22-20s : 22-20s

Debut album proper from Lincoln blues punks. Worth the wait…

The [a]22-20s[/a] story goes something like this. The band formed in August 2002 and began gigging in pub back rooms. Four short months later their injection of rugged youthfulness into good ol’ fashioned blues (the musical equivalent of Wayne Rooney shagging that PVC-clad granny) was the subject of a record label frenzy, culminating in every scum-sucking A&R parasite in the land packing into their now-legendary London Dublin Castle gig, desperate to avoid a P45 nestling on their desk the following morning.

Finally signing to Heavenly, instead of attempting to live up to the ensuing breathless hyperbole and risking burn-out, the teenagers merely shrugged their leather jacketed-shoulders and sidestepped the hype with the release of a limited-edition mini-album,’05/03′. Debuting with a live record was a brave move; however, with four of its six tracks appearing again on this, their debut studio album, it also left the [a]22-20s[/a] with the conundrum of how to make these songs sound fresh and vital, without losing the intensity and verve. Typically, though, this is something they’ve managed with almost effortless ease.

Opener ‘Devil In Me’ is a rattling statement of intent, pitting Martin Trimble’s menacing, bitingly-sharp vocals against a barrage of guttural guitar skronk, while album stand-out (and early single) ‘Such A Fool’ sees Glen Bartup’s muscular bass and James Irving’s clattering drums snuggle up together like a pair of drunk redneck cousins. Meanwhile, in an obvious nod to the classic blues ethos, Muddy Waters-esque tales of irrational women and introspection lyrically underpin the album, with ‘Why Don’t You Do It For Me?’ and ‘Shoot Your Gun’ hinting at the sort of semi-misogyny that run through [a]White Stripes[/a] songs like ‘You’ve Got Her In Your Pocket’.

However, while Jack White lyrically inhabits a bygone Little House On The Prairie America, [a]22-20s[/a] songs, like the acoustic porch lament ‘Friends’, are firmly rooted in modern-day England, seeing them transcend their American influences with a stark, unmistakable Britishness. All of which leaves ’22-20s’ as one of the best British rock albums of the year so far.

Rick Martin