Eyeplug.net have reviewed the expanded reissues of Everyone’s Got One and On, and very nice reviews they are too. Read on …
Everyone’s Got One (3 Loop Music)
Cast your mind back to the early 90’s, when Britpop was riding high in the charts, led by the unit-shifting behemoth that was Oasis, and their stage-school arch-rivals, Blur. There were plenty more home-grown ensembles swimming in their slipstream, but one which defied the blokey stereotypes and presented some of the most positive, life-affirming tunes of the age, were the multi-cultural Echobelly. Singer and principal lyricist Sonya Aurora Madan, born in India, and Swedish guitarist Glenn Johansson co-wrote the band’s material, and the band had many members over their twelve-year ‘first’ lifetime.
Those discerning folk at 3-Loop Music have re-released Echobelly’s first and second LP’s, and I’ll be reviewing ‘On’ another time. ‘Everyone’s Got One’, comes in a 2-CD edition, leaving plenty of room for singles and bonus tracks that may have passed your notice.
‘E.G.O.1’ opener ‘Today Tomorrow Sometime Never’ hits the ground running, heavy chords and Sonja’s sweet R.P. voice soaring, with a winding chorus and battling guitars rising upward and onward. ‘Father, Ruler, King, Computer’ arrives with a fine brass intro, then those winners’ chords kick in. Sonya’s perfect diction and the clear production ensure the message of the song, a diatribe against the imposition of arranged marriages, does not get lost in the guitar maelstrom.
The first genuine ‘driver’ song, ‘Give Her A Gun’ hammers home a message about the inferior status of women around the globe, and a possible, hopefully metaphoric solution, with its urgent stop/start rhythm and moody drumming. It’s followed by the sublime ‘I Can’t Imagine the World Without Me’, with its cross talking guitars and the voice hitting the heights and flying around the mountain tops with the eagles. I bet Morrissey liked that one.
‘Bellyache’, a swamp of brooding trouble bubbling up, the slight touch of a Bo Diddley beat with Sonya’s voice ringing out over it, and wah-wah guitar creeping in, is an evocation of the deepest pain a woman might suffer. ‘Taste Of You’ is a sweet relief, an acoustic guitar opening, electric guitar arpeggios, those ever-sweet vocals and the guitars flying through the swinging rhythm.
‘Insomniac’, always a high spot of their live sets, has a slow, bluesy intro, commanding guitars, and a sublime vocal performance that takes years off you, sending you climbing up trees like a kid. Surely Echobelly’s finest tune, it can hardly be believed that it only scraped into the Top 50 when released as a single.
More serious subjects are still on the agenda, and the sweet delivery of the heart breaking ‘Call Me Names’ gets its message of alienation, incomprehension and blind prejudice, perfectly. ‘Close…But’ is a little more playful, but it isn’t classic Echobelly, and ‘Cold Feet Warm Heart’s tolling bell guitars and swinging rhythm takes us back to the bar.
‘Scream’s bluesy, distorted guitar intro, and slow, sweet vocal takes us through, ending in a glorious swell of guitars and voice, and a final, angry note. A completely creditable first LP that had a respectable chart showing.
But wait, that’s not your lot. The second CD has a comprehensive collection of B Sides (if such a thing could be said to exist in the CD age) from their ‘Bellyache’, ‘Insomniac’, ‘I Can’t Imagine The World Without Me’ and ‘Close…But’ CDs, and also their Steve Lamacq evening session from February 1994. The alternate take of ‘Bellyache’ has enough distortion and Arabic rhythms to please the average Jesus & Mary Chain fan, and the first, rougher take on ‘Give Her A Gun’ exceeds even the LP version for its arresting power. ‘So La Di Da’ appears a nod to kindred spirits Suede, and although some tracks may have a routine quality to them, the CD is well worth persisting with, to hear those commanding guitars and Sonya’s assured voice let loose on more unconventional material.
On (3 Loop Music)
A welcome re-release of Echobelly’s most successful LP, and packed with extras that take it up to a two-CD collection, ‘On’ makes the ideal companion to 3 Loop’s re-release of ‘Everyone’s Got One’ with its own collection of B Sides and more.
