP, as No means Yes this timeIt's an approval to a powerful, spirited and thoroughly thought through music concept, one that knows how to convince on both tonal and lyrical level, knows how to capture in an intense and suspenseful manner.

Full of praise for the band's second EP is also the canadian music blog onefourzeroplus (Michael's perceptive understanding of, sensitive involvement in Puppet Rebellion's songs gonna make you crave to promptly listen to the music the Manchester foursome presents! And believe me, it's an audible progression they made as musicians ever since releasing 'Chemical Friends' in 2013, it's more straightforward, dynamic and characteristic in both sound and lyrics). 

Enough said now, let the music speak (up) for itself

... reach out to the band (members) on twitter ...

... find the band on facebook ...

... listen to their songs on soundcloud ...

... check on their official website for gig information and updates  ... 

... get a physical copy of 'Chemical Friends' ...

... and last but (sure) not least: witness them launch their second EP 'No Means Yes' on Feb. 22nd at Gullivers. Puppet Rebellion gonna be supported by The Darlingtons, The Wax Collection and David Liversidge. Doors open at 7pm, tickets £6 (all SOLD OUT already).

Update: Puppet Rebellion have sadly parted with Simon Monaghan, yet found an ace singing sucessor in Oliver Davies


  1. This is an incredible review. Puppet Rebellion's music has really grown with this second EP, and you have captured it extremely well. The introduction gives kind of a birds eye view of the their music in general, then you progressively narrow the focus to the specifics of each song. Very clever, and it does this great EP justice. As always, I appreciate reading your reviews as you have the ability to fully characterise the music. Definitely a piece that will get people excited for this amazing EP. Kudos to both you and Puppet Rebellion!

  2. .. and even your comment is so wonderfully written, Michael! Thank you so much for the kind words, kudos goes out to you too as your song by song review of the EP is an AMAZING piece of writing as well, gets to the very core of Puppet Rebellion's music!