Audioweb / Fireworks City re-issues
Demon Music Group
Coloured vinyl available here from 4th June
Audioweb have at last released their two excellent albums from 1996 and 1998 on vinyl for the first time. Tunes that deserve to be in every serious music heads collection. Wayne AF Carey rewinds the forward thinking vibes of ‘Sugar’ and co…
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Back in the nineties Manchester was a melting pot of different styles straight after the fallout of Grunge and the Madchester scene. There were bands like The Dust Junkies and Black Grape ripping it up with their twang of hip hop and funk, layered with Manc humour and craziness. Audioweb were around at the time bubbling under the surface with their unique fusion of sound. First time I came across the band was watching Space at The Academy (I think) and they were supporting. Fuckin’ hell they were good. They just had that presence. A backbone of Robin File (guitar), Sean McCann (bass) and Rob ‘Maxi’ Maxfield on drums, all fronted by the multi talented vocals of Sugar. A band of working class brothers who had a mental way of fusing reggae, hip hop, rock, soul and funk. Well written songs that stood out from your normal. Take heed all you people who turn up at gigs after the support bands. They were Manchester’s hidden gem and shit all over many bands with their class sets.
The proof was in the pudding…
Support slots with U2, Madness, Cast and Ian Brown all followed and they eventually signed to U2’s Mother Records to release two outstanding albums that still sound rich today. And to top the fuckin’ carrot Maxi and Sean went on to become part of Ian Brown’s backing band on his solo tours with Maxi getting writing credits on Solarized. Robin meanwhile went on to work with Finlay Quaye and Congo Natty, while Martin went on with his SuperJamma project laden with reggae vibes. Not bad yeah? The only problem was back in 1999 they were lumped into a non scene. Too rock for the ravers and too rave for the rockers. Fuckin’ bullshit which happened to a lot of bands in this period. Thank fuck they laid down these two gems,. that played today still sound amazing.
Reforming in 2016 was a blessing to the Manchester underground scene. I witnessed the gig at Sound Control with family and friends that were always behind them and it was like they’d never been away. Sugar was just a total gent with the crowd. A blistering set that confirmed how vital they were and still are.
Debut album the eponymous Audioweb is still one the funkiest albums of that era. The opening Sleeper with the Stone Roses like Squire-esque riff backed by that smooth bass and incredible drumming skills by McCann and Maxi. Sugar just has that vocal range that can change from Seal like high notes in his own style then rambles off into some proper Jamaican toasting at the twist of a drumbeat. Tracks like Into My World still sound like massive hits and Who’s To Blame is a testimony to the trip hop vibes of Bristol with a spaced out drum pattern just rolling with that reggae bass that melts into a sublime guitar riff. You have the obligatory cover of Bank Robber (recorded in Manchester for you Clash nerds) which compliment the original in every way. Their highest charting tune which is a shame as tracks like Time and Lover are just fuckin’ classic. The whole structure of Lover is massive in scope. Vocals to kill for, addictive bassline, proper class guitar licks and funky as fuck drums rolling throughout. Even closing track Dripfeed needs a mention with it’s dark foreboding soul groove that chills the fuck out and grooves like a bad boy.
Fireworks City released two years later steps up the game with Sugar giving his left right uppercut blow of toasting style which mixes back in with his sweet soul vocals on Policeman Skank. I can’t decide which the best album of the two is yet! There’s a lot more mixing and scratching going on here, the signature Maxi drums which caught Ian Browns attention matched with that great bass and guitar combo. It’s a mixed affair that just gets the vibe flowing with the funky fullness of Test The Theory which sounds so futuristic and relevant today. Personal Feeling is just fuckin’ classic. Still sennds shivers up my spine now listening to it. This song should have been massive. It’s got everything about it. Killer chorus, a massive backbone of sound filled with a funk explosion of drums, bass and shredding guitars. Try goes trip hop funk on your arse and Sentiments For A Reason is a funked up anthem with some amazing guitar fading in and out to thrill the ears. I don’t need to review every track as it’s hard to describe the multitude of sounds going on here that obviously confused the Ecstacy munching crowd of the era. Take Freefall which is just pure class in a tin with it’s laid back spliff vibes that crunch into an epic sounding Bond like track. Where the fuck were the soundtrack scouts hanging around when this was aired? Probably in a fuckin’ posh bog in Camden Town snorting shit coke exported from Paul Massey’s henchmen and wanking over Portishead. Oh the irony… The drums and bass on Control are just classic. Stick your headphones on for this one. Sugar’s vocals are on fire and he’s easily up there with the great soul vocalists. Closing track Get Out Of Here is just laden with police sirens, toasting, funky drumming. A proper ode to the sounds of Coventry with the lyrics and a massive Two Tone vibe flecked with funk. A chilling end to an album that haunts me after the events surrounding Martin post Stones Roses. That’s another story that doesn’t need to be told…
One of the great Manchester bands that were always on the verge yet didn’t quite find the golden ticket. Similar to Justin Robertson and MC Buzz B’s band Lionrock who had a similar status on the scene. Anyway. They have cemented a decent part in the rich history of great Manchester bands and should be proud. Lets hope they get together again. These beautiful specimens of vinyl should be living in your record collection…
Words by Wayne Carey, Reviews Editor for Louder Than War. His author profile is here
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