Oxford is not only the city of dreaming spires it is also the home of the rock band The Treat. The three piece rock outfit released their first album In Technicolour in 2004. It was, in many ways, a straight ahead rock album with its feet set firmly in the classic heavy rock era of the late sixties and early seventies. Now they bring us Phonography (Rockular Recordings 2008) and it is clear that some changes have been taking place.
The Treat have taken a broader look at the troubled world and have become more outwardly political. Whilst not turning away from the classic driving rock of days gone by, they have added more dimension and texture resulting in a heady mix of styles.
The result is Phonography and it opens with a, recurring, mystical eastern tinge before opening up into the stomping “Fanfare For The King”. This is near ‘time warp’ stuff not only paying homage to the classic rock era but actually re-writing it and adding some freshness. This is clearly a band that has something to say and this track has lyrics that cut to the bone. “Make You Crawl” has a whole cross section of influences with touches of Queens Of The Stone Age, amongst others. Yet, it has that heavy rock vibe from the early seventies as an irresistible undercurrent. Michael Hyder sings just within his limits and the threesome generate an admirable degree of power.
“Deathday Parties” is again cuttingly direct ‘there is a reason for this season of pain, and all your illusions will bring you only shame’. The highly effective “Bolivian Diary”, for me a clear highlight, has a revolutionary theme while generating a depth of sound that shows this band grew up absorbing classic rock like a sponge. “Roaming” takes us towards, but not quite into, radio friendly territory. Clearly recognizing a good melody when they write it, they are not afraid to build upon it. “Meadowland” shifts an acoustic gear down with a well worked statement about urban sprawl. Combining children’s nursery rhymes in with the edge of what the song says creates a good counter-balance.
A sudden right turn takes us into, “Haitian Mourning Dress”, which drips traditional blues and sits high within the set. The Treat return to classic rock with “Too Late” complete with swirling keys. “Clutching At Jagged Glass” takes us off in a whole host of different directions with a near progressive and edgy feel, which successfully emphasises the word ‘jagged’. Next we are into the psychedelic with the atmospheric and dramatic instrumental, “Effervescence”. Maybe the word ‘effervescence’, (“Effervescent Elephant”), hints at the Syd Barrett, “Bike”, styled opening to the following song, “Black Cat Whites”.
Having got the fixation that no-one can write like Syd out of my mind it does highlight the character of the band and how they have mopped up music and pieced it together in their own way. When the track opens out it begins to grow on you. All this leads to a rather disappointing “Erased” that rounds the album off. It’s a strong well written song with plenty of potential but on this cut it misses something.
The Treat have knocked on enough doors and delivered an imaginative collection of styles and influences. Rooted firmly in the music of past generations it is served up with huge dollops of personality. It will be interesting to see where they take it all from here.
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