Little seemed to change in Echobellyworld from the debut LP ‘EGO’ to this winning compilation, as ‘Car Fiction’s choppy, urgent guitars demonstrate so well. An excited, ‘us against the world’ track, that leads into ‘King of The Kerb’, arguably their best single, but which, inexplicably, only grazed the Top 30. A high, Arabesque lick, guitar chiming like bells, Sonya’s ‘excited child with BBC newsreader’s diction’ voice, savouring every critical word, in a song which evokes the fading sleaze of Soho in the mid-90’s. The joyous lead-out of guitar arpeggio and carefree voice is worth listening to on its own.
That ‘Great Things’ should prove to be their most successful single is a little puzzling to say the least; a typical barnstormer of a riff, Sonya’s voice a smile in audio form, but some fairly routine lyrics didn’t impress this fan boy at the time. ‘Natural Animal’s winding start, waltz tempo and yodelling vocal is another formulaic piece, but a not unappetising one. ‘Go Away’s thrusting chords contrast heavily with Sonya’s child-like vocal stylings, joyfully delivering melancholic lyrics.
We’re back to some of London’s less fragrant streets in ‘Pantyhose & Roses’, a rising/falling guitar figure proving a good foil to a song of marital discord and the temptations of the flesh. ‘Something Hot In A Cold Country’ has a slow, plodding start but as the melody picks up, and the voice gentle hold of the comforting lyrics, we have a more reflective, engaging and reassuring sort of Echobelly.
A celebratory rocker follows, in ‘Four Letter Word’, then a swinging rhythm, big up song, ‘Nobody Like You’. Clearly aimed at the Echobelly faithful, it builds up, up and still further up, a beautiful piece of work. ‘In The Year’s choppy, muted guitars and childhood memory lyrics sit well with the previous ‘there, there’ message, and the slow, acoustic/electric build-up of ‘Dark Therapy’s unhurried, mutli-layered piece has pretty harmonies and a deftly-handled cacophonous lead-out that makes for a stand-out on this LP.
‘Worms and Angels’ folksy intro after a 1-2-3 count-in (their first?) takes us into another swinger, but one with somewhat dark subject matter. With its allusions to true love and death, this could be an indicator of the band getting bored with their full-on joyful approach, perhaps starting to look at new and more dangerous type of avenues.
The first CD continues straight into B Sides and rarities (do they exist for anyone in this, our age of Kali-Yuga, You Tube?) a mixed bag that pleases and distracts in roughly equal measure. The Cramps-like stomp of ‘Here Comes The Scene’ is followed by ‘God’s Guest List’, a Shadows style guitar figure reminiscent of ‘Man Of Mystery’, and Sonya’s always-sweet voice, is a surprisingly good fit on a CD of otherwise inescapably 90’s rock. Some alt-takes provide some small interest here, but I suspect you, like me, are itching to hear the Wetlands gig from 1995, so we’ll load the second CD.
A great, choppy, discordant version of ‘I Can’t Imagine the World Without Me’ opens, with ‘Car Fiction’ following hot on its heels, its dead-halt ending a killer. ‘Close…But’s bright sound and note-perfect vocal are a joy, and ‘Dark Therapy’s slow intro and distinctly sexy vocal closes with a long, pleasing instrumental.
‘Father, Ruler, King, Computer’ suffers a little from a routine guitar chop, but Sonya’s vocal delivery recalls the late, great Poly Styrene. One of the crowd isn’t slow to show their heartfelt appreciation, either. ‘Give Her A Gun’s bluesy 60’s guitar treatment, complete with vintage fuzz, works well, and ‘Go Away’s storming intro succeeds with this audience.
‘Great Things’ is taken a little slower than normal, and with perhaps less enthusiasm, but ‘Insomniac’ is delivered hard and strong, followed by a glorious ‘King of the Kerb’. ‘Natural Animal’s departure and ‘Pantyhose and Roses’ clear, high standard show Echobelly had plenty of life left in them, on this tour. ‘Today Tomorrow Sometime Never’s live treatment is so close to the recorded version, you wonder you might be listening to the LP it came from.
