Saturday, February 5, 2011

February 5: Noisettes, "Don't Give Up"

Artist: Noisettes
Song; "Don't Give Up"
Album: What's The Time Mr. Wolf?
Year: 2007

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In an era of music that has become increasingly predictable and artificial, fans of "real music" must cling tightly to those few bands that insist on ignoring trends and staying true to themselves.  However, in many cases, once one of these bands gets exposure, they sadly cave to the will of labels and producers, compromising their sound and losing many of the fans that got them to that place.  Unfortunately, this was the case with UK rockers, Noisettes, but thankfully, their 2007 debut will always be available to remember one of the finest bands of the decade.  Combining a raw, stripped down, almost garage-rock sound with some of the most intense rhythms and breathtaking vocals in recent history, it is no surprise that the group quickly gained a large following across the globe.  Their 2007 debut, What's The Time Mr. Wolf? remains one of the most potent recordings of the decade, as there is not a moment of filler anywhere on the record.  Showing their entire musical range, the group proved that even on slower, more reflective songs, they were capable of executing a mood and energy and instantly captured the listener, and this is why the record remains such a fantastic document.  Yet this also makes it difficult to single out one song as their finest, but one can easily argue that everything that makes Noisettes so superb can be summed up on the albums' lead track, 2007's, "Don't Give Up."

The opening guitar scratch from Dan Smith instantly sets the tone not only for the song, but the entire album, as the quick, distorted sound may seem insignificant, but in the overall work of the song, it is perhaps the most important part.  Smith is able to build a fantastic amount of tension in this opening musical phrase, and as it builds, one can feel the "Don't Give Up" beginning to teeter on the edge of chaos.  The other two-thirds of the band quickly drop in, with bassist Shingai Shoniwa bringing a winding, almost intimidating sound to the song, and drummer Jamie Morrison adding an ideal musical sting.  Throughout the song, Shoniwa manages to keep a hard groove in place, and while it is not quite funk, it enables "Don't Give Up" to swing and sway in a manner rarely found in songs with such an energy level.  It is perhaps the level of energy on "Don't Give Up" that makes it stand out so much in comparison to the other music of the time, and yet it is also due to the way in which the group stays so tight, whilst bordering the musical chaos that makes it so exciting.  Furthermore, there is a clear aggression within their playing, and yet Noisettes somehow manage to keep a unique appeal witihn the song that is rarely found in any song with such a personality.  It is this distinctive blend of sound and energy that defines Noisettes, and it only takes a few moments of hearing a song like "Don't Give Up" to understand why they stand as one of the finest bands of the late 2000's.

Along with her work on bass, Shingai Shoniwa possesses what is without question one of the most powerfully unique voices in all of music history.  Showing a range and spirit that both seem completely without limit, her voice and delivery is a reminder of the pure joy that can (and should) come from any and all musical performance.  One can easily feel her presence on nearly every song, but the nearly off-kilter sound she brings to "Don't Give Up" helps to show off all her talents, and it pushes the song to even greater heights.  Along with her diverse approach in terms of her energy, Shoniwa also uses her vast vocal range to enhance the various moods on the song.  Whether it is the softer, deeper, almost growled and strangely alluring vocals on the verses or the unrestrained shouting on the bridge sections, Shoniwa leaves no question as to her lack of limits, and her overall performance is truly stunning.  This sense of musical freedom is perfectly echoed by the lyrics, which have a similar theme throughout the song.  Speaking of persistence on both a small and large scale, the song also speaks directly to the idea of grabbing opportunities such as when she sings, "...she's got a talented face and a suitcase, ain't got no desire to go no place..."  It is lyrics like this that finish off the overall sense of urgency on the song, and the almost breathless way in which Shoniwa delivers the lyrics makes "Don't Give Up" know very few, if any, musical peers.

Capturing everything that makes "real" rock music so fantastic, Noisettes managed to perfectly fuse together punk, hardcore, and the "garage rock" sound throughout their sensational 2007 debut record, What's The Time Mr. Wolf?  The album overflows with energy and amazingly original and captivating musical arrangements, and few albums in recent history "rock" as hard and in as straightforward and honest a manner as one finds here.  The fact that there are songs on the record that have an almost jazz-like feel to them further shows just how talented Noisettes were, and their unique ability to blend together genres that seemingly have no relation.  Capped off by the unmistakably brilliant vocals of Shoniwa, and there is simply no other band in history that can boast a similar sound, and it is this uniqueness that helps the album sound fresh and exciting even after repeated listenings.  Due to their diverse and original sounds, the entire record is a magnificent display of talent and a reminder that "real" music is still alive and can still easily outshine the over-produced, corporate garbage that continues to dominate the musical landscape.  Sadly, the follow-up record from Noisettes would take a sharp turn and much of the edge and energy that defined their debut record was nowhere to be seen.  However, even with this reality, there is simply no denying the magnificent musical and vocal performance found on Noisettes' phenomenal 2007 single, "Don't Give Up."

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