Four Wheel Drive – Sticky Fungus – 15 May 2009
I have seen this band a couple of times in bars and they were kinda underwhelming… but put that frizz and fizz on a big stage like Sticky Fungus, Staines and – KAPOW – Four Wheel Drive are sizzling sensations.
Strongly influenced by the blues of the South with its virile aggression and hard working honest-to-goodness energy, Four Wheel Drive are not really declaring musical independence or even starting their own confederacy… They just wanna have some fun playing some agreeable rock pieces to a smashed audience.
But ‘It’s not what they do, it’s the way that they do it’, that counts. On a damp Friday night in Staines town I am looking for a bag of excitement and passion. I am looking for a bit of boogie and a whole lotta woogie. And boy, this group fired me up like a stick of dynamite. If you, like me, enjoy the concept of sharing a bottle of acid-mash Tennessee liquor whilst hanging out with some unseemly can-can girls in the back-room bar of some sleazy no-good dive on Bourbon Street, then this band is definitely for you. They put pepper in your pants…
Staines is a long way from Vicksburg, Mississippi and, in our wet world, where we experience fog, flu, fish-cakes, footie, ford fiestas and girls called Fiona we clamor for escapism. We want a dream. A desert. A cactus. A rattlesnake. And a bit of moonshine. And that is what 4WD The Band provided for us at Sticky Fungus last night.
Distortion fuelled guitars (“Distortia” as Rihanna would call it, whilst doing that mad thing with her hands) and rolling thunderous drums were the backdrop to Jamie Lailey’s superb ‘Brian Johnson’ style vocals. Think of that rasping, high-pitched silver shafting energy in AC/DC songs such as “Whole Lotta Rosie” to get the idea of the sound. Lithe Ben Austwick and sleek Paddy Achtelik share the guitar duties admirably, and the quality and vitality of their exciting solos is inspirational. And this was truly a theatre of rock …. it was like having two frizzante haired ax wielding acrobats whirling around the stage in a blaze of psychedelic glory. It was like reliving the early days of Led Zeppelin all over.
The crowd just stood and stared… not in a bad way either… it was through sheer astonishment and wonder. They wanted to focus and to be grateful. Towards the end of the set the Sticky Fungus crowd started to limber up a little but there was still a kinda magic on stage that held the audience in some kind of mysterious hypnotic trance.
The band plays songs like ‘White Lines’ with its chunky chords worn a bit like a hip 1970’s vicar. With thumping bass sound-tracks like those panadol adverts – you know the one with ‘constant throbbing pulsating pain’. And with the twangy southern feel of the muted lead guitars that start to creep into your head and play footsie with your sensitive and vulnerable parts. The band also has Jaggeresque vocals a la Mississippi Delta together with singsong corn-bread chorus lines – helping to underline that their music is from the Great British southern-rock scrapbook. Fuzzy-felt lead breaks are satisfying and accomplished … with ‘sensible’ chugging rhythms from Will Richards on drums (sensible as in your younger sister wears ‘sensible’ shoes when she goes out clubbin’ on a Saturday night)
Other songs are Black Crowes-ish in feel and texture- with accomplished guitar lines i.e. like Black Oak Arkansas or Kentucky Headhunters. Other numbers have funky southern rhythms (and the blues) with yowser vocals similar to ‘Bad Company’ i.e. British Southern rather than ‘proper’ Southern drawl-rock. Other material was staple fare with plenty of classic sounding riffs and sing along verses.
If you are the kind of person who loves Aerosmith, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bad Company / Free and AC/DC, then you are gonna just lurve this band. When I saw Four Wheel Drive for the first time, a couple of years back, I thought that they were a bit like a musical version of a 1990’s Land-Rover Discovery. You know … the one in blue with nylon trim and chipped paint. It does the job- it gets you to work and back and gets you around town – at times it is fun even, it can keep things movin’ on a long hard day – but it doesn’t really make your heart sing and your jiggly bits shiver with excited anticipation…
But after that totally triumphant concert at Sticky Fungus Staines yesterday evening I have to admit that the band has now become a shiny top of the range Hummer softop with an expensive LA chop-shop paint job, screaming flame decals, roaring afterburner exhausts and decorated by leggy babes wearing cut down denims, cowboy boots and tiny polka-dot bras.
God, I love ‘em!
See ’em next at The Red Lion – Formerly Filthy’s- Twickenham May 23 2009