Hark! Is that a Rolls-Royce engine that I can hear puffing away beyond those branches? Perhaps it is. Is that a Beano annual that I have found under my bed? So it is. Is that a Chinnichap riff filling the track ‘In The Woods’ by Jonny Cola and the A-Grades. Yes, it seems so. I must therefore assume that I have been unexpectedly sucked back in time … probably to the golden autumn of 1972.
The opening track of ‘Spitfire’ by Jonny and his A graders is a sweet little pop-rock buzzer with a sincere line in gilded-voiced choruses. It has enough sequinned glam-rock hooks to have your tinfoil cloak snagged for weeks. If you like ‘King Charles’ (LoveBlood) – or more importantly – if you like T. Rex … then this will interest you. And if you never got it off on that revolution stuff … maybe now is the time to give it a try.
The next bespattered track ‘Tropical Beach’ flip-flops down the sunny board-walk like a decadent beach bum on a bikini hunt. It’s a little punkish, but – mostly – it’s just sweetly twee. It’s like an over-stirred cup of treacly Ovaltine. It’s good for you … but don’t have too much. Much like ‘Cockney Rebel’ in their ‘Human Menagerie’ days.
Although jangled and tortured to begin with, the next track titled ‘Straight To Video’ is decorated with a sumptuous cushioning of velvety piano, and a cloying – almost snake-like – guitar sound. This corkscrews itself around the central theme. And the verse is almost spoken. Like a sonnet. It is very reminiscent of ‘Hunky Dory’ era Bowie (1971). It has that same beautiful poetic imagery (“Life on Mars?”) and gorgeous arrangements (“Quicksand”) with a full-blown Mick Ronson-style finale to blow any cobwebs away. It’s a stand-out track.
‘Rain Stopped Play’ is crisp, fizzy and mocking. But this song also includes some truly vintage rock ‘n’ roll sensibility. It reminded us of Bowie’s “Hang On to Yourself” – swinging and significantly boogie-filled. ‘Blow Up’ is slightly more ripe. That ‘Chinnichap’ hum and glitter is still there, but now it can only be found in the folds. This song sounds smooth and cream-cheesy. Like Smokie. Rather than leathery and grubby – like Quatro. But it still has a huge whiff of Brylcreem about it. So it should get the kids dancing at the local hop.
‘Going Over’ is more confusing. A pomander of various spices and colours. A little like Blur. This is a comic-book-hero type of a song. With yeasty guitars that jolt and shudder – and a loopy voice that shines like Cadillac fenders under the midday sun.
‘Semaphore’ has a kind of swaying ‘Classical’ sounding hook that bites deep into your grey matter and will never let go. The profusion of guitars, near the end, gives this piece an urgency it somehow needs – and the guitars tend to ram the whole thing home. This song is as invigorating as it is annoyingly addictive. And the refrain reminded us of “Children of Frost” by the Finnish pop rock band ‘Indica.’
Sometimes I feel like I have woken up with the “Wronghead” on. The whole day then becomes a challenge. And if this ever happens to you … I wholeheartedly advise you to go back to bed and pull the covers tight over your skull. If only Jonny Cola had done that instead of this recording this next track! ‘Wronghead’ starts off with a grainy synthpop beat that reminded us of Trio (Da Da Da) – the piece then transmogrifies itself into a hellish cheesecake of a song. Too much butter icing and far too many sugar strands. God I hated it!
But the concluding track ‘Out Of The Woods’ compensated for any nauseous feelings that remained in my pits. This is a honeysuckle-smoked slowly-oaked Bowie style anthem. Think of “The Bewlay Brothers” to get an idea of what’s going on. The puzzling lyrics are put-putted out against a rhythmic piano, and some smoothly silky guitar streamers. The romantically lush arrangement then leads the listener up a golden path of expectation towards a plateau of nostalgia-filled dreaminess.
So take another sip of Ovaltine and lie back. Let 1972 back into your heart.