Tuesday, 21 January 2014

THE BENEFITS OF A DOWNHILL PAPER ROUND: A review and a track by track of The Ragamuffins' latest offering!

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Below is our review of The Ragamuffins' EP 'The Benefits Of A Downhill Paper Round'. In the second half of the feature you can also find a 'track by track' from The Ragamuffins' very own David Jaggs. 
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PART 1 - "AB SAYS..."
Below we review The Ragamuffins exceptional EP 'The Benefits Of A Downhill Paper Round'!
"The Ragamuffins latest EP 'The Benefits Of A Downhill Paper Round' is a fine outing all together. Everything from the packaging (see picture above), to the artwork, to the tile, to the most important part, the music, is exceptional. Upon receiving the CD package you will be immediately blown away by the amount of time that The Ragamuffins spend in making sure that their fans have a proper little present instead of just a plain old EP. The CD is packaged within an envelope with logo and title featured upon. Within the envelope, is the beautifully presented artwork of the EP itself along with a small Ragamuffins badge. The CD itself has a vinyl effect to it getting across the band's retro side. Anyway, the EP itself makes an impressive entrance with a Coral-like riff on 'Shoegazing'. Driving drums and rollicking bass then come into the frame as the song makes its way to the 'kids on the war path chorus' which will surely be a sing-a-long point in live shows. The backing vocals are spot on in this opening track as well. Following 'Shoegazing' is the EP's two finest tracks in the form of 'Fingernails & Fairytales' and 'Declan, Put Your Dancing Shoes On'. The former again can draw comparisons to The Coral whilst still retaining a certain 'uniqueness' while the latter is much more of a rocker which sounds reminiscent of a fellow up and coming band, Cheap Cuts (now renamed Man And The Echo). On the remaining two tracks The Ragamuffins explore a slightly more Latin, jazz style which is no bad thing! The closing track, 'Something To Shout About', is another highlight and certainty has the catchiest chorus on the EP. Overall, a fine mix of rock, soul and jazz. Definitely a band to keep an eye on!"
Below David Jaggs talks us through each track on the EP!
"This song had a comparatively huge gestation period which began when I was at the Liverpool vs. Napoli game at Anfield in 2010, specifically after seeing a group of about three or four very young Napoli lads surrounded by police outside the Albert pub and thinking how utterly terrified they looked. There'd been trouble in Naples a few weeks before the match at the away leg with some Liverpool lads being attacked in a restaurant I think by Italian ultras and so the atmosphere wasn't very hospitable around the ground to say the least. Just a few little words and phrases popped into my head when trying to keep my head down and get to the bus without any trouble, being a lover not a fighter and all that... Anyway, I was revisiting some lyric notebooks and found the ideas I'd jotted down and remembered this slightly chaotic guitar riff I'd written when getting my acoustic out on the top deck of a completely empty bus home after a night out which fitted in. When Florin started doubling the riff in practices and Xav had the drums rattling along with that almost Johnny Cash (or more recently Jake Bugg I suppose!) train rhythm and Alex added that utterly hypnotic bassline everything just seemed to fit together nicely so we went from there! It also made sense to call it 'Shoegazing', not to do with the eighties indie sub genre, but given most of the band's slight obsession with footwear, whether it's my stupid numbers of trainers, Sam and his hi-tops or Xav blowing a fortune on Oliver Sweeney shoes!"
Fingernails & Fairytales
"'Fingernails & Fairytales' is a re-recording of an older song that I'd demoed a few years ago and abandoned somewhat because the vocal never really managed to span that balance of fragility and tenderness it needed with the heartbroken subject matter, yet still sung 'well' enough with it being quite a high note in the choruses to lift the tune to make it work properly on record. In all honesty I don't think I was a good enough singer when I wrote the song but have got better vocally and as a musician and we worked out the harmonies better to give it an extra dimension. The solo started sounding really nice with the 12-string style guitar line going on. In terms of writing the song itself, it was the classic songwriter's thing of finding a new chord out and then straight away wanting to use it in a song with the menacing sounding diminished progression and melody in the verses."
Declan, Put Your Dancing Shoes On
"'Declan, Put Your Dancing Shoes On' is sort of a response song (in terms of the title at least) to Elvis Costello's 'Tramp The Dirt Down' that I wrote in the weeks after Margaret Thatcher's death, but more specifically after her actual funeral. The news was awash with sound bytes and anger and you couldn't help but come up with ideas off the back of that, especially when so many of the unsavoury things she did during her time as Prime Minister seemed to be getting glossed over. It's sort of meant to imagine some bizarre, trans-existential funeral service and wake with people both alive and dead, friend and foe turning up and offering their two-penneth to what's going on, and name-checks everyone from Bernard Ingham to Judy Garland. I put some mad synthesiser arpeggios and 'swooshes' on this because there was so much space without the bass in the verses it just felt like we COULD do something like that, and this immediately made me go back and do some similar sonic things on 'Shoegazing' because I was worried that it'd make 'Declan' sound a little musically isolated on the record if there weren't some similar musical themes!"
Eleven In The Afternoon
"'Eleven In The Afternoon' was trickier to record than it probably should have been. It's inception was a result of our former bassist and my good mate Paul dropping a wonderful 'Ringo-ism' (a la 'Hard Days Night' and 'Eight Days A Week') when attempting to organise meeting up, but is more about feeling guilty when wasting a day recovering from a night out and absolutely everything seems to wind you up. The opening ninth chord was another 'songwriter learns new chord' situation but the almost Latin, bossa feel was a bit of a joke originally and just the way I finger-plucked the chords when messing around in our practice room. I think Florin was initially impressed with the melody and chorus lyric which spurred me on to have a go at writing the whole thing but I thought it'd end up as a straighter, faster song. When we tried to do this however it sounded RUBBISH; it was very amateurish and had the teenage band sort of quiet/loud verse/chorus contrast thing you do when you first buy a distortion pedal and an electric guitar and form a band with your mates as a sixteen year old. I knew we could do much better and with a few breakbeat ideas from Xav the first bossa idea I had morphed into something that sounded like 'us'."
Something To Shout About
"'Something To Shout About' is a song about the perils of over-doing it on social media, but I was extremely conscious of how it'd look written down if I called it 'Nothing Much To Shout About' so changed the name accordingly. I wrote it all around that slightly odd chord pattern in the verses and the chiming post-chorus guitar and it just all seemed to make sense with Sam, our keys player firing out a Cuban style piano line in the intro. The tumbling trumpet line at the end seemed as good a way to close the EP as any as well! We were really, really happy with how the 'ah' backing vocals came out as an overdub in the last chorus as, sadly, we can't do them to quite that extent live (yet!) without audience participation, but it made sense and gave that bit of the song a massive lift."
Hope you enjoyed this feature on The Ragamuffins! Check out our previous feature on Dan Poole!
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