Smiley's Friends In The Sixth Sense
Smiley’s Friends’ sixth album, 6th Sense, takes the template of its predecessors – a joyous combobulation of soul, psychedelia, garage rock and Britpop – and launches it into the stratosphere. It delivers epic Mod rock wah-wah work-outs like Mother Earth and ambition musical collisions such as Control The Guns, a dark scuzzy rocker punctuated with quiet, hymnal verses; Beatles-ish ballads like Forever and needling psych-pop floor-fillers such as Women Are From Venus; rousing ’90s-inflected fare like Lantern Light and soul-searching slow-burners such as Cry. See You On The Way Down may be the best song Noel Gallagher never wrote in the early 2000s, while Wheels betrays the eponymous Smiley’s not-so-secret past as Robbie Williams’ drummer (he also beat the skins for The Mock Turtles, Joe Strummer’s Mescaleros and many more). The best Smiley’s Friends album yet – effortlessly enjoyable with a beating heart and a progressive 21st century conscience.
Pat Gilbert, MOJO
Well here we are again, only twelve months on, some major tours, recording, production, and session work in his own studio, www.sunshinestudios.com some family time, and yet another solo album to offer!!!
How does he do it?
Well as the ‘Musical chef’ returns from his busy diary of tours, that’s been taking him all over the world with his friends in high places. Steve is no stranger to crowd pleasing shows, soaking it all up and jotting it down in his musical cook book, eager to plate up more and more delightful dishes from the stock pot in his creative mind. What style has he been cooking up this time? A succulent, flavoursome Vindaloo? Or a sour and bland Pumpkin Soup?
Well get out your aprons, cooking utensils, fire up the gas, and let us delve into Smileys brand new album ‘Sixth Sense’.
1. BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR: You don’t always hear Smiley showing off his drum skills. That’s where the talent lies, never over complicate things. Well sometimes you do get what you wish for. This song is a drummer’s delight, it comes thundering in like a tribal gathering. Toms pounding, then the horns enter, Hammond organ fills, funky guitars, and a bluesy lead. Lyrics are great and a nice touch to the vocals is some delay instances. It has a big chorus with some amazing soul style backing vocals, and a strong middle eight similar to some Robbie Williams/Guy chambers tracks. It has an overall soul/blues sound and reminds me of bands like Kula Shaker, Stone Roses as well as some top tracks of the past. A killer song and a great introduction to this album.
2. WOMEN ARE FROM VENUS: ‘Women’ has an old R&B vibe like some very early ‘Who’, ‘Dr Feelgood’ with some ‘Wilko’ style guitar fills, early ‘Jam’ from ‘In The City’ era where ‘Weller’ was looking at the above greats for his influences, and indeed his solo track ‘From The Floor Boards Up,’ has a similar vibe. It has a cool bass line that’s driving the song along nicely. Another song that will blow minds live…
3. LANTERN LAMP: Lantern lamp lowers the pace with some beautiful delayed guitars, and a luscious melody. The vocals are very well delivered with the backing vocals fitting snuggly around the lead. When the chorus kicks in the groove really takes off. The chorus is huge, with yet another singalong melody. Great driving bassline, killer guitars and I really can’t praise this song enough. It hooks you in from the get go, and builds, and builds, teasing you along with its infectious melody and never let’s go until it ends. There is a pleasure point in the brain where a melody can ignite and you close your eyes and you are drawn in. This song hits that spot! With an overall playtime of 4.55 minutes, it’s not a short song, but somehow seems to end prematurely and has you hitting the repeat button. Well done Smiley! This could well be one of my new favourite songs…
4. MOTHER EARTH: Mother Earth starts off with some wah wah guitars. Another driving song, which has some interesting chord changes and some nice sixth guitar runs. It is a bluesy rock power song with flavours of Oasis, Robbie, Kula Shaker and treating us to some well-played guitars, bass, keys and drums. It has a strong chorus and so far, the makings of a fine album with ups and downs in all the right places, which is perfect for live shows.
