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Freebass - It's A Beautiful Life (Album Review)

Saturday, 11 September 2010 Written by Adam Simpson
Freebass - It's A Beautiful Life (Album Review)

It is with sadness that I write this album review, as Freebass announce that they have split, just days before they finally release their debut album, It’s A Beautiful Life, some six years since the Freebass concept was formed.

The original formula of three Manc bass playing legends, never quite came off as expected, with Andy Rourke, formally of The Smiths moving to New York in 2009, however he does appear on this record. But to put Peter Hook “Hooky” of Joy Division and New Order, Gary Mounfield “Mani” of The Stone Roses and Primal Scream and Andy Rourke “Rourkie” of The Smiths together and you have something rather special in my opinion.

ImageAll bass players with huge Manchester groups (with the exception of Primal Scream), it is the sounds that these players made that created a very distinctive Manchester sound and ultimately began the Madchester revolution. If you look back to groups such as Magazine, A Certain Ration and then the groups that these players were involved in, it is the bass that stands out. Warm, up front notes which carry the sound from the stage and from your stereo.

Hooky’s bass in particular demonstrates this, he developed a very distinctive, high plodding sound when with Joy Division, which he later developed into his “Bass Riffs” when with New Order, just take ‘She’s Lost Control’, arguably the most effective and distinctive bass line ever written. It is this that has made Hooky one of the world’s most regarded bass players and let’s be honest Rourky and Mani where no slouches either.

So Freebass allowed audiences to once again here the throbbing notes from these members of rock royalty, but they also brought a very special voice to many more ears. Freebass auditioned a series of guest vocalists before deciding on Gary Briggs of Haven and The Strays. Gary has one of the best male rock voices in the UK right now and he is also another show of talent to come from the city of Manchester. It may always rain there, but the music keeps coming and coming strong.

So the album, It’s A Beautiful Life, released on the 20th September. It is not the greatest record ever made and I think I would be insulting the members of this recently disbanded group if I said otherwise. Remember, the members of Freebass are responsible for hits such as Love Will Tear Us Apart, Blue Monday, How Soon Is Now and Fools Gold. However it is certainly a good album, as expected the bass is brilliant and listen hard enough and you can hear each player’s signature sounds, within the low frequency warmth. Accompanied by drums, guitars, samples and sounds, depth and melody is added to an already large sound, which Gary Briggs polishes with his fantastic, gravelly vocals.

The great thing about this album is that Freebass have not tried to repeat what they have done in the past; it is completely new and fresh. There are elements that you can pick up on if you listen hard enough admitted, but the overall sound is completely their own.

Its Not Too Late is a good track, a melodic indie affair with probably the nicest bass sound of all the tracks. Its jangly intro sounds like a Libertines track, but it soon settles into a sound which is entirely their own and unmistakably filled with warm bass. Lady Violence stands out also, fuzzy rock and an atmospheric distance between the musical and vocal elements. Hooky’s chorus bass is exceptional and very trademark and it is that bass and the awesome guitar riffs that make this track.

Secrets And Lies is another fantastic track, melodic and upbeat, this track is the closest that we come to Hooky’s New Order riffs. There is quite an 80’s sound on offer from the music, which Gary Briggs sings over sensationally, his emotive vocals work brilliantly and the up and down nature of the track, show his vocal ability and also his range. She Said is another excellent track, with the similarity between Gary’s voice and that of Kelly Jones, coupled with the heavy, indie rock sound, this song initially sounds like a late Stereophonics track, a compliment indeed. The guitar riffs that flow over the deep bass sound are fantastic, howling affairs with lots of distortion.

Overall this is a very good album, not excellent and not the best work any of these bass playing greats have ever been involved with, but it is still very, very good. It is a shame Freebass are no more, I would love to have seen where the music may have taken them and what experimentation may have come from Hooky and Mani, 2 guys, very involved in electronic music during their New Order and Primal Scream days.

Gary Briggs is an absolute sensation and it is fantastic to hear the bass playing legends rock together on this album which brings together Northern Soul, Dub, Krautrock, Indie and Rock. The Double CD release, which goes on sale on September the 20th, also includes 3 exclusive tracks and a second CD of instrumentals.

Stereoboard Rating. 8/10.

Main Image courtesy of Tony Tinegate. http://www.TKPFimages.com

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