THEE ESCAPEES - BREAKING OUT WITH
Thee Escapees - Breaking Out With…
Released: 23rd October 2022
Reviewed by Kate, 4th November 2022
Thee Escapees are:
Alan Walshe - vocals, lead guitar and organ
Dave Prince - drums, vocals, screams and piano on ‘Shed No Tears’, lead vocals on 'Traffic Light'.
Mark Farrington - bass guitar and vocals.
Jim Riley - Harmonica
Artwork by Bruce Arthole
Label: Spinout Nuggets
Many bands in the scene chase the elusive ‘authentic sound’. Some use digital wizardry, such as The Redcatz, to emulate the acoustics of a Sun Records studio. Others, like Ezra Lee, immerse themselves in the classics and learn at the metaphorical feet of the old masters. However, Thee Escapees have taken a different route: using painstakingly and lovingly restored original instruments. Drums are recorded on a Trixon Speedfire in Grey Pearl, which is a unique drum kit in the UK, and Alan’s guitar is a very rare, Japanese Mosrite Celebrity copy dating from the late sixties. With absolutely focus on the purity of sound, the good chaps at Ranscombe Studios allowed the band to use vintage Selmer valve amps on the record, and their Hammond L101 organ. You really do not get much more authentic than this without a time machine.
If that hasn’t already impressed you, the members of Thee Escapees have an impeccable pedigree as veterans of the UK rockabilly and garage beat scene. Between the three of them, they have been part of Lancashire Bombers, The Trick Noise Makers, The SD5, The Voyd, The Untamed, The Sundowners, The Rhythm Aces, The Voo-Dooms, The Hi-Fis, Long Tall Shorty and Joe Public. Quite how they found time to create their debut album, ‘1960's garage beat with a mixture of rhythm & blues and rock n roll’ is truly impressive, but even more astounding is just how exciting this album is. From the first chords on the first tracks it’s clear that we’ve got the fiery offspring of the Kinks and the Prisoners on our hands. Yes, 60s Soul is a huge influence on this record, but this is soul without the creamy smooth over production. This is Soul from the soul.
Time to put the needle on the record..
Baby, You’re Not What I Want: “You’re a six inch nail when I need a screw!” wails Alan over a really spooky Hammond organ like and a punchy guitar line in a triumphal, get-over-it tone. The sound quality is tremendous in it’s authenticity: If I told you this was a remastered, undiscovered early sixties gem, you’d believe me and the fade out and echoes on the vocals are just stunning.
B.A.B.A: There’s something so charming about Alan’s accent with what could easily be a teen-pop-idol chorus, and it gives the whole song a real-life, Guana Batz vibe. The guitar solo is flaming and Dave’s drumming really starts to shine, with the cymbals stopping it all getting too rock without enough roll. This song went past far too quickly and this should be played at the kind of grotty Hamburg Club the Beatles played before hitting the big time (and that’s a compliment).
See The Truth: Starting with a Jim Morrison scream? Yes please. It’s so easy for a retro band to fall back on classic themes like the no-good-woman, and Thee Escapees have decided to take a step away from this and tackle the current cost-of-living crisis on this number. It’s an angry song, and you wouldn’t think that a modern theme would play well with the sixties beat style would work, but it really does. That possibly says something about the cyclical nature of British politics than anything else, but the backing vocals creeping in here keep the vibe tied up nicely together.
You Lie to Me: Now it’s Mark’s time to shine with a real chunky bassline on another angry number. Original sixties beat always feels so restrained to meet the recording standards of the time and I love the songs the innovation where these guys are letting loose and giving the guitar space to do it’s thing. The repeated title builds to an anguished crescendo and the garage rock influence is very strong in this one.
Shed No Tears: Multi-talented drummer Dave adds a frantic, urgent energy to this number via a tightly wound piano line, and it’s becoming apparent that these guys do angry, fast numbers really well. There’s this unifying ‘whoah-oh’ as a backing and while this song is painfully short at two minutes, it’s as if they’ve compressed one of their other songs to increase the focused, caffeinated energy.
The Back of My Mind: Thee Escapees specialise in these guitar intros like electric nail guns that drop into these popping, gunshot drumbeats and if you’re into that, you will be tremendously into this group. The versatility of Alan’s voice is really pleasing, almost dropping into a sneer here but then switching into a classic rock yell, and the vocals drive this track like a speeding drag-racer.
Scream and Shout: Opening with a sample of a horror movie scream, it’s a slower, more considered roll through the most raucous song Ray Davies never wrote. The record is devolving into dirty garage rock but without losing the Beat heritage, and there’s an intangible British-ness to it that is going to play very well in the UK garage beat scene.
Lose Your Head: A gloriously bluesy, harmonica-laden tune with this pause over the title to give us this tiny space to consider just quite how good this song is. It’s a fun, rowdy song that the crowd are going to love.
Don’t Call Me: A tough, bad-boy number, and the harshness of the guitar and the swagger in the bass absolute create this Brighton Rock gangster character. Just to keep us guessing there are these light cymbal touches and booming percussion lurking in the background. “If you need a friend, don’t call me!” Say Thee Escapees, which is ironic as they are bound to be getting a lot of calls from promoters in the near future.
Runaway: The Del Shannon original is untouchably perfect, and the sheer nastiness of the Batmobile cover is addictive, so this was an intriguing choice for Thee Escapees. This version has this desolation and loneliness combined with this delightfully demo-like underproduction and seems, for once, that the character is genuinely distraught. They resist the temptation to play too much into the ‘why-y-y-y-y-y’ and block that space where some whimsy would go with a cathartic guitar solo and satisfying cowbell.
S.K.P: More Hammond Organ, and that fun, rolling bass comes back too. It’s an instrumental and doesn’t lose anything from the lack of vocals. Every band member seems to be having a tremendous amount of fun, and the occasional whoops and hollers give us the live experience without leaving our living rooms.
Traffic Light: It’s fair to assume this is the Escapee manifesto or sampler as it's the first track shared online from the album. They go back to the gloriously sixties roots but with lyrics and vocals that seem more like The Clash’s Train in Vain than The Kinks’ Lola, and the glorious backing vocals make this a brilliant starting point. Somehow all three seem to be at their absolute peak while doing slightly separate things and the ‘Stop!’ As a finish is so obvious and so perfect.
Her Big Mistake: An upbeat ‘bup-bah’ leads us into this upbeat final song. There’s this slightly jaded, bitter edge in this record that combines with the frequent sweetness of the arrangements and this album is the affogato of retro music.
While the scene in the UK tends to focus on the fifties, it’s important not to forget that excellent rock n roll mutated and carried on in the form of bouncing and sometimes jagged Beat. This is a really exciting, maximum energy record from a group that are pretty new and ready to jump into the garage beat scene with a big, rough bang. They are playing a lot of shows in the south east as the weather warms, as well as The Trip Out festival in September, and I am already excited for the second album which is pencilled in for recording in April 2023. You need to see Thee Escapees as soon as you possibly can for a sound that is authentic in it’s creation and timeless in its outlook.