Adrian Cooper has been unwell

Old reviews that are no longer available online, or from sites that no longer exist. The pen is dead, long live the camera.

Sunday, November 08, 2009


Popular perception often says that in order for a band to have any chance of recognition that they either have to come from London, relocate to London, or play a London gig at least once a month. Now, this shouldn’t be the case, but as with all self-fulfilling prophecies, once something has been accepted as true, then it becomes true.

Fortunately, there are exceptions to this rule. Sometimes it’s possible to override the lazy and myopic views of both the industry and the punters and prove that it is possible to overcome such obstacles as an apathetic local population and put yourself on the map, no matter where you happen to be located.

Gather together enough like-minded and similarly determined people; form some bands and find a venue sympathetic to your cause, or at least willing to let you use its back-room for a nominal return, and all of a sudden you’ll find that other individuals and bands will gravitate towards you and, lo, a scene is born.

This is how things went in Bristol in the mid to late ‘90s. The Pull The Strings collective centred around a handful of bands – of which Soe'za were one of the more prominent – a local pub venue and a connection with Southern Records that allowed the added bonus of regular gigs from the likes of Les Savy Fav, Sweep The Leg Johnny and 90 Day Men.

Released in 2000, Soe'za’s debut album, ‘Founded By Sportsmen And Outlaws’ proved them to be the British contemporaries to the Check Engine; a record rammed full of jazz-punk licks melded with, and tempered by, hardcore tendencies that grew out from the taut cadence of dual drums and agitated guitars. But what really set Soe'za out was the way in which this was dressed with cornet and French horn, offering a glimpse of musical sophistication rarely encountered within the confines of your average provincial pub gig.

Then, as is so often the way, circumstances got the in the way of progress. Due to the rather incestuous musical environment in Bristol, where everyone seems to be in about eight bands at once, Ben Shillabeer and Aaron Dewey left the band to pursue their other commitments in the Playwrights, while other members disappeared on prolonged sabbaticals.

All of which means that Soe'za’s second album, ‘Why Do You Do?’, gradually assumed that often-dreaded mantle of long-awaited, while a low-key existence meant that they almost dropped off the radar outside of the south-west.

Thankfully, ‘Why Do You Do?’ has finally found its way out of the primordial fog, via Nottingham-based indie label Gringo, and set about re-establishing Soe'za’s profile.

When compared to ‘Founded By Sportsmen…’, Soe'za’s sophomore album strikes you as a different sort of beast, more restrained and less frenetic. Jenny Robinson’s move away from the second drum kit means that there is more opportunity for her softer, more soulful voice to provide a foil to Ben Owen’s rapid-fire undulating stream of consciousness lyrical flow. The scattershot drums remain, but they’ve since been joined by rolling rhythms that sound as if they’ve dropped straight off a Salaryman record, while album closer ‘Wounded Hounds And Their Treatment has more than a hint of Karate’s sparse notes and whispered vocals about it.

The only question left should by why do you do what? But once you’ve heard Soe'za, the only thing you’ll want to do is dance, and the reason you’ll want to do that is because it’s impossible to not do so. Time to get yourself both the albums, and put your dancing shoes on.

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