Every now and then a musician or band comes around and you know they’re about more than just the music. They make statements. Patti Smith isn’t just a musician-what she sees is reflected in her music. Just look at her cover of Hey Joe.
The Noisettes are a London-based band made up of vocalist and bass player Shingai Shoniwa, guitarist Dan Smith and the drummer, Jamie Morrison. Together they make music that sounds very punk but very blues influenced. Shoniwa’s voice is memorable-she can sound quiet and breathy, almost childlike but can break into a rich soulful sound just as easily. Her vocals are commanding, as is the music that supports the lyrics.
Their first album What’s the Time Mr. Wolf?, released this year, opens up with an infectious punk song reminscent of the styles of the White Stripes and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The track “Don’t Give Up” is relentless in it’s message.
The final track, “Hierarchy” isn’t your normal pop/rock song. The subject is far from light. As the title suggests, it deals with hierarchy. the opening verse:
Where did my brave side go?
T’was beaten by thieves
Who snatched with no hands
Said they promised to
Take us to enchanted lands
And I hope you understand
Only one other band that I know of has dared to tackle racism in their music (though theirs was in an exclusively modern light, as far as I know) and that is Skunk Anansie. With songs like “It Takes Blood and Guts to be This Cool But I’m Still Just a Cliche” and “Intellectualize My Blackness”, Skunk Anansie tackled racism head on with raging lyrics and powerful music. The Noisettes toned down their reflections, but that doesn’t make it any less powerful.
In addition to recognizing the importance of perserverence (incidently, Shingai means ‘perserverence’ in the East African Shona language), the album also recognizes an (as of today) often forgotten heroine.
In Sister Rosetta (Capture the Spirit), the band plays homage to Sister Rosetta Tharpe, a Southern gospel singer/guitar player who truly made an influence on music. A virtuosic musician, she played just as well as her male peers of the time.
So why should you listen to the Noisettes? Is it because of their quality punk music? The important themes that run through their music? Their witty lyrics? Their great live show? The fact that their music has captured something timeless–thoroughly modern yet harking back to a day gone by? Or all of these reasons plus more?
Check them out-you won’t regret it.
The Noisettes: Sites to Know-