Scarlet Rebels have come a long way since their V0iD days. That’s not to say they weren’t a viable concern back then, far from it, with the band releasing three excellent albums under their previous banner and with gigs far and wide across the UK under their belt.
Scarlet Rebels – See Through Blue (Earache Records)
Release Date: 28 January 2022
Words: Dave Bonney
But with ever-increasing concerns about appearing to be ‘invisible’ due to the grammatical make-up of the name across the social networks, something of which I concurred with at the time, the guys agreed a name change was called for.
So being proud Welshmen from Llanelli and in honour of their hometown rugby union team, the Scarlets, Scarlet Rebels rose from the V0iD ashes in 2018. With a couple of additions in the six-string department in Chris Jones and Josh Townsend, who also plays keyboards, and by the way, just happens to call The Who guitarist Pete Townsend Uncle Pete, the band signed to Rock of Angel Records and released their debut album.
The success of the album and subsequent gigs with the new lineup brought the guys to the attention of renowned UK label Earache Records, and they were soon signed up and are raring to go again with their second album See Through Blue.
Frontman Wayne Doyle was watching TV in the middle of the pandemic when he found his anger rising. A faceless politician whose name escaped him, mainly because they all look the same, was shamelessly taking credit for Marcus Rashford’s successful campaign to get free school meals reinstated for children during those difficult times, something which subsequently resulted in the football star being awarded an MBE.
“This guy was basically hijacking something someone else had done,” Wayne said. “I was watching these politicians coming on the news every day, trotting out absolute bullshit and using the worlds downturn to make a profit for themselves, and no one from the other side was calling them out on it. Politics is so corrupt it needs a kick up the arse.” Who could argue with him?
It’s fair to say the seeds for the new album were well and truly sown there and then. Featuring a front cover of Prime Minister Boris Johnson standing on a podium casting a demonic shadow, See Through Blue leaves the observer under no illusions as to its content.
Now Earache have form when it comes to getting their roster into the UK charts, Massive Wagons and Those Damn Crows being recent prime examples. Be that as it may, the PR side of it is one thing, but the buck ultimately stops with the band, and if the songs aren’t there, then you have nothing.
Fortunately for Scarlet Rebels fans, Wayne Doyle and the guys write great songs and with a back catalogue to prove as much, the thought of this new album is really whetting the appetite.
Four tracks from the album have already been released, and the opening song is one of them. It’s an unwritten rule to start with a bang, hooking the listener from the off whilst reeling them in early doors, and the Rebels have used the right fly and bait on this one. Setting the tone for what’s to come, I’m Alive has a certain swagger accompanying a Slash-like riff with more hooks than a fisherman’s box, making it an obvious choice for the prestigious slot.
First single is the singalong Storm which is bound to go down like the proverbial when dished out live, with its singalong chorus, frantic fretwork and Doyle singing “you better hope that the storm don’t hit tonight”. This song questions whether people are prepared for the aftershocks of both the pandemic and the government’s utter malfeasance, something which, after the recent party-gate revelations, ironically seems to have come back to bite Boris on his backside.
Starting with alt-like guitar, London Story quickly turns into a driving paean, and I’ve just about worn out the soles of my new Christmas trainers tapping along to its infectious grooves. A song that has all the classic Rebels hallmarks, I challenge anyone to sit still whilst listening to this. The bill for my new ‘trabs’ is in the post and winging its way over the Severn bridge as we speak.
If someone had told me These Days was written in collaboration with Kelly Jones, I wouldn’t have questioned it. Such is the glorious ‘phonics vibe emanating right through this ear candy rouser, this song has the valley’s running through it like a bar of Barry Island rock.
Also released as a single, Take You Home is a hard-hitting rocker of which Wayne Doyle previously told MetalTalk, “This song is for the people that live their lives for the one moment where a chord change feels like it could change the world. This is an ode to the power music holds in uniting us all.” Hell yeah, rebel rousing stuff.
The song opens with big guitar and is a real banger that has the charismatic Chris Jones almost setting his frets on fire with a blistering solo that carries this song to an album high. I can already picture the crowd with their arms in the air as Doyle sings, “raise your hands, and we’ll take you home.” It’s a yes from me!
I Can Sleep Now is a slow burner in the mould of Heal, from the guys 2019 album Show Your Colours, different sentiments, albeit, but it works so well. Slowly picking up the tempo, it dies back down until Doyle’s voice holds the note at the end until it tingles right down your spine. Moving stuff.
I Can’t Say, with its ‘Beautiful People’ riff, is a different beast in its very own heavy melodic oxymoron way, juxtaposition at its contrasting best. Powerhouse drummer Gary Doyle drives this stomper along with his rhythm section low-end partner in crime Pricey, keeping it all together. This one is arguably outside of the Scarlet Rebels box, but pushing boundaries can bring big rewards, and they’ve reached podium level with this one.
The upbeat Take It has a bit of Sunset Strip about it. It’s a short and sharp singalong that leads perfectly into something a little bit special.
The acoustic opening of Leave A Light On, with its sublime emotive vocals leading into melodic, structured guitar work, combine to make this ballad an album highlight and one that evokes stadium visions of lighters and iPhones being held high. This song is destined for a part in the new live set for sure.
The only thing that gnaws slightly for me, and I’m just being bloody greedy here, is that the guitar outro feels like it has more legs and could carry the song a little further, or maybe it’s just that damn good, I don’t want it to end. I can’t ever remember picking a ballad as a personal album favourite, so this is a first.
We’re Going Nowhere has a fabulously funky groove to it and Everything Changed is another glorious foot-stomping melodic rocker taking us through to the album closer and title track.
See Through Blue is a song that would make the opposition party’s perfect campaign song. They just don’t know it yet. This Tory bashing anthem could quite easily have been double the four minutes it is if Doyle went into greater detail, though truth be told, the line “gaslighting a whole goddamn nation to push your contracts through” pretty much says all you need to know.
It’s the brooding tune it most certainly has to be. There’s no feel-good factor with this one, and neither should there be, with the message ringing loud and clear long after the needle has left the run-out groove.
So, there we have it, an astonishing set of songs that make up an album destined to keep this band on the upward trajectory they’ve been on these last few years. All the rage, fear and uncertainty of recent times have been poured into the albums twelve tracks, and they’ve left nothing in the studio.
It’s only mid-January, yet we already have a contender for classic rock album of the year on our hands right here. The album is out on the 28th, but why wait until then, get your pre-order in right now and help the band break into the UK charts and in doing so, Scarlet Rebels will achieve the accolade of being the first Llanelli band ever to do so.
Unfortunately, the forthcoming tour has frustratingly but not surprisingly fallen foul to the virus, so when the band get the go-ahead to finally tour this album, throw your Covid-19 cobwebs off and get down and support them at your local venue. Oh, and take along a contribution or two for the band’s local food bank appeal.
If that doesn’t endear these guys to you even more than this album does, then I’m not sure what will. Their MBE’s await them!