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The Red Sided Garter Snakes – Endless Sea

Good things come to those who wait.

The Red Sided Garter Snakes are a musical collective born from an idea by The Chameleons drummer John Lever. Since its inception that concept became project, project became collaboration and collaboration snowballed into this magical ensemble of Manchester-based talent. We have on board, variously; Stephen Wilson, Paul Denheyer, Greg Matthews and Mary Joanna Coogan, (to answer your question, yes she is, but let’s not define her by that, okay.) We have Andy Clegg (Kizilok, The Sun and The Moon). We also have James Mudriczki the voice and soul of the much missed Puressence. Last but not least, John was able to add his old bandmate, original Chameleons guitarist Dave Fielding. If good things do indeed come to those who wait maybe great things come to those of us who really held on for 12 years.

First thing to say is, Endless Sea is not a Chameleons album, nor should be framed in those terms. This record is distinctly fresh and different. However this shouldn’t frighten anyone who may have alighted on this page as a result of their love of The Chameleons. You’ll already know, for example, The Reegs, Beefpig and Invincible, each of which carry familiarity whilst cultivating their own identities away from the ‘parent’ group. I hear a lot of The Reegs within Endless Sea, unsurprisingly, considering Fielding’s abilities as arranger.

Album opener ‘Shake your spine’ emerges from a murmur of looped, ethnic sounding vocals, (reprised later in ‘Go Away’) and establishes the albums myriad influences. Listeners would have every right to expect a post punk sound from TRSGS, yet there’s more to them than that. Into the picture come eastern psychedelic influences, progressive rock touches and even a splash of sixties Merseybeat. Manchester dreampop does of course rear its beautiful head in the next trio of songs. ‘Crack In A Paper Cup’ is a poetic treatise on life in the ‘here and now’ driven by crisp drumming and shimmering guitars. Above it all Mudriczki soars, his signature angelic flutter here tinged with bitterness. ‘Feel Alive’ is the one that will find instant favour among The Chameleons fanbase. Having been starved of original music for the better part of a decade, the title is apt. Things do indeed feel ‘alive’ for the first time since the 2003 split. I never heard Mary Joanna Coogan sing before. She is wonderful.

‘Love Yourself’ is a reworked Beefpig song and delivers yet again. I always rated this track but the Endless Sea version has an added majesty. Core themes of selfishness and insincerity within the music industry remain present and correct. Side one closes with ‘Found Again’ which has a very different ‘rock pop’ vibe with an earworm chorus.

‘Gallipoli’, the second Mudriczki vehicle, sounds like The Kinks on steroids and brings shoegazer elements to the party. Fans of Ferment era Catherine Wheel will enjoy this one. Next up, ‘Go away’ has Kizilok fingerprints all over it. This is the deceptive one folks. Don’t let this one slip away. Beneath the menacing psyche rock drone; there’s an anthem wrestling to be heard which recalls Mansun, or even Stone Roses.

After this, the album hits a more pastoral phase. The instrumental ‘Johns Dream’ sounds exactly that, a languid jam with some wonderful musician friends. When the guitars kick in it is rendered a thing of wonder. ‘Pistols at dawn’ is another reworked Beefpig cut -its choppy guitars reminiscent of The Chameleons own ‘Paper Tigers’. ‘Pistols..’ is a muscular workout before ‘Trancer’ delivers the albums cinematic climax.

Endless Sea puts in mind of the first This Mortal Coil album. It too had a similarly amorphous line-up yet somehow managed to forge disparate tracks together without losing the albums overall identity. In Dave Fielding we have a guitar legend to match Robin Guthrie. I have to say though, installing Jimmy Mudriczki, arguably the voice of his generation, in the Sharp/Frazer role is really a coup. I grew to love It’ll End In Tears as much as any Cocteau Twins album and that’s saying a lot. I think the producers can take the credit there.

TRSGS have delivered a shimmering prog/psychedelia journey with songwriting the equal of the quality musicianship on display. It isn’t a stoner album at all. It is very accessible. In fact you’re more likely to play it to death and be left feeling like a kid who drank too much lemonade. Past and present combine here to wondrous effect. This is a record which could never have been made by twenty-somethings. Instead Endless Sea takes from music’s rich heritage (to which its members have already contributed plenty) and forges something entirely new. It is alchemy dear reader. It is gold.
Mystical, mythical and marvellous.

Buy Endless Sea