When Jake Meeking kindly sent me his band’s album to review, he emphasized the need to remove all distractions, put on some headphones and turn it up really loud. I considered this to be the warbling self-indulgence of artistic passion, ignored it and began listening through my laptop speakers while I set about my daily chores.
40 seconds in I hit the pause button and started checking my diary for ‘chore-free’ time when I could listen to this album the way Jake had suggested, because so distracting and enticing were those opening few seconds, I wanted to make sure my full attention was given to it.
When the time came I plugged in my headphones, turned up the volume, sat back and listened to the alt-blues-jazz-rock of sonic-artistry . The opening few bars of ‘Bigger than me’ really draw the listener in, building with teasing picking and what I believe are background synth sounds, reaching an epic crescendo as the base, drums and Jake’s voice smash into the mix.
‘Bigger than me’ is a massive “Hey! We’re Meeking and this is what we do”. The track continually drops and peaks and develops with some overlapping layers. I listened to it a few times in succession and each time found something new to pique my interest. It’s over 5 minutes long, which some might say is a ballsy move for an opening track, but it needs to be, because there’s so much too it.
The audio quality of the album is fantastic too and makes me think that some serious effort went into the production.
I went to the launch at Moles and track 2 ‘Bury me’ had me grinning as I watched Jake unleashed some beautiful guitar work. It kicks in around the 2min mark and is just delightful, especially if you get to watch it being played.
Cassidy Jones of Tell The Hoi joined Meeking on stage for the third number, “I am because we are”, and the title of the album. Tell The Hoi are another fantastic Bath band and were one of two acts providing support on the night.
The song starts with a bit of pace, but soon slows and becomes more lyrically emotive. The lyrics suggest a feeling of the support you get from your family when you’re facing some of life’s trickier obstacles, possibly homage to the support many artists in the pursuit of success get from their families. It also sets the pace for the next few songs, which are more peaceful than the first few anthemic numbers.
‘204’ is a big contender for my favourite track on the album. It starts with some enchanting guitar noodling, not just from Jake, but latter on from Theo Stevens too, as he throws out volleys of superb base work. This track is flipping majestic!
Track 5 ‘Better man’, again is a slower number, which has some nice soft picking and simple high hat and snare brush work. Jake’s vocals stop about halfway through and allow for some sultry guitar to slowly fade the track out, which provides a fantastic through line into track 6, where things start to pick up pace again.
‘New world’ is another teaser, which builds and then drops just before the crescendo, before building up again, something Meeking have clearly developed as a talent. That’s not to say other bands don’t do the same thing, but Meeking have perfected the tease. Using some gentle guitar riffs, Jake creates an appropriate otherworldly atmosphere, which interchanges with the fuller sound of the chorus.
‘This army’ has a similar opening atmospheric riff to ‘Bury me’, but that drops away and is replaced by some slight distortion on guitar and a return to the more anthemic sounds at the beginning of the album. This is the same for the following song, ‘Wheels’, where the distorted guitar is more evident and Jake really lets loose his laudable vocals.
There is a definite signature to this album, something any band should strive to achieve in their work. Like when you listen to Hendrix or Chili Peppers, there is a quality that immediately identifies who is playing.
The penultimate track, ‘It’s over when it’s over’ has a suitable air of summing up, with elements of a wandering serenade, mixed with a hint of sadness as you realize you’ve nearly reached the end of the album. It’s 6 minutes of evocative music that somehow creates a feeling of nostalgia for an album that you only started listening to half an hour ago.
In contrast the final track is very short and a bit somber, but no less beautiful than the rest of the album and is a nice way to close. However, that being said, at the album launch, Meeking did follow it with a far more upbeat number as a final song of the night.
The gig itself was excellent, with some fantastic performances by the opening acts Tell The Hoi and Newton Country, two bands I’m happy to recommend you see live as soon as possible.
Jake was right about how to listen to this, though I can’t condone listening to anything too loud, having no distractions, my headphones on and the volume turned right up really allowed me to fully embrace the creative skill that went into it.
In all, ‘I am because we are’ is a brilliantly crafted album. I may be wrong, but I sense that real thought and effort went into each track and the way the songs are put together is perfect. The musicianship from Jake, Theo and Glenn is exquisite and it was honestly a pleasure to review.
Written by @LordSkitch
Thank you to Soul Media for the photos
Album launch 21 October 2017