[sic] Magazine

Black Tie Dynasty – Down Like Anyone

Black Tie Dynasty are all about that 80’s sound. Delayed guitars are combined with shiny synthesizers and the cold-filtered vocals of front man Cory Watson. Stylistically BTD fall somewhere between post-punk/new wave and the fledgling first steps of the new romantic scene. It’s a very British sound. Yet BTD are Texans. Quite what the significance of this is I do not know but I can’t help wondering if this might at least part-explain why their anthems are bigger than anyone else’s? This band truly soars.

I’ve encountered BTD before. They packed their debut long-player ‘Movements’ with majestic, chiming stadium rock the like of which has not been heard since the heady days of Echo And The Bunnymen, early U2 and arguably the greatest of them all, The Sound. Remember this was before “anthem” was rendered a dirty word by the likes of Simple Minds. The new album succeeds both in developing and widening the BTD repertoire.

If I held one misgiving over the star potential of BTD it concerned their image rather than content. ‘Movements’ was such a surprise and yet the band that delivered it seemed a little too wholesome, too ‘apple pie’ to be taken seriously as purveyors of dark, indie pop. You could take BTD home for thanksgiving. Now contrast that with the band BTD are regularly compared to, Depeche Mode. Can you imagine taking the Mode to meet your family – Gore in a dress and Gahan running tyre-tracks up his arm? By comparison BTD lacked that kinked sensuality and appeared very ‘boy next door’.

Oh how wrong I was. ‘The Cruel Canopy’ kick starts this new collection with Watson in a menacing state. Have you ever stepped into an unfamiliar bar and accidentally caught the eye of the notorious local troublemaker? The brooding words “what the fuck are you looking at?” are never far away. Neither is a good kicking. When Cory Watson growls “you don’t love me like I love you…” you get the impression a similar bruising is about to follow. “I simply needed the proof” he yelps in a true approximation of Ian McCulloch’s ‘Cutter’ (Yeah, he gets that a lot!) and then the whole song goes berserk. There’s a Frankie Goes To Hollywood, rat-tat tat drumbeat and rumbling bass akin to Peter Hook. Senses take a pounding.

It’s a perverse thing to say, but I wonder how an album can recover from such a great start? In answer, BTD revert back to more familiar territory. ‘Against the wall’ and ‘Lay Low’ are further examples of BTD doing what BTD do best. Few bands can do melodies, hooks and choruses this well. This is the kind of music that makes major labels open their chequebooks and it doesn’t stop there. BTD have front-loaded this album. Forth up, ‘Much Scarier’ is lighter and jauntier. I’m tipping it to become many peoples favourite track on the record. ‘You got a lover’ seems to be cheekily aping The Killers ‘Sams Town’.

To the flip side then and there are only a couple of moments where I feel less than satisfied. The title track seems a little unsure of what it is trying to achieve. The vocal is interesting. Watson seems world-weary and his voice is cracked. I wonder if producer John Congleton deliberately made him re-take it over and over until raw (a la The Beatles ‘Twist and Shout’)? It’s a nice effect but not my favourite song. Neither is ‘Seawall’, the albums closing track which pulls up short when it comes to the regulation epic finale. ‘Seawall’ is nudged slightly towards the indie roots-rock of The Waterboys or Big Country but BTD can do better. And have done. Witness ‘On your last night in town’ off ‘This Stays Between Us’ and ‘Devotion’ from ‘Movements’.

The real epic is probably penultimate track ‘Shipwreck’ with its strings and false ending but to reach it we have to safely navigate ‘Pumpkin’ without hitting repeat. No easy task. ‘Pumpkin’ could be an Editors track or even a lost classic by The Chameleons (UK). Those chainsaw guitars. That voice! Cory Watson must be one of the current greats. Yet I consider the whole band top drawer in every aspect – the writing, the performance, the production standards. Why aren’t they massive? They’re a big deal in Texas, certainly. Every time I visit their website they seem to be up for yet another award. It’s true too that most European countries would fit comfortably inside that vast State but really BTD should be huge nationwide and worldwide. Watch my lips. This band has massive breakthrough potential. Bet on it. Get yourself down to the Casino and place all your chips on Black.