Take yourself back for a second. The year is 997 AD, and you are sat on a balcony in the town of Gaeta, the west coast of Italy. For days now, you’ve been hearing rumours. One person calls it (in Italian, of course) ‘The best bread thing!’, you overhear a girl say “I’ll never eat anything else again!”, but you know. You know all that it is – bread, tomatoes, and cheese. It’s just a particularly good hype man, and some bored ignorant people.
And then you try it.
So much more than the sum of its parts doesn’t even begin to cover it. Maybe I have a little bit of a bias here, because I came across Mutant Bird at the business end of an all-night YouTube/ SoundCloud wormhole. Maybe I was also a little drunk at the time, and finding something that original at that moment smacked me. Johnny Rock’s voice resonates with the swagger and anger that the whisky had instilled in me, and it stuck around on repeat as the soundtrack to whatever else I did that night.
Usually, that is the end for whatever lies at the end of that night’s music streaming wormhole. Usually, I’ll pick it up the next day, and wonder what the hell was going through my head that I could listen to that, deleting any exuberantly marked links I’d placed to remind myself. Not this time. A second listen lets up all the subtle intricacies of the EP’s production, all worked masterfully by Johnny Rock himself. A producer in his own right, Rock creates a soundscape drawing strongly on Trip-hop foundations to begin re-inventing. On top of this, he shows that he is not afraid to use a catchy riff (the whistle on ‘Shoot up’, for example), or the big chorus sound of the single, ‘Sugar Voodoo’, elements perhaps influenced by his tenure as front man for punk-rock band P.L.m.b.
But unlike P.L.m.b., where Johnny’s vocals feel a little puerile, a little punk rock shock for punk rock kicks, this effort gives us genuine attitude. Through it we get a glimpse of Johnny’s world, a world of Rock attitudes and the trouble this can bring, a world that we’ve all tried to, or at least imagined ourselves inhabiting at some point. It’s all too easy to picture Iggy Pop strutting his stuff to ‘Sugar Voodoo’, or Kurt Cobain thrashing out a version of the EP’s closing track.
And that is testament in itself. That Johnny has taken influences as wide ranging as world music and jazz, chucked them together with a little producer’s wizardry, and distilled them into something that still emanates this much attitude- something so devoid of convolution, something that immediately evokes the gods and goddesses of rock and roll history, while being simultaneously of an entirely different genus. Well, It’s not quite as big as the invention of pizza, but it’s not far off.
‘Sugar Voodoo’ is out this month, and there is a second EP already in the works. If you want to catch it live, you’re just going to have to keep your ears peeled and hope for the best, ’cause there’s nothing planned as yet.