The Chevin - Champion EP Review
Looking out from the vantage point that is Surprise View on Otley Chevin you can almost imagine that you're seeing all the world; hundreds of metres above the Wharfe Valley which stretches out beneath it like a miniature patchwork of fields and houses, this slab of millstone grit which has stood looking roughly the same since the last Ice Age simply dominates the local skyline.
Students together at the local high school, singer Coyle Girelli and mates Mat Steel (guitar), Jon Langford (bass) and Mal Taylor (drums) sound like they've shaped their music according to the big horizons and spectacular scenery that their home town landmark regularly offers to tourists. Should you ever run in to them the band's name is pronounced Shev-in, and based on Champion it's highly likely that meet them in the future you may - signed to Fierce Panda, the four piece have already spent part the latter part of 2011 opening for no lesser outfits than White Lies and The Pigeon Detectives.
Spread across Champion's five original songs (The sixth and final being a club mix of the title track) is a measure of energy and passion which point frequently to big aspirations but more importantly the talent to deliver on them. The titular opener is a classic hands-to-sky exaltation to things in the realm of the extraordinary, hearts on sleeves stuff with a big, big chorus and a stadium friendly cadence. Calling it indie-pop almost sounds rude, but at its heart there's a first album Killers strut here, one which should be enough to blank any cynical suggestions that the whole genre has nothing thrilling left to give.
If being to able lay down a glossy major key riff was all Girelli & co. had, they clearly they wouldn't be that bigger news, even in a town with only 14,000 residents, but the rest of their work here shows considerable room for manoeuvre. It's reminiscent of the wide-screen ambitions of their headline tour mates yes, but also acts with a great deal more subliminal power such as The Boxer Rebellion, or even the longish lost mavens Hope of The States. There is power and control: Songs For The Sun strips away all the bombast and delivers through a simple lo-fi vehicle, whilst When The Party's Over deals in comedown metaphors and stirs in some instrumentally darker moods.
One of the key prerequisites for bringing greatness to this kind of elegiac material is a charismatic frontman with a great set of pipes (Step forward Brandon), and Girelli has the latter, being in possession of an idiosyncratic bluesy-soulful toot capable of communicating without being pompous. Blue Eyes is the proof of that, but the most unexpected pleasure comes on Menwith Hill, a wispy space-pop epic which talks about bouncing love from off satellites and other 21st century conversations. It sounds terrible on paper of course. So thank whoever you worship that music isn't played on that, and then thank the same person for The Chevin, and buy yourself a lighter too. You'll be needing that in a couple of years when this lot are playing Wembley Stadium.