JONNY COLA & THE A-GRADES
Having reviewed their EP "Halo" this time last year, I heard nothing further from this band. Now I know why and its not been without good reason. Whilst rock music is bedevilled with internal band strife that sees releases delayed or permanently shelved due to personnel changes or ego clashes, the problems besetting Jonny Cola & The A Grades have been truly more life threatening.
With recording for their second album well under way, leader singer Jonny received the shocking news that routine medical tests had diagnosed him with end-stage kidney failure. Quite understandably the band was put on the back burner, as were his imminent wedding plans, as his priorities switched to the day to day management of his condition. However, in an act of selfless devotion, Jonny's fiancée volunteered to be a donor. With an operation out of the way last November, and his health improving immeasurably, the A Grades are now back to bring a blast of glam rock to your mundane lives.
Returning on April 3rd with a double A side single (do such things still exist?) they continue in much the same vain as their previous recordings. Echoes of 70's glam mixed with early 90's Manics (both musically and visually). The line up remains the same with Jonny on vocals and exaggerated posing, Mauro Venegas and Jez Leather on guitars, bassist Simon Drowner and Marco Testa-Ryan on drumming duties.
"Straight to Video" sounds like Suede would have done if David Bowie had been on vocals. A brooding six minute epic that builds from a piano driven intro, through an initially slow tempo, into a fully blown bombastic rock song. With several distinct parts to their opus, each punctuated and defined by a moments silence to heighten the suspense, the track has more than a passing feel of Queens little known song Bohemian Rhapsody.
The video is set in the type of London subterranean club in which Tory MP's always seem to be caught (literally) with their trousers down. Inhabited by sailors, call girls and transvestites it seems the logical setting for Jonny to emphasise the life affirming hook of "Don't freeze frame, hell no. Your life goes straight to video".
"Marlborough Road" is a more up-tempo number with power-chord guitar intro and military precision drumming. The band sets out the pitfalls of living in the capital's bed-sit land.- dodgy electrics and rising damp, to name but a few. Catchy chorus and Bradfieldesque guitar solo makes this a more immediate number and, with such a lyrical topic, perhaps a bed fellow for The Members' Solitary Confinement.
So there you have it, after such a trying time of late, Jonny & The A Grades return in triumph. With a follow up to debut album "In Debt" on the horizon and live gigs resuming on March 22 at London's Buffalo Bar, hopefully they'll have better luck than of late. And quite frankly they deserve it.