Into the Light – Crooked Flower (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

If some bands clearly look to the past for inspiration and others set out to create the sound of the future, Crooked Flower have realised that the best results come from the middle ground between these two attitudes. They seem to understand that when it comes to the pop and rock genres much of the heavy listing has been done, that we have largely worked out the formats and templates that appeal to people. But instead of just plagiarising the past, of leaning too much on former sonic glories, they instead use those tried and tested building blocks to create radically infectious and appealing music. Not everything has to be about changing the world but neither does it have to be merely about re-inventing the wheel and it is that sure-footed blend of freshness and familiarity that makes Crooked Flower a hot prospect.

The familiarity comes through weaves of bluesy psychedelia, melodic and deft rock structures, pop sensibilities, addictive, slinky grooves, and sultry and soulful vocals, whilst the way that they fashion them together creates the new appeal. Let You Go is the sound of seventies soul rocking out with modern indie pop, the perfect balance of integrity and contemporary appeal, the clever thing being that the appeal spans at least three generations from the young, more discerning pop picker, the parents who grew up listening to inherited classic soul and rock albums and the generation before them who still remember grooving out at free festivals. And that is a neat trick to be able to pull off.

Search Warrant is perfectly low-slung, loose and louche, 10 Million takes us back down an early dub reggae rabbit hole and Falling is the sound of what modern mainstream rock music could have sounded like had it just stuck to the plan rather than falling in love with its own image to become dominated by sleeveless, testosterone fuelled meatheads. (Sorry, I’m sure that they aren’t all meatheads but next to the fluidity and poise of this little gem, well, you pretty much are.)

There is a glorious driving blues strut to be found on Own World, a brilliant walking bass line and some fantastic guitar details just colouring the edges but letting the groove do the work. And again on paper that might sound like they are going over old ground, and to a degree they are. But it is ground that has been thoroughly weeded, dug up, fertilised and well watered so that what grows there is a completely new strain of sonic agriculture.

And if you can forgive that tortured metaphor it is true of the whole album. Soil is soil but what you plant, nurture and grow there can sustain the future…I think I’m stretching things too far now, I’m not good with analogy…or agriculture for that matter. Anyway what I’m trying to say is that just because you are, to a degree, referencing the past, are influenced by what has gone before doesn’t mean that you have to repeat it and Into the Light is less the product of a band looking back but actually the sound of the sonic baton being passed on.

Crooked Flower make age- and genre-defying music. If you are a pop fan you will love the infectiousness of the songs, rock fans with appreciate the more driven workouts and the underlying guitar urges that drive them, soul fans with appreciate the deftness and emotion, R&B aficionados the groove, and lovers of psychedelia will get off on the hazy, relaxed and drifting nature of much of what they do. In fact it is hard to think of anyone who won’t fall for Into the Light’s many charms. Goths perhaps but then they are going to have trouble getting past the album title anyway I suspect!

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