Record review: Alabaster Jones – The Night Before The Morning After

image003Warning: keep a clean pair of pants nearby when listening to this record.

Having had the pleasure of seeing Alabaster Jones play to a tiny crowd on the Classic Grand’s bottom floor, I was very exited to get this EP.

I remember them as fun, likeable funk amateurs who were the only band (apart from mine) to provoke any movement out of the kids, despite not having much of a much of a following at that time, but that was February 2012, and I’d dismissed them as just another group (albeit with one great song: look up ‘Grease The Wheels (Bring Me The Butter)’).

However, the fact that they’ve kept at it (and actually made an EP of originals, as opposed to banging out funk classics) made me wonder what they’d been doing.

So, from the very first horn scream on ‘Man Up’, an insane hook that wouldn’t sound out of place in an Ibiza club, it’s clear the Jones brothers’ ability (and confidence) has skyrocketed since their humble beginnings.

They explode out at you, larger than life and ready to jam.

The grooves are tighter than the suits they wear, the solos are impeccably wild – they sound unstoppable.

Using the clever incorporation of horns to beef up their sound as an example, Alabaster Jones have improved in every way, and the time they’ve spent perfecting their sound in the studio is clear; the production doesn’t pull you inside the music so much as strap you in and send you down the Alabaster Jones rollercoaster.

Brass and guitar butter you up from each side, the rhythm section could bulldoze you at any moment, and singer Paul Loughran jumps in and out of it all like a demented ringmaster.

It’s like you’re in the very club they sound like they’re rocking, right down at the front with your shoes well and truly worn out, and the night isn’t even half over yet.

Of course, it’s not just the music that ticks boxes; any lyric in this genre that flows well with the band should be commended, and Loughran’s do the job of providing something to sing along to after a few listens, even if they do focus on the most cliché topics in funk.

In case the title hadn’t given you a clue, this is a record obsessed with the fine art of partying and making sweet lurve, and the lyrics certainly follow suit on these themes.

And, yeah, they’re not exactly Nobel-worthy, but since when was funk judged on anything else but the feel of it?

Besides, their superficial nature only adds to the easy-going, charming atmosphere, and with a voice like Loughran’s, all the rest have to do is play their hearts out.

They do, and with the band’s identity cemented, ‘Man Up’ is followed by their best song yet.

‘Testify’ combines everything they’ve been aiming for; full of hooks, great vibes, and stellar playing from all involved, while all non-believers are reminded that really, it “ain’t nothing but a party”.

You’d have to be a stone cold goth to not enjoy it.

From then on, all they have to do is not play a ballad, and while ‘Lady Killer’ inevitably feels like a comedown after the brilliance of ‘Testify’, it’s a nice mashup of the previous two tunes, with the callouts suggesting it’ll work better live.

Well, they’ll all work better live – they’ll bring down the roof live.

At the end of it all, the thrill wears off and you realise that these songs sound like a million others you’ve heard before but that’s the reason this band are great at what they do.

They don’t want depth, or layers, or expansive themes in their music, there’s too much of that rubbish around already.

No, what does Alabaster Jones want to do? Rock your socks off, make your feet tap like a puppet whose strings are controlled by a metronome, get the endorphins conga through your veins and slap you thoroughly around with da funk.

They want to make you dance, and they take their work very seriously.

It’s an easier job than most artists have, but doing it as well as this is nigh impossible, and The Night Before The Morning After taps right into the essence of music.

It establishes them, as their Facebook info proclaims, as “Glasgow’s resident funk fiends”.

In other words, professionals and God knows we need funk right now, with the onslaught of mega-serious rock bands arid of all fun, pop acts arid of all creativity and simpering folk artists arid of all spark coming in from all sides.

It’s pure emotion, pure fun, ain’t nothing but a jam.

Words: Andrew Maguire

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