The first thing you notice about this EP is that one of the band members has personally and lovingly sharpied the Sweet Jonny design onto the CD. Then you play it, and realise this is a real punk band.
Formed in 2013, the band played over 60 gigs last year, and have plenty booked in Brighton in the coming months. Softcore follows their first 2013 EP JSA, and was almost definitely recorded in an actual garage – which is not a bad thing. The sound is raw and gritty, the minimal production a violent and angry rejection of popular music trends.
At the same time Sweet Jonny sit squarely within the punk tradition and innovate outside of it. “Think the Pixies on speed or the Cramps if they were denied it,” the band suggest on their webpage. Tom Kent on bass and Jonny Pinder on drums form a messy, rolling platform for the rest of the band. In some songs, like Carpe Diem, you might hear a hint of the Clash and the British punk wave. It’s only a hint though – the lead guitar lines by Phil Coupland are a different style entirely, influenced by the modern British scene. Listen to his solo in Humdrum or his work with Kent on Mother Knows Best. Overflowing with distortion and screeching with feedback, the mix with the punk rhythm section is something new.
Tom Backshall, vocals, acts as the focal point for all the rage and violence from the band. It’s as though the band are sending him all their anger and desperation while they play, for him to ball up and spit out into the microphone. On top of this raw energy Tom brings to the mic, he adds a touch of the gothic, with his sepulchral style, that was less marked in their first EP.
The overall picture is one of intense frustration and turmoil. Their live shows must be hectic to the point of being dangerous. Musically, Sweet Jonny are doing interesting and unusual things. In Softcore they’ve crafted a strange but refreshing blend of garage punk-rock with a slightly nightmarish tone. They’ve mixed tradition with experimentation and ended with an EP that will interest any punk fan.
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