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Music Review: The Paddingtons – First Comes First

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Lost in the latest resurgence of indie music – a massive outpouring of 80’s throwback bands trying their hardest to sound like Robert Smith or David Gahan – is the musical renaissance occurring across the Atlantic.  While every so often small pieces of evidence of this movement float their way into the American consciousness by way of Pete Doherty and Amy Winehouse’s respective drug habits, there is a plethora of talent drawing on Britain’s own illustrious music history to create work that has a level of depth and quality not experienced since Nirvana single handedly destroyed hairspray rock. 

While the Libertines and Artic Monkeys have been the most visible players in respect to the American view point, bands like the Cribs, the Horrors, the View (Scotland), and Dirty Pretty Things have been pounding out amazingly eclectic and inspired rock records since Pete Doherty and company put an end to the Stone Roses inspired Brit pop of the 90’s with a Nirvana-esque finality, ushering in a new era of British music more inspired by Mick Jones than Noel Gallagher. 

Combing elements of the Clash, the Jam, and even America punk godfathers the Heartbreakers, The Paddingtons are the poster children for the amazing British band that has, inexplicably, not been able to crack America’s airwaves nor its frame of reference.

With the release of their first album First Comes First, in December of 2005, the fearsome-five-some — hailing from a decaying relic of the industrial revolution known as Hull, England — declared the return of punk rock’s roots with a rough, street-wise mentality, that fit the personification one would imagine considering their working class roots and upbringing. 

With their explosive – and most notably raw – sound, embodied by their notoriously anarchist live shows, The Paddingtons, absent any fictitiously financed indie image or marketing scheme, announced – rather loudly – a return to an ethos that seemed long lost in the shallow, boy meets girl, power punk, garbage masquerading as punk rock that has overtaken the scene in America. 

With well crafted hooks that sound as if they were written and sung first in a local Hull pub before being laid down on tape; highlighted by signature slashing chords drenched in thick distortion, one might even forget that nightmarish oddities like Emo and Blink 182 even exist. 

As the first chords of Martin Hines’ buzz saw guitar ring out on the album’s opening track, Some Old Girl, images of Johnny Thunders are immediately conjured like a ghastly punk rock phantom, snarling at you through your speakers.  The statement that, in quite simple terms, this is a punk rock record is made defiantly clear.  

On “50 to a Pound,” the album’s third track, the band begins to show off the true extent of their range along with the thickness of their accents as Tom Atkin’s vocals shine particularly well here (in a Joe Strummer as opposed to a Frank Sinatra kind of way) and the band displays its uncanny ability to combine truly catchy hooks with its all on assault, free for all, guitar style.

The boys are unabashedly British, uncompromisingly punk rock, and fearlessly confident in their musical direction.  This is most evident on the album's highlight All Right in the Morning,” a soaring track that gives the greatest insight into the pure potential of The Paddingtons’ musical sense.  Under the obvious influence of the Specials, the Paddys bring the reggae hard, complete with mid song break down and bouncing reggae back beat, and yet, naturally avoiding seeming contrived, they lay down the most anthemic vocals on the album, complete with a hook that will be stuck in your head for days.

Throughout the rest of the record it becomes apparent that it is the forte of this band to combine their rough-edged pop sensibility (ala the Kinks) with a roots punk rock mentality. And this is a formula they are mindful not to diverge from, creating a truly listenable album from start to finish; a rarity in the current singles driven environment of the industry, due mostly to the growth of the market for downloadable music. 

The true brilliance in this record derives from the difficult and delicate balance the band consistently strikes, on literally every track of First Comes First. Building each song to an apex at a perfect meeting of tightly made, catchy pop music and dirty, and erratic, low-fi punk.  While many bands strive to reach this balance — achieving it with varying levels of success — The Paddingtons’ talent demands that they be examined and compared against the greatest song writers of punk lore, especially as their career evolves and progresses over the years.  While First Comes First is admittedly not London Calling, it may be Give ‘em Enough Rope, and for this reason alone, it is definitely time to stand up and take notice of the Paddingtons. 

Currently the Paddingtons are touring and – according to their listing on Wikipedia – are testing new material for an album to be released “in the near future.” Their website lists tour dates although the band is not currently scheduled to play any dates in the U.S. 

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About Anthony Tobis