By the time you get knee-deep into Down Beside Your Beauty the debut album from Brooklyn’s Favourite Sons, you’ll start doing double takes. Either because you were already a fan of frontman Ken Griffin’s previous band, Rollerskate Skinny, or because you would swear you’re hearing the voice of a singer who took lessons from both Ian McCulloch and Iggy Pop. There’s no doubt that Griffin has a commanding voice, crooning and warbling like the above mentioned famous frontmen, and he truly leads this new five-piece marvel of a band. You may have noticed the use of the anglicized `u’ in the band’s name, and that’s no mistake. The `Sons’ are rooted in English rock, despite of, or perhaps because of, the likenesses to both artists. Pop has, after all, been much more accepted in the UK than in the US, to the extent that he was almost seen as a saintly figure by the characters in Trainspotting.
Had Ian McCulloch been more inspired by Iggy than by Jim Morrison, Down Beside Your Beauty could have easily fit into Echo’s early catalogue somewhere in the midst of their first four albums, or perhaps, more fittingly, as one of Ian’s solo efforts. The biggest difference between Echo and Sons is the music. Will Sergeant is not often credited enough as creating the sound of the band, but his guitars are the one feature missing from the Sons equation that might make the band an exact soundalike, or, sorry about this, an echo of Echo. There is definitely more of a New York guitar vibe throughout Beauty, one with a driving energy that brings out more of the aggressive Pop-ness of Griffin.
Kick-off track “When You’re Away From Me” sounds like a cast-off from Echo’s gray album, or more specifically the b-side to “Bombers Bay,” especially with the jangly guitars and an opening line like “Dead bodies piling up like garbage in the sun / It makes me feel so strong.” You think you know exactly what you’re in for from the first track, but then “No One Ever Dies Young” whips out the Iggy for all to see, letting us know that this band has a lust for life as well as crystal days. “The Tall Grass” is a standout, showcasing Griffin’s fine vocal form, in more of that baritone conversational style as in “The Killing Moon.”
“Tear the Room Apart,” is again one of those crooning beauties, measured and slow, like “The Passenger” mashed-up with “All My Life.” “‘Round Here,” not to be confused with the song of the same name by the Counting Crows, thank goodness, continues in somewhat the same fashion, but this time a little more “Do It Clean” and “Search and Destroy.” “Pistols & Girls” is another standout, again slower and more of a showcase for Griffin’s voice, which means that Favourite Sons definitely know on which side their bread is buttered. That’s not to say that the music of the Favourite Sons isn’t compelling, it’s just that Griffin’s vocals easily overpower every other aspect of the record, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The last track, “The Things That We Do To Each Other” finally made one other band spring to mind, that being Starsailor, again solidifying that English sound.
As you can tell, Favourite Sons is to Echo & the Bunnymen as Franz Ferdinand is to Orange Juice, Bloc Party is to Gang of Four, the Killers (at least the first album) is to Duran Duran and Interpol is to Joy Division. So, that’s not to say that the band should be dismissed for being derivative. After all, all of the above named bands had more than decent work, it’s just that they know their influences and they play it very close to the vest. Favourite Sons are one of those bands that may not shake up the world, but if you’re fan of British rock and roll, specifically the bands mentioned in this review, you’ll most likely dig the Sons.
Echo & the Bunnymen- Echo & the Bunnymen
Starsailor- Love is Here
Iggy Pop- Lust for Life