Almost two years ago to the day, I discovered The Overtones and their dazzling brand of melody drenched, harmony saturated, feel good pop. I mean what was not to love – five good looking chaps with voices blending together seamlessly, soaring across edible choruses of classics and their own equally strong creations.
Since then, Good Ol’ Fashioned Love has become a genuine phenomenon, the boys are beloved across the world and I’ve followed their almost every move with copious amounts of blog posts, new track reviews and video analysis – all of which have been a pleasure to write (see also The Toners website for slavish dedication to the cause!) But now it’s time to concentrate on the new Overtones album, Higher, and as you will see below, it’s a right bobby dazzler of a follow up record. HURRAH!!
They incorporate each genre effortlessly into their own defined sound
Higher sees the five dapper fellas expand their reportoire from the 50-60s doo-wop that they become so synonymous with to a more expansive musical coverage. Motown influences, 80s pop, Stock Aitken and Waterman & elements of classic boy bands gone by all pervade their new collection of tunes. They incorporate each genre effortlessly into their own defined sound & the results are both invigorating and delightful to listen to. It, of course, all kicked off with the ear-worm song, Loving The Sound which also happens to be track one of the album. The song comes complete with “ooo”s, sumptuous strings, a classic sounding percussive drum beat and even some glorious house-piano accruements! While there is still that definite nod to those wondrous sixties moments of pure, harmony driven pop, there is also an element of what made Motown & Stock, Aitken & Waterman so successful in the 60 & 80s respectively. (Now someone get a Pete Hammond remix of the track, stat!)
Their own original compositions sound just as brilliant next to well known classics!
Then it’s directly onto track two – a cover of the charming Fairground Attraction song, Perfect. Of course, it’s instantly recognisable as that song but what the Overtones always do so incredibly well is make their own indelible mark on each cover so it definitely sounds like their own tune. What this also accomplishes is ensuring that their own original compositions sound just as brilliant next to well known classics. Anyway, Perfect is perfect. The song itself sets the perky, soaring melody to a down & funky bassline, with a smattering of percussion giving it a bit of zhuzzh. The chorus adds a euphoric horns section, while the boys enhance Timmy’s fine lead vocal with some genuinely joyous sounding backing vocals. Particularly love how clean and crisp they sound at the end of each verse and the “ow oh purrrrrrrrfect” in the chorus is pop nirvana Meanwhile, the middle 8 is a vibrant carnivale party! The boys are freestyling away while Lachie all but gets his beat box on & there is an amazing jazzy “dooby-ana” (it makes sense when you listen to it, trust me!) vocal play off that gets you all giddy. ACES.
Repeat listens show how nuanced the boys can be when interpreting lyrics
The title track, Higher, begins with some gorgeous dramatic piano (i love piano in a pop song) before theatrical percussive accompaniment kicks in & what a revelation it is. A song so beautifully produced & bombastic in it’s delivery that Adele would be completely & rightfully jealous. On the one hand, it’s the most chart-friendly sound the boys have undertaken to date with an infinitely gloriously almost rapid patter rap part at around 1m50s which will make you weak at the knees; on the other hand, it could completely be the jubilant opening song of the second act of a musical. It’s daring, brilliant and shows what accomplished song craftsmen the boys have become. Runaround Sue has an almost wistful, remorse filled dreamy slowed down opening intro, before the familiar song bursts into life and the boys all have their own time to detail how that pesky Sue has given them the runaround. The vocals are all perfectly matched to the song & repeat listens (actually on all songs) show how nuanced the boys can be when interpreting lyrics. Masterful storytellers, vivid narrators one and all. And then, oh my days, it’s Reet Petite! Christmas number one in 1985 and a song so right (reet?) for The Overtones that I’m stunned they haven’t covered it before. An assertive vocal from Lachie with an emphatic, urgent tinkling piano ruling the backing track it’s a glorious joyful celebration from start to finish. PLUS! Lachie fans get lots of growls and tongue rolls, plus some sho-waddy-wops from the boys. Dreamy! My definite pick for Christmas number one (perhaps with Last Christmas and All I Want For Christmas Is You as the b-sides… imagine Lachie tackling the opening bars of the latter! LUSH). Further request – please replicate the plasticine men video. Cheers
Love Song – never have the Overtones infusion of horn soaked pop melody sounded so devil may care!
It’s time to get soulful and smooth with Groovin’. More luxurious piano acts as the framework for the boys sumptuous vocals and is perfect as a soundtrack to those hazy lazy wonderful Sunday afternoons – it literally recreates this setting as it gently pulses through your speakers. Placing the elegant reading of Unforgettable directly after this continues the eloquent romantic thread & Lachie conjours up visions of a glamour filled lounge bar, with his bow tie hanging loose around his collar. As the middle 8 lets the boys provide an exquisitely harmonised addendum, the tune soars with class & grace – sweeping enough for the boys to appear singing it on this year;s Christmas special of Downton Abbey After such declarations of romantic intention, Love Song is anything but – the anti-love song. Never have the Overtones infusion of horn soaked pop melody sounded so devil may care as they state quite emphatically that the former objection of their respective affections don’t mean jack no more. With only a hint of malevolence, it’s good to know that even when breaking up with an Overtone you are going to get a jolly good ditty out of it rather than some Alanis fuelled angst
Back to the standards now and the boys tackle one of my favourite Bette Midler songs (from Beaches) of all time – The Glory of Love. It’s a jazz tinged performance that adds a playful edge to the narrative thrust of the lyrics and having each ‘Tone take their turn in the spotlight gives the song added charm. Plus they all sound in fine fettle – and it’s a song I can’t wait to hear live Then it’s You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling - a song so embedded into the national consciousness that any cover has to be precision perfect. Amazingly it completely works – the boys vocals (particularly the lead from Lachie) have the echoing effect of the original music while a subtle orchestra plays in the background, enhancing rather than overtaking the vocal performance. It’s musical alchemy at play and the results are genuinely stunning. The power and emphasis assigned to each note in the plaintive middle is a wonder to behold – not just the lead, but the harmonies and instrumentation. It’s simply wonderful.
When You Say My Name really is a gem of a tune!
When You Say My Name sees the boys back in self penned territory and it really is a gem of a tune. Propulsive beat and punchy horns give the track a peppy feel to it, while they skilfully blend S/A/W style pop with Motown classic melody. There’s a great convivial call and response “hey” at the end which is bound to be a real live crowd pleaser. Talking of crowd pleasers, their version of Keep Me Hanging On deserves to be a massive massive smash. Textured and layered throughout, it’s soulful and poppy and dancey all at the same time. A glorious horn section that at times sounds like the start of the Wonder Woman theme tune is an incredible sixth member of the group and little added ad-libs (“there ain’t nothing you can do about it”) give the song the feel of five guys sharing their woes. A few remixes and this will dominate the gay clubs (and any other clubs) for months to come. It all then comes to a close with Call Me Up, which is an urgent, hand clapping plea for the good time baby to just get the heck in touch (why they haven’t is inexplicable to me).
A triumphant second album!
All in all, it’s a triumphant second album for the boys that builds on what has come before and sees them exploring new territory. It’s one of the most instantly accessible, joyful, seize the day, euphoric albums of the autumn and one that will last way into 2013.
Potential singles: Loving The Sound; Reet Petite; Higher; Perfect; Keep Me Hanging On…
Published: 28 September 2012
Author: Paul Reynolds