Monday, November 05, 2007

Sheet Metal...Now That's a Friggin' Band Name!

I was thirteen when, having made the conscious decision to waste away my life in acts of dissipation and iniquity, I joined forces with the neighborhood do-nothings and formed my first band. This was just after guitar amps were being converted from whale oil to electricity as their power source and, ignorant of the idea that we were supposed to actually learn how to play instruments, we convened in the garage for the first order of business, the naming of the band.

The bands we admired had colorfully descriptive names which we were certain had been chosen after long deliberation and under the influence of powerfully psychotropic substances. Names like "Iron Butterfly"," Moby Grape" and "Strawberry Alarm Clock" were at the top of our list...but sadly, these were taken. This was serious business. A band name would carry the weight of conveying our intentions on its shoulders and wasn't to be taken lightly. After long deliberations, two fist fights, a break-up and ensuing band reunion, we decided upon "The Blue Bathtub"...All of us agreed that these three words would very clearly state our position to the throngs of rabid fans we envisioned carrying us on their shoulders to the promised land of fame and fortune.

In retrospect, I can state that I was over-ruled on that day so long ago. I lobbied long and hard for something on the order of "Sheet Metal" but lost my bid. Ah...what could have been. I was quite disturbed to find that a group of Londoners has stolen the name and the thirty years between events does nothing to alleviate the sting of having one's idea pick-pocketed for the benefit of another. "The Blue Bathtub" was good enough I suppose, But "Sheet Metal" has a ring to it that is unmistakable.

But this isn't about thirty years of pain, this is about focusing attention on an excellent London band with a name that describes what they do and how they do it in a most graphic way. Sheet Metal plays a brand of guitar-driven rock music with the classic attitude best described as "We don't give a shit!" And I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. They play with precision and chops, write serious songs laced with humor, and in the spirit of the original renegade motivations behind the development of rock and roll, do it with a strut that says quite clearly, "This is what we think...and like it or not, we don't give a shit."

Guitarists Dollop and Grim (I sincerely hope that these are noms de guerre) have a lot of bases covered. Everything they play has balls...there is no polite way to describe the relentless attitude behind their chunky downstroke rhythm tracks. And while there is the occasional excursion into guitar-hero pyrotechnics, their command of harmony leads is exceptional and gives the impression of being a single, massive and toothy saurian guitar stopping just short of biting off the listener's ear lobes. Bassist Chinch plays the middleman, laying big fat notes under the guitars while reinforcing the excellent feel of drummer Pel. As a rhythm section, the band has no soft spots and it is obvious that the players bring out the best in each other.

One area where metal bands tend to show weakness is in the vocal department. Frequently, one can't hear the words, or when the words are audible, they, and/or the sounds made by the singer are regrettable. Metal songs are sometimes overly serious or pedantic, and many times performed in keys so high as to require the singer to pull one nut down into his boot. The front man of Sheet Metal, going by the name of Dreb, sings man songs in a man's voice. As a result, the lyrics are easy to understand and the attitude of delivery has the impact of a well placed fist rather than the whiny handbag smack of so many scarf-wearing screamers.

"Twenty to Life" and "My Name is the Law" are good representations of what this band is about. But of the three songs posted on Sheet Metal's Sellaband profile, "Searching For a Hero" really gave me an image of what fun it must be to play in this band. Imagine a punk metal band falling out of the rafters and landing squarely in the midst of a stage production of "Pirates of Penzance" and you get the idea. The nose-thumbing music hall humor is delivered with the ferociousness of the Ramones and the combination is irresistible.

This is a very good band with all the earmarks of experience. With their blend of meaningful lyrics, aggressively played but comprehensible parts and the uncompromising attitude of pranking teen-agers, there is a lot to love about Sheet Metal. Listening to three songs makes me want to hear much more from this band.

If you are in the United Kingdom, fall by a place called The Peel in Kingston on November 29th and see Sheet Metal live. You won't regret it...Sheet Metal is better than The Blue Bathtub ever was.

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