1995’s four-track Peel Session showcases ‘Four Letter Word’, in fine form, ‘Car Fiction’, with Sonya putting in a full, emotional vocal performance, ‘Pantyhose and Roses’ full of righteous anger, and ‘Go Away’ an enveloped, fuzzy guitar backed up by a powerful riff that goes beyond the hard rock tendency common in Britpop at the time.
Sonya recently caught up with the Britpop Revival website to talk about the expanded reissues of Everyone’s Got One and On. Read on for the full interview:
We were recently delighted to be joined on the show by Sonya Madan from Echobelly, talking about the re-release of their first two albums.
BR: On and Everyone’s Got One have recently been re-released. How did that come about?
SM: We got a call from 3Loop, the company that specialise in this sort of thing, who had done a deal with Sony who own the albums to re-release them, asking if we wanted to be involved or not. They were going to do it regardless so we decided to get involved.
Were you involved in putting the package together at all because there are loads of extras and live tracks etc.
We got out the old boxes of photographs and rummaged through things that had never been heard before. Every artist has got a box full of extra stuff lying around somewhere haven’t they?
There are a few previously unreleased tracks on there and we’ve been playing a few on the show today. We’ve just played Car Fiction in French! Did you do many songs in French?
No, that was a one-off. It was hilarious actually because I didn’t know what I was saying. We did it because we had such a good following in France and they were so supportive so it was just a bit of a thank you really.
It’s only the first 2 albums, your most commercially successful work, that is being re-released but I think that people have to look at Echobelly across all of your music rather than just the big hits.
It’s understandable that if you release something yourself [as they did for their later albums] it’s not going to get the exposure and be that well known. As an artist sometimes your favourite stuff is not the most commercial anyway.
You’re now playing with Calm of Zero, can you tell us a little about that?
Calm of Zero is Glenn the guitarist and myself, we wrote the songs [in Echobelly]. After Echobelly everybody went their seperate ways, settled down, had children, disappeared to live in strange countries but Glenn and I never lost the passion for writing I suppose. We thought we’d do something together and that’s Calm of Zero.
As well as Calm of Zero haven’t you and Glenn also toured acoustically recently as Echobelly?
We did, yeah. This was before the re-releases were even in the air and we thought it would be good to just air some of those songs again because they were hidden in our memories. We did it as a light-hearted sort of thing and just did a few shows around the country. It was quite hard to play some of our songs acoustically so we had to choose them quite carefully.
We’ve got a question from one of our listeners here. What was your best memory of the 90s?
You can’t say one memory because the best times were probably those where you were so off your head you’ve forgotten! They were amazing times and the whole experience was amazing for a lot of people and is something that should be celebrated really. It was a wonderful honing in of the experience of British music and its one of the things that this nation is really good at and is seen by the rest of the world as having a special energy for.
It was a special time when bands just seemed to explode onto the scene and Echobelly were a band like that. You didn’t flog the circuit for 5 years before getting a break…
Not at all. I’d never been in a band before so it was all weird and wonderful for me. I think at our third gig it was just rammed full of A&R people. We didn’t have that transit van experience. We did a bit but compared to most of the people I’ve spoken to it happened very quickly for us.
Didn’t you once do a gig though with no audience?
It was hilarious. It was Braintree in Essex and we had a didgerydoo player that night! It was one of our first ever gigs and there was just nobody. We played anyway, just had fun and did it as a rehearsal really.
Are we going to see you out on the road any time soon?
Probably not. We’re not planning any gigs but never say never.
We’re going to play something from those re-releases now, Dark Therapy. It’s probably the song of yours that we get requested the most.
I think it’s aged really well. It seems to have a universal element to it.
This is a live recording from Wetlands, New York City September 1995. DO you remember that gig?
I think we broke the bar record – heavy drinking was going on that’s for sure!
Thank you so much for joining us, it’s been an absolute pleasure having you on the show and those re-releases are out now on 3Loop music.
Thanks to everyone for their response, it’s really been great for us.
Source: Britpop Revival website
3Loop Music has reissued deluxe, expanded editions of the first two Echobelly albums on CD. Released on 21st July 2014, both albums have been expanded to two discs and feature B-Sides, live recordings, radio session tracks and previously unreleased material. Visit the 3 Loop Music website now to order copies of both albums (signed copies available, whilst stock lasts).