The Heys - Pressure

If memory serves, and it may not, The Heys are from somewhere around Coventry. They may even be from Coventry itself. But don't hold that against them, because "Pressure" is everything that a great guitar-pop single should be, three minutes of fuzzy major chords, full, rich bass, shouty, ominpresent backing vocals and an impossibly addictive chorus. B-side, sorry, second track "Ain't Wot You Say" ain't half bad either, following the same formula to almost, though not quite, the same degree of success.

So then, why aren't The Heys the biggest band in Britian? Well, their sound simply isn't all that fashionable. The bands who receive the record company attention at the moment seem to be either Coldplay clones, angular, edgy, but so often sterile Bloc Party-ish bands, or, increasingly, ramshackle, wayward collectives providing pale imitations of the Libertines' sound. Fall into any of these categories, especially the latter, then no matter how terrible you sound, or perhaps because of how terrible you sound, it seems that in the current climate you're bound to be snapped up by some eager A&R man. Choose to plow your own furrow, however, and you may find it a great deal more difficult, even if you pursue your art with flair, wit, dedication and an unnerving ability to write great pop songs. That, at the moment, certainly seems to be the case with The Heys.

The prominence of the organ and those aforementioned backing vocals (Hey!) plot a line that goes back to The Jam and Dexy's Midnight Runners and hence, further back to Stax soul. The Heys have no horn section but they don't need it, their melodies and arrangements are far more subtle but no less effective indicators of where their allegiances lie. At the same time though, there are those crunchy, overdriven, rich guitars, which, along with Tom Flynn's sneering, impetuous vocals, hark back to classic Supergrass and then on to far less fashionable influences from the days when before "power chord" became a dirty phrase. Indeed, Thin Lizzy's glorious, if less than cool, 1977 single "Dancing In The Moonlight" springs to mind as "Pressure"'s spiritual forefather, in lyrics, mood and performance.

One is also reminded of Elvis Costello, a man who understood (and hopefully, still understands, when not busy making patchy country records) how to marry a great, well produced, tight, sharp, pop sound, full of classic rock 'n' roll and soul influences, with the energy and sniggering impetuosity of punk. Which is, of course, exactly what The Heys have done with "Pressure". They're obviously not songwriters, either lyrically or musically, of Costello's calibre. For me though, Costello is the greatest British songwriter, the missing link between Cole Porter's melodies and Dylan's acid tongue, so this is hardly much of a criticism; that The Heys merit comparison with him at all speaks volumes. One could, of course, criticise The Heys' sound for being derivative, but even Costello himself relied on a seriously "retro" sound while making some of his most astonishing, groudbreaking music. And even a band with the most derivative of sounds, which, I hasten to add, The Heys are not, should be considered a small mercy if they choose not to "take influence" from the same sources as their contemporaries.

Essentially, The Heys are still a struggling unsigned band. There's no scheduled date for even a hugely limited commercial release of this utterly brilliant piece of pop music, it's only been made available for promotional purposes. Maybe there's hope though, recently Hard-Fi have broken through in a major way, with big tunes and a sound at odds with most current British guitar-based music. And they've done it with none of the wit, talent and flair that The Heys possess, so if the major labels know what's good for them, they'll be making a few trips to Coventry some time soon.

So go to the website, an endearingly perfunctory MySpace affair, of this little-known band, and listen to "Pressure", because it's the only place you're likely to hear it for the time being, but if there's any justice in the record industry you won't be able to hear it for free forever.




out of 10

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