The quixotic charm of The James Warner Prophecies is that their music contains a myriad of styles, oeuvres and impressions – much like J-Rock – but theirs is less disposable pop in style and more harmonic indie in ambition. Thus we get thick slices of American Punk (i.e. think ‘Bad Religion’) laced generously with Brit indie folk sound reminiscent of ‘The Magic Numbers’.
So with The James Warner Prophecies you get melodic singing together with hardcore drum beats and haunting flute. Yeah, I know it shouldn’t work. But it does. Just. Sometimes you feel poised on the edge of something a little too grand and opulent to be really honest … but then the twinkle-in-the-eye gentle humour of the band shines through, and the result is an agreeable love fest of sound and virtue.
Benign Rasputin-like figure Joe Brown is the mighty front-man power-house lead singer/guitar of the band. Striding about the stage looking like a kindly ginger version of Edward Teach (the notorious pirate) – with an enormous burning red beard and a savage glint in his cruel eye. Instead of cutlass and sword, though, we get electric mandolin & guitar – but the results are similarly battle hardened with an abundance of inventive fireworks from the fret-boards and vindictive encounters with the spiteful strings of the mandolin.
Bringing some calm and beauty to the proceedings, Kate Rounding plays a mournful flute on many songs, plus the haunting chords on Korg. I understand Kate also adds violin to the mix – but we didn’t see her fiddle at The Hob. Lanky long-haired hippy Matt Anthony adds some low inventive and, ultimately, reassuring bass to the songs and the ‘Noel Fielding’ look-alike Dan Williams in assured and competent on drums.
The band moved ruthlessly from song-to-song keeping up the pressure and starting with an appropriately named tune ‘Braincell Piracy’ before launching into ‘King of The Killers’, then onto ‘Judas Stone’ and ‘The Itch’. The big end to the show was their ‘Set The World on Fire’ track (the unimaginatively named) ‘Mandolin Song’. This song has some fierce fretting from Joe (on mandolin) with audacious flares of light and fire from Kate and plenty of pounding crashing percussion from Dan and Matt. A truly exciting and heart pummelling joy of a song.
From my own point of view, I would prefer something a bit more languid and soulfully helpful from Kate (at times it seemed like her contributions were repetitive and almost go through-the-motions routine in content) and I would also like a little less sympathy from the band for the folk-country traditions of their home county (Derbyshire) and a little more hard driving rock from the ensemble … but that is just my personal taste.
Overall, though, the band makes a positive contribution to the Rock / Folk Rock scene. The band members are a jolly hardworking crew with a capable and naturally talented energy. I Strongly recommend that you see their live show soon.