Jonny Cola & The A-grades - The Yellow Mini

Bill Cummings 17/06/2009

Rating: 3/5

London four piece Jonny Cola & The A-grades know all about their pop history, having spent years playing toilet venues in previous broken outfits (Luxembourg, The Rocks, Rhesus et al). They've watched plenty of episodes of TOTP2 at teatime and they've been taking notes, and whilst their influences are at times blatantly obvious: their cheeky rough edged Glam-indie-pop songs are playfully and dexterously performed and rendered with their own personalities. Jonny Cola's vocals oscillate on the precipice between the camp decadence of Ziggy Era Bowie and the sneering sexual frustration of Brett Anderson there's a passionate throbbing heart at their core that recalls the works of Albarn and Cocker. On this debut mini album 'The Yellow Mini' they are all delivered with enough fun and passion that you start to enjoy them despite the obvious temptation to get consumed in a game of spot the tune (I'll do that for you now!).

Recent release 'Disappearing act' careers around roundabouts, swirling guitars, and electro sirens crying out the love/hate frustration of a love affair, it's briefly redolent of Babylon Zoo, it's entertaining if not entirely convincing. 'Heroics' playfully rings out, moving swiftly it's huge anti hero: US VS THEM chorus that echoes Suede's underdog anthem 'Trash,' the whole edifice crashing into huge swollen balladry territory that uses and abuses Dusty Springfield's...'I need a hero' a outro that threatens to collapse under the weight of own it's ridiculousness.

Taking its name from Malcolm Middleton's Christmas single of a few years ago, the spiralling guitar figures and space boy imagery of 'We're all going to die' manages to be reminiscent of Mott The Hoople's 'All the young Dudes.' These lyrics are dripping in bitter irony and not the kind noted by Alanis Morrissette either (those were just coincidences right?), each couplet is constantly undercut by bitter irony in their second part, ('Lip smack heart attack/ Hit by a train on your birthday') a theme that echoes the crushing tragedy of the Smiths classic 'There is a light that never goes out'. Clawing at times desperate fatalistic imagery that rises to crescendo in its final portion, its symptomatic of a band who know time is running out for them to make an impression, it's running out for everyone.

Taking things down a notch 'Tarmac on the converse' continues with the Suede tinges, a plaintive, wistful ballad framed by a lonely piano line it detailing a break up set in the urban decay of modern London, mirroring the slow tempo moments of Suede's bsides collection 'Sci Fi Lullabies'. 'Shooting Up''s hyperactive Britpop rhythm is my least favourite cut here; drum beats are punctuated by stabbing off key outbursts, it sounds a little undercooked. The oddity of the last title track 'The Yellow Mini' will probably catch most off guard; it shows a willingness to expose their real potential and passion of The A-grades constructed pop universe. Almost demo-like, a raw, lonely strum, its brittle openhearted vocals are delivered from a drunken flat on your back stupor on the back seat of the cab that drives you home.

Jonny Cola & the A-grades' influences are clearly visible, but pastiche needn't be a dirty word, in fact if you can imbue your influences with personality that's the difference. This mini album isn't that polished, and not everyone 'will get it' but the A-grades are their smearing their eyes with glitter and leading the chorus, poking their tongues to people that take themselves too seriously and running away, delivering 70s inspired stomps that ache with the pierce the irony of the modern world, and in the gutter ballads that remind us of the first flush of Britpop. I for one think that right now, we need more of their kind.

Release date: 01/06/2009