It is a cold and rainy Tuesday afternoon when I make my way to Brighton to see O.W.L.S. in the charming Prince Albert pub. I have been wanting to see this band since they got together not long ago, as I knew half of their members from my ill-advised past as a someone who hangs out with bands a lot (NOT a groupie). To be precise, singer/guitarist Toby and guitarist Richie were previously in Stone Gods, a band that also included Dan Hawkins of The Darkness fame and ex-Bush drummer Robin Goodridge. Now however, they have teamed up with Oliver Wickham and Stephen Gilchrist to unleash some heavy duty grunge on the world. Or as they describe it themselves, 94,5% pure rock ‘n roll. Their EP The Rite Of Spring has been out for a few months and sounds very promising, so I am eager to see if the band will be as good live.
First on were Mohit. Not a bad band by anyone’s standards, but they were kind of like that really serious boyfriend you have when you’ve 16 who is really into experimental prog rock and thinks songs with melodies are too commercial. Nevertheless they are enjoyable to watch and are clearly skilled musicians. The second band are She Crazy. They are very enthusiastic and it is most definitely rubbing off on the audience. They serve up some excellent catchy songs, while repeatedly jumping off the tiny stage into the crowd.
When O.W.L.S. take the stage it immediately becomes clear they are a very experienced bunch of musicians. No one could have guessed they haven’t already been touring in this line-up for years, yet they don’t sound like they’re playing on auto-pilot. They launch right into their set of catchy, very well-written songs and deliver them with force. Their material is very heavily influenced by Nirvana’s debut album Bleach, their song Only Joking actually sounds like it could have been an obscure recording by the infamous Seattle band from a brief and usually overlooked period in music history when Kurt Cobain was suddenly a very technically skilled guitarist, but in their defence, there really aren’t that many other bands doing the grunge thing right now. Also, they most definitely bring some more influences to the table. The excellent Go To Your Happy Place hints at Britpop, perhaps unsurprisingly when half of the band have been in Graham Coxon’s band for years, and their love for heavy metal is also apparent at times. Toby is clearly a very talented songwriter and I find myself humming their upcoming single Hurt Janine for the next two days.
In the end, O.W.L.S. are simply a band made up of some very talented individuals and it’d be hard for them not to do a half-decent job at any genre, but grunge is working for them very well. Looking forward to the album.