When the celebrated rock writer Nick Kent published a collection of his best work, he chose the title The Dark Stuff. It was a fitting title and perfectly apt for a writer who seems to be drawn towards the great doomed genius-romantics of his selected artform: rock and roll – Kurt Cobain, Roy Orbison, Jim Morrison come to mind.

The Dark Stuff – that gothic romanticism which looks to the amoral, twisted and broken shadowland of human nature – has long been one of the most delicious aspects of rock and roll. Elvis Presley always had a sense of danger and violence just behind his sneering beauty. Gene Vincent, Link Wray, Richie Valens had it. The later more self-conscious Rimbaud-readers such as Jim Morrison, Lou Reed and Nick Cave cultivated it. And rock and roll fans love it, for within its black heart dwells the true rebellion and anti-social cool that has all but been leached out of the form by commerce and the plastic star-system.

Carl Manwarring is a musician in search of the Dark Stuff. His band, The Darkened Seas’ recent eponymous EP, The Darkened Seas contains five pieces of blues-bruised punk-rock that hit that dark mark five times. Hard. And at the recent launch of The Darkened Seas EP a packed Annandale Hotel found out the band’s music has enough rock and roll in it to keep your ass twitching as they drag you down to the bottom with them.

From garage-rocking opener ‘I Give It All’ Manwarring was all intensity and threat – his demeanour not nervous but edgy, not wild but abandoned. This was not 70s style blues-rock, nor purist roots-blues, but blues shredded through the strainer of punk – it calls to mind the Bad Seeds or Jon Spencer, at times even the dervish-like momentum of Junior Kimbrough.

During Doors-dark minor boogie ‘Nighthawks’ Manwarring’s voice and guitar-playing brought to mind Television’s Tom Verlaine, both in timbre and in the way both seem wound too-tight yet flow just fine. The New York thing is there – both ‘Circus Boy’ and ‘Shantyman’ have that Lou Reed economy with punk punch that works to great effect (the band’s name comes from a phrase in Reed’s VU smack-anthem ‘Heroin’). ‘Street Lips’ is a straight 12-bar blues that allows the character and power of the band to really rise up – there is nowhere to hide in this form and bassplayer Alek Cahill, keysman Luke Kirley and firecracker drummer Lozz Benson deliver beautifully. Everything Manwarring’s smart songs throw at them they eat up with a grin and a wink.

Manwarring has obviously steeped himself in the history and masterworks of his chosen musical path and this gives the music heft and dimension. His lyrics also are sharp and original – once again, he knows his shit. Hints of images that are surreal and dislocating (such as the ‘circus life’ of ‘Circus Boy’) recall Jim Morrison or Dylan, with some of his declarations of passion bringing to mind Nicks Cave or Drake. And you sense he means every word too – he is what a good friend calls ‘genuine’.

This is a talent to watch and a band to watch. The Darkened Seas have debuted surprisingly fully-formed in style and sound. They know the road they are on, now all they have to do is follow it and let it take them, and us, somewhere truly special.

 

Published June 2012 on theorangepress.net

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s