|Taurus Trakker at the Retro tonight|
West London punk-blues duo release second album ‘Building Ten’ feat. They play tonight at the Retro Bar.
“Martin's material is about something, and that's what I feel is really important these days, I love the band” - Mick Jones, The Clash
“A most impressive album indeed” - Rich Deakin, Vive le Rock
“a masterful example of swamp-tinged classic rock” - David Ellis, Tour Times
You needn‘t go further than the nearest dive dealing in bands ‘n’ beer to find a man who‘ll claim The Clash inspired him to pick up guitar, but few can say they caught Strummer’s seminal punks at such close quarters as Taurus Trakker’s Martin Muscatt. As younger cousin to Mick Jones, Martin got to witness some of the earliest shows played by the men he describes as “the most intense and passionate band ever”, and while such a benchmark of achievement in the family could dissuade one from seeking a career in music, the sheer power of Jones and co’s performances awakened for Martin an innate calling to rock ‘n’ roll.
During the 80s & 90s the rookie six stringer racked up sessions with an impressive roll call of names, including Blondie‘s Gary Valentine and the late Jak Airport, in the course amassing the life experience and striking guitar skills that now give Taurus Trakker its seasoned blues soul. However, it was only when Martin met drummer Allison Phillips in 2006 that all Taurus Trakker’s defining elements aligned. Cutting her teeth with punk veterans Alternative TV, and eventually arriving at that fortuitous Soho meeting via periods spent drumming with cult American act UT and the Cobain-championed Raincoats, Allison shares both her bandmate’s ‘77 roots and rambling rock resume.
Finally united, the star-crossed musical partners wasted no time making 2007 album ‘Between A Bank & A Funeral Parlour’; a debut thrashed onto an old 8-track with the intention of conveying the sound of the band live in a room. Like the live show itself - typically just a three-piece affair with the addition of live bass, but at times featuring X-Ray Spex’ Dave Wright on saxophone and guests on guitar - the raw recording methods leave no place to hide, and as such speak volumes of Taurus Trakker’s faith in the simple tunes.
On evidence of the endorsements that record and ’08’s Jones-produced single ’Monks, Punks & Drunks’ attracted from the likes of James Dean Bradfield, Huey Morgan and Glen Matlock their faith was rightly placed, but it’s second album ‘Building Ten’ which now makes the case for Taurus Trakker’s ability to stand on their own foundations. Perversely, it is perhaps the title track featuring Martin’s cousin Mick which conveys this best; no shoehorned star turn, the Clash man’s distinctive tones rather knot right in and complement in understated style the threadbare wing ‘n’ prayer-propelled punk blues that Taurus Trakker develop as a signature across their sophomore album.
Raw, honest and adhering absolutely to the ‘write what you know’ principle, ’Building Ten’ has the West London skyline looming over it, and its roots literally buried beneath the Westway, as for several weeks during its making the band held a residency at the Inn on the Green - a much-missed Labroke Grove institution which nestled under the famous flyover until closing last year. Summing up the pulse of the place, opener ‘Lucky’ fittingly fuses rock ‘n’ soul (the latter lent by Krysten Cummings belting guest vocals) in a tale of ducking ‘n’ diving at the Notting Hill Carnival which builds to a chaotic crescendo. The simply titled ‘West London Rock ‘n’ Roll’ meanwhile sees Taurus Trakker celebrate both a personal history and the broader Portobello tradition which remains something of a hidden gem in London’s ‘music capital’ crown - having, by contrast to punk picture postcard Camden, yet to be overshadowed by its own global myth.
The West’s way of producing acts with more musical merit than mouth to boast about it chimes with Taurus Trakker’s wider reference points amongst rock’s uncomplicated classics. Martin and Allison may be destined to attract White Stripes comparisons on first glance, but parallels would be more accurately drawn with attention to the common love of bare-bones blues. Bob Dylan’s influence is never far from the surface, with the band name being borrowed from the great man’s favoured firearm, and can be most clearly read in the distinctive intonation and almost knowingly naïve lyrical style of ‘21 Miles To A Water Pump’. The song sees Taurus Trakker cleverly fitting a simple form to the wisdom that we’d do well not complicate life by complaining, when the mere basics can be so hard to come by.
‘Rock Some Kind of Zen’, and ‘Gamblin’ Blues’ then showcase a slide guitar sound sufficient to kill the karmic buzz of a late 60s Stones or give the Black Crowes a serious run for their money maker, before closer ‘Temporary’ muses on more cosmic questions - but in the unpretentious context of the rock rite of passage that is getting inked. This balance of pertinently universal and poignantly personal goes right to the heart of ’Building Ten’; a hand-tooled homage to rock’s classics that is not only impressively crafted but infectious and immediate for an energy and honesty all of its own.
Martin Muscatt - vocals / guitar
Allison Phillips - drums / BVs
See related listing Taurus Trakker