FEDERAL CHARM - Passenger

CLAIRE HILL

Stockport based heavy blues-rock outfit FEDERAL CHARM are set to release their eagerly anticipated third album, ‘Passenger’, on the Wire-Sound label on 14th September 2018. Recorded, produced and mixed at Willow Terrace Studios in Manchester, and co-produced by the band themselves with John Simms, this will be their first album since the dramatic line-up change in 2016, when vocalist Tom Guyer and drummer Josh Zahler were brought on board after the band was effectively split in half following an amicable parting of the ways with their original singer and drummer. After the line-up was complete, the band spent the next twelve months focussing on writing, with Guyer joining founding members Paul Bowe (guitar) and L. D. Morawski (bass) in the songwriting for ‘Passenger’. Down The Front Media spoke to Paul Bowes halfway through the recording process for ‘Passenger’; you can find out what he had to say here: https://www.downthefrontmedia.com/down-the-front-media/music-reviews/interview-with-federal-charm/

From the first notes of album opener ‘Swing Sinner’ it’s clear that the revamped Federal Charm have a somewhat heavier edge, but without losing their organic bluesy roots. You can tell it’s the same band, they just feel a lot more kick-ass! The darkly disturbing lyrics of ‘Swing Sinner’ tell us about Joe, a young boy who kills his abusive, alcoholic father after he has had enough. It’s a sobering thought, but this song is also designed to make you move! It has my hips swinging to the beat and I’m singing along after the first listen. Current single ‘Choke’ follows, with Zahler’s drums getting the track off to a great start before the singing guitars and understated bass join in. I love how the vocals are given centre stage without any other instruments during aspects of the verses, giving real emphasis to both the lyrics and Guyer’s voice. The chorus has a great sing-a-long factor and there is some serious riffage going on too.

‘Emerald Haze’ has a bit of an ethereal quality to it, and the song conveys a relationship ending. Guyer’s vocals sound so emotional, you can almost hear the pain he is going through at seeing his former lover with someone new. This song has more of a bluesy feel than the two previous tracks, and it's perhaps more reminiscent of the previous Federal Charm albums. The distorted guitar sounds amazing when combined with staccato drums and laid back bass. In contrast, the riff-laden and gravel-toned vocals of ‘Death Rattle’, a song that will resonate with fans of live music everywhere as it bemoans the closing of those sacred venues and the building of blocks of flats in their place. There is a poignant ghostly guitar solo right at the end of the track.

After an gentle beginning, ‘Nowhere is Home’ is propelled by the excellent rhythm section, the resonating bass and groovy guitars weaving in and out on this track and it’s a real ear worm. The instrumental bridge is fantastic as it shows the accomplished musicianship of each band member. Seemingly about trying to make a relationship work, ‘Get Through’ is a really lively track designed to get you up and moving. There is lovely use of distorted vocals in parts, soaring riffs, frenetic drums, booming bass lines, and clever use of keys. I reckon this would be a definite crowd pleaser; I can envisage fists in the air and the crowd singing along. ‘Concrete Creature’ is about humans continual destruction of nature while our quest for more power goes unchecked, there is also a dig at the “plastic creatures” - I assume the ‘celebrities’ of reality TV and the like. It’s another hard hitting rock track that starts off gently with some lovely acoustic guitar, before those vocals let rip and ramp the tempo right up. It’s bang on the money and gets my vote of approval.

‘Can’t Rule Me’ is one of the tracks that stood out for me on the first listen. The rhythm section drives the song along, there are some really cool guitar riffs, Guyer’s vocals sound fantastic and the changes in pace throughout add a lot of interest.  I love the drumming on ‘Halo’, and the distorted riffs are incredible. Again, there are tempo changes and the vocals are incredible, particularly on a part where the vocals are interspersed with the drums; that sounds amazing. ‘Speak Out’ is an insanely catchy, rocky tune about the current state of the NHS and the school system in the UK, and the failing of the Government on both of these. It sounds like the drums and the vocals are having a conversation back and forth between themselves and the guitars are weaving in and out, whilst the bass keeps everything steady on the bottom line. Album closer ‘Parting Words’ has a deep resonating bass and a rather floaty feel at the start, and as the atmospheric guitars come in along with those stunning emotive vocals, it’s clear that this is a very special finish to the album. It feels more like the encore of a live show…and the band are giving their all. You can feel the pure emotion coming not only through Guyer’s vocals, but through each instrument.

Guyer’s voice, reminiscent of Robert Plant, goes from raw and rocky to smoothly sublime and bluesy in the blink of an eye; Bowe is an astoundingly skilful guitarist who plays soulfully with such depth of tone, and can also bang out cracking riffs and solos to rival Jimmy Page.  Morawski keeps up a steady yet understated bass throughout and Zahler’s hard-hitting yet groovy drumming seals the deal. ‘Passenger’ pulls together all the fantastic aspects of the old Federal Charm, puts them in a blender on supersonic speed and melds them with this new, heavier version. It’s still recognisably Federal Charm, but supercharged, like a Duracell bunny that’s been plugged into the mains. This album has been played so much in my house this week, I’ve barely listened to anything else; and with each subsequent track, I have a new favourite, I absolutely love it! 10/10

Audiences got a taste of how the album might sound live when Federal Charm took to the road for a short tour earlier this year, and DTFM were in attendance at one of those brilliant gigs. You can read our review here: https://www.downthefrontmedia.com/down-the-front-media/live-gig-reviews/federal-charm-gabriella-jones-flowerpot-22-04-18/
Federal Charm will be hitting the road this September for a co-headline tour with The Bad Flowers, and we recommend you get yourself to one of the dates (below); we certainly will!

‘Passenger’ track listing:-
Swing Sinner
Choke
Emerald Haze
Death Rattle
Nowhere is Home
Get Through
Concrete Creature
Can’t Rule Me
Halo
Speak Out
Parting Words

Federal Charm is:-
Paul Bowe - Guitar
L. D. Morawski - Bass
Tom Guyer - Vocals
Josh Zahler - Drums
Kyle Ross - Keys/guitar (on album)

Federal Charm are on tour in September 2018:-
19th - Bristol, Thekla
20th - Pontypridd, Muni Centre
21st - Nottingham Rock City Basement
22nd - Glasgow Classic Grand
23rd - Chester, The Live Rooms
24th - Manchester, Deaf Institute
26th - Huddersfield, The Parish
27th - Newcastle, Think Tank
28th - Sheffield, Corporation
29th - Birmingham, O2 Institute 2
30th - London Borderline
For tickets go to http://www.planetrocktickets.co.uk/search/?search_str=federal+charm
Co-headline with The Bad Flowers; support from Those Damn Crows

Pre-order ‘Passenger’ here:-
www.federalcharm.com/shop

Find out more about Federal Charm here:-
https://www.federalcharm.com/
https://www.facebook.com/federalcharm/
https://twitter.com/FederalCharm
https://www.instagram.com/federalcharm/

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