Side project for various members of existing name(ish) bands. Snow Patrol’s guitarist stops Chasing Cars with his day job, for a stint fronting a new band – will this be a cohesive effort or a vanity project for its members, like so many “supergroups”?
Little Matador are a “new” 5-piece band made up of members of existing bands like Idlewild, Bell X1, The Frames and most famously Snow Patrol. The problem with this type of band is that when you listen to their music, you can’t help but compare it with that of the acts that they’re better known for. In this case I am fortunate that I fall into a particular category of music listener – you know the one – the person who reviewers say “you can’t fail to know X, Y and Z unless you have been living on Mars for the past 6 months”. I can confirm that Mars is particularly nice at this time of year, knowing as I do - literally one song by Snow Patrol (Chasing Cars, obviously).
The album opens with the stomping first single “Stitch Yourself Up”. Slightly treated vocals and a pumping riff drive the song along and is a good opening gambit, before a chorus that reveals that Nathan Connolly is a decent lead vocalist and if ever he wants to leave the day job as SP’s guitarist, he will find gainful employment as a singer.
This is followed by second single “Reasons” which has a Biffy Clyro kind of vibe to it and although less obvious than the opening song, this also has a pumping slightly distorted bassline. “Shatter” follows and without being repetitive is more of the same, so we know that the band’s music has a slightly industrial feel to it and definitely falls into the “driving rock” category. “Boom Boom” features a jagged riff and has some neat guitar flourishes before kicking off into an up tempo rocker. Thrilling stuff. “The Night” follows and is a slower number but still rocks. This isn’t normally my sort of thing but it’s so well done that I’m definitely a fan.
“Give and Take” is a slower, laid back song which again showcases Connolly’s vocal abilities. Despite being slower and quite sparse in places, the song reaffirms the darkness of the album’s sound. “Gimme All You Got” follows the driving riff/stomping chorus formula and is one of the longer songs on offer here but it is so well written that it doesn’t outstay its welcome. “Liar Liar” could almost be a punk song with a slightly different production – it certainly has a punk feel to it (complete with swearing and requiste screams/feedback) and is under two minutes long.
“Cheating Heart” has a sort of discordant feel to it again invokes the spirit of Queens of the Stone Age. “This Crooked Wood” opens with a slightly more indie feel before returning to the dark driving metal of the rest of the album and is again a decent song that – like the others – sticks in the memory.
The album closes with the song that is least in keeping with the others. “Leaving Anyway” is just an acoustic guitar, vocals and a minimal keyboard backing. It still fits with the rest of the album but is a bit of a muted ending to what has basically been a rock album.
This album has Queens of the Stone Age and Biffy Clyro as its main touch points – definitely no bad thing when done as well as they are here. There’s also a touch of Nine Inch Nails in there as well. It’s very commendable that Nathan Connolly has stated that he doesn’t want “to trade off the name” and as a result the band are playing small venues on an initial tour to try and start building themselves a reputation as a live band. Clearly they are playing the long game and on the strength of this material, they will be playing in bigger halls very soon – it’s an album that I would happily recommend to fans of the aforementioned QOTSA and Biffy. So to answer the question at the top? This is definitely a band (not just a solo effort from someone disguised as a band) that deserves to make more than just this one very good album.
Download: Shatter, Boom Boom, Give and Take.
Review by Adrian Grainger