Stabbed Panda Presents: The Varsity

Stabbed Panda Presents: The Varsity Album Review In our first ever video interview, Liam chats with local good-times indie-rock legends, The Varsity.

Review of “Get Down, Get Loud!” by Jack Gunner

Its hard to know what to expect from Cambridge alt-rock up and comers The Varsity. Claiming a vast array of influences, their early work has a melting-pot feel that could easily have sounded like a musical power-tussle, but instead carves them out as one of the city’s most intriguing unsigned acts.

The four-piece, consisting of vocalist Nigel Mpakti , guitarist Oscar Corney, bassist Matt Barkway and drummer Sean Clayton have spent the last few years spreading their fun-driven sound around the loosely-worn Cambridge circuit, with sets at venues including the Portland Arms (A great venue, by the by, that doesn’t seem to get enough support), and the Cambridge 105 tent at the Strawberry Fair, before February saw the release of their debut EP, ‘Get Down, Get Loud’.

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The album kicks off with, Tomorrow Never Comes, an infectiously catchy anthem of vitality that thankfully sounds nothing like the Garth Brooks dirge it shares its title with. With a great bass lick intro from Barkway, elements of Arctic Monkeys to the vocals, and some memorably off-the-wall lines, such as - “I’ll do some crazy shit/I’ll set my hair on fire just to prove a point” – something which you hope for health and safety reasons isn’t a regular feature of their gigs. Fire safety is, after all, what rock is all about.

Jake’s Song keeps up the tempo nicely, blending a nicely shoegazy indie-rock backdrop with a hint of melodic hardcore vocals and a short, slightly prog-esque guitar solo. It would be comparable to some of the mid-era Lostprophets numbers if recent events hadn’t made that just about the worst comparison a music journalist could make. Nonetheless, it’s an instant repeat-track, and unquestionably the highlight of the EP.

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Red Light sees the discs emotive core, the lyrics turn a little angsty,but they’re matched with an upbeat rapid-fire verse which melts slickly into a more melodic chorus, before an effectively layered ending act.

Titular number, Get Down, is a left-fielder, pairing the hazy indie backdrop with unexpected rap vocals and a slight ska-feel to the chorus. If there’s a criticism to be made, its that the sound quality seems to waver a little on this track, the punchy style maybe requires a little more volume and clarity – but this is something that can easily be ironed out in recording or concert.

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Righteous Eyes brings the disc to a satisfying close with a more Britpop style, adopting an ever-so-slightly Albarn-esque spoken word pentameter in the early portion before sliding into a more organic chorus, bringing back the light-hearted vibe as the listener is given a catchy first-person narrative of an unconvincingly repentant love-rat.

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As the festive season draws to a close, anyone feeling like they may claw their eardrums out if they hear, Driving Home for Christmas one more time could find some nice appeasement with The Varisty – their début shows an outstanding diversity in sound for a five-track – and with their sideline in acoustic numbers, a full length will likely have even more reach - and a real commitment to fun and energy in the performance style.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and keep supporting Cambridge music!

(9/10)

Jack Gunner

Here’s some links, free of charge: The Varstiy on Facebook The Varstiy on YouTube "Get Down, Get Loud!" on iTunes