Monday, October 10, 2011

The Good Natured: A Review Of The US Debut - Skeleton

I know exactly why I already like The Good Natured so much.

There are two reasons: their songs are catchy and, in frontwoman Sarah McIntosh, they have one of the most formidable presences in UK rock-pop at the moment.

The band has put out 2 EPs in England already and, on October 25, those of us in America can get our hands on their debut US release Skeleton, a 7-song EP on Astralwerks.

But it's that Siouxsie-heir in 20-year-old Sarah McIntosh that makes The Good Natured such a bold new act.

Equal parts sex symbol and amazingly confident and forceful vocalist, Sarah McIntosh leads what is one of 2011's best new bands (never mind that the band did record in the UK prior to this year).

Joined by her brother Hamish McIntosh on bass and George Hinton on drums, Sarah marches The Good Natured through catchy electro-pop: think Ladytron; think early O.M.D.; think classic Anne Clark (for those of you of my generation).

Those influences are all admirable ones but how are the tunes?

"Your Body Is A Machine" is female Gary Numan, all sleek lines and subdued passion. This is the sound of a human fighting against what's soulless. Sarah's carefully modulated vocal performance here is a lovely thing. You could imagine this song working just as well with simply her voice and an acoustic guitar.

And now on to the insanely catchy "Skeleton" -- what a song! One listen lodged this cut firmly into my skull and the mix of those Kate Bush-"Hounds of Love"-keyboard bits and those Siouxsie and the Banshees-"Spellbound"-drums is just a marvel! Sarah's voice soars, the keyboards swirl, the melody kicks in, and things gallop forward.

What makes this song one of the surprises of my recent listens is that it so effortlessly bridges the worlds of pop and alternative. "Skeleton" reminds one of an era when The Cure could hit the US Top 40 charts and never lose any of their hardcore fans.

Just a great, great single.

"Wolves" is similar in its effect. There's a Depeche Mode-like keyboard chirp that seems to guide the song. Sarah's voice sounds a bit angry here but the chorus coasts along with a sense of joy:

"Wolves will take me home!"

Again, like the best Gary Numan, the drums sound real and not preprogrammed. For all his prowess as an electronics pioneer, Numan -- like Eno before him -- understood the power a live drummer could bring to a tune and Hinton brings that power here.

"Be My Animal" opens with a light keyboard figure like something we'd hear from David Sylvian's Japan. The song is anchored by the percussive elements and, despite those clangs-and-clacks, remains a relatively straightforward single. Probably the most accessible cut on this EP, "Be My Animal" is catchy and relatively upbeat, transferring something slightly transgressive into the stuff of mainstream pop.

Sarah's most interesting vocal work is on "Prisoner" with the multitracking making it sound like an army behind her. The rhythm section of Hamish McIntosh on bass and George Hinton on drums really holds this cut together. As Sarah trills and howls, those guys pound out the hooks behind her.

"Hourglass" is -- dare I say it? -- a pretty song! Less obviously forceful than the other hits on this EP, the song is a great showcase for these three musicians. It took Siouxsie a good 5 albums to sound this human but Sarah's done it on her group's first US EP! Think that trace of vulnerability you heard in Siouxsie's voice on "Party's Fall" -- "Hourglass" is that good.

And, to bring things to a close, there's an interesting remix of "Skeleton" on the EP as well. The single gets stretched into near-dub shapes and the scattershot keyboards and thumping bass give the familiar tune a new flavor.

I can't wait to hear what these 3 Brits do next!

Get Skeleton from The Good Natured as soon as it's released here!

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In America, buy Skeleton from The Good Natured on here (available October 25).