5. SEE YOU ON THE WAY DOWN: Wow!!! What a catchy song. It could very well be a new ‘Mod’ anthem! See You kicks off with a drum fill before jumping in quickly to the chorus groove with double tracked melodic guitars which has a flavour of ‘Another Girl Another Planet’ by ‘The Only Ones.’ It has a soul groove that stomps along with solid drums and bass. It reminds me of bands like Ocean Colour Scene, The Jam, Early Council. The verses, stabbing guitars, tremolo swells knitting it together. Then it moves into a bridge with a ‘Jam’ vibe that climbs into a catchy chorus with an infectious hook. Middle eight treats us to some brass before we are back to the chorus/outro. A top energetic song with well written guitar parts, drums, bass and lyrics. I can see this song being a firm favourite live, played to a packed-out show, fists in the air, and a room full of delighted faces. Get on…
6. WHEELS: ‘Wheels’ starts off with some keys similar to ‘The Beatles-Strawberry Fields’. Some effected guitar and key fills, and a beautiful melody. By the time the chorus comes in we have some fantastic lead guitar, acoustic guitars, drums, and a neat production that perfectly holds the vocals up, especially with those brilliant harmonies. This song also hits the sweet spot in the brain. Bands like ‘Tears for Fears’ ‘Robbie Williams’ first comes to mind…
7. CONTROL THE GUNS: ‘Control the Guns’ has some very interesting parts that really tricks the listener. The intro starts out like a 70’s Punk song which is the chorus section without vocals, and has a really catchy guitar riff. This section is maybe a little ‘Stooges/Bowie.’ The verses and bridge maybe a little ‘Tears for Fears,’ with parts reminding me of bands ‘like ‘Razorlight’. It is treated to many little production tricks that you don’t expect, from effected vocals, and some voice narration and a huge chorus…
8. START AS WE MEEN TO GO ON: Intro starts us off with some Who style effects, Stones guitars, and some vocal chants that’s warning us we are heading somewhere. The intro sounds distant and has the effect of coming closer. Then the drums pounds in bringing the band closer to the listener with a taster of the chorus to come. A very nice production touch. The verse settles down before bringing us back into another crowd-pleasing chorus. This song works its way through a standard arrangement into a fine melodic solo, chorus, and outro. Smiley definitely knows how to arrange a song picked up from his life on the road. This song reminds me of the type of song writing Bryan Adams might write.
9. FOREVER (v2): Forever is a laid-back song with some beautiful layered acoustics, a hypnotic lead guitar swaying in and around the outstanding vocals. A killer song with great lyrics and melody. The instrumental section treats us to a violin, then the song drops down nicely to vocals and harmonies before the instruments join back in to play the song out.
10. HERO TO A FRIEND: ‘Hero to A Friend’ tells the story of long-time friendships who have grown together sharing memories and tales along the way. It starts out with a backward guitar run to a Beatles style backing. It has acoustic guitars driving it along to a laid-back groove, delayed and backward guitars, keys, and some multi tracked vocals giving the overall feel of Smiley and his Friends all joining together at www.sunshinecornerstudios.com and having the time of their lives. A very uplifting song.
11. REFINE: Refine enters our ears with some crunchy guitars and a chord pattern a little like ‘The Jams - Art School’. The guitar tone is very tasty, as is the drum sound and groove. There is a sweet guitar hook that has a little Oasis, a sprinkle of The Jam, a measure of the riff masters themselves ‘The Beatles’. The bass drives along underpinning the drums perfectly. The melody, as with the rest of the album is of a very high standard.
12. CRY: Cry is a beautiful pop song. The vocals are up close fitting the emotions of the song title and lyrical content. It has rhythmic muted guitars that fit the track perfectly. A generous helping of the sweet-sounding synth sounds. Great vocals, backing vocals, and overall arrangement...
Conclusion: Well without hesitation I state this is Smiley’s best yet. It has everything in the right place’s, ups, downs, crowd pleasers. It’s got anthems galore. A sprinkle of Robbie, Kula Shaker, Oasis, Weller, Ocean Colour Scene, The Beatles, Bowie, Tears for Fears, Soul, Blues, The Who, as well as countless top songs and artists from the past and present, and a whole dollop of Smiley. Hardly surprising from the schooling, he has had out on the road and in the studios with the world’s greats.
Stand out tracks are: Be careful what you wish for, Lantern Lamp, See you on the way down, Wheels, Start as we mean to go on, Forever, Cry.
They are all very instant, giving credit to Smiley for his amazing talents as a songwriter/producer/singer, and multi-instrumentalist who really knows how to craft and arrange quality songs. I am flattered to be asked to give my opinion on this great album. So, with pleasure I can advise that the musical chef has cooked some fine dishes of melodic heaven once again. Only this time he has taken it to a whole new level. I got the feeling that Steve was very proud of this album, and rightly so! If you want to judge a good album then this is a driving album. I think that says it all, so pre-order this album off www.smileysfriends.co.uk and hit the road for a pleasant journey listening to a fine album.
Dave Connor - www.targetsounds.com
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Steve 'Smiley' Barnard, based in Hampshire in the UK, is an English musician, songwriter and music producer at his own studios, Sunshine Corner Studios.
Smiley was the first live drummer for Robbie Williams solo career (Life Thru A Lens) and has worked with Joe Strummer and The Mescalaros, The Mock Turtles, From The Jam amongst many others. Currently Smiley drums for The Alarm and Archive.
On the road during October and November this year with The Alarm for their second US Tour this year, Smiley joined with fellow band members and special guests to trek through the Grand Canyon to raise money for the charity, Love Hope Strength Foundation.
Amongst his manic touring schedule with The Alarm, and preparing for the upcoming Archive European tour in 2019, Smiley spends the rest of his time at his studio and has produced countless albums and EPs, most recently working with COW, Mike Dobie, and The Pirrips.
Smiley also writes and produce his own music with some of his many musician friends. His fifth album was released at the start of 2018, 'In The Afterglow', and Smiley has spent the rest of 2018 writing and producing his sixth album which is ready for release early January 2019, with pre-sales starting very soon.
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