Monday, 30 April 2012

Red Velvet - First Listen

There were more than a few disappointed Waissel Warriors last week, when it emerged that Katie's first proper public outing with her new band Red Velvet was over-18s only. But if there's one thing I've learned about Katie Waissel, it's that she genuinely really cares about her fans, so there was always bound to be a consolation for those who weren't old enough to attend the debut performance of Red Velvet at the Monto Water Rats Theatre on Tuesday, April 24th.

And they didn't have long to wait - in fact, most of Red Velvet's tracks currently on SoundCloud have been there since April 11th, just waiting to be discovered. This week, Waissel added NRG to the Red Velvet set on April 28th, and finally let her fans in on the secret via Twitter.

You can imagine the response - many of these supporters have been waiting for the first proper Waissel music to be released since The X Factor (and remember, the self-titled album 'Katie Waissel' had been recorded before she ever appeared on the show) so the twit-clamour has been raucous and the five-track Red Velvet set on SoundCloud has seen plenty of plays in the short time it's been available.

So, what's all the noise about? Are the Waissel Warriors just fangirling all over Twitter, or is there some real quality to these tracks? Let's take a look...

The Tracks

Sadly we're not able to embed the tracks this time round, but you can open the SoundCloud Red Velvet set here and play them along while you're reading our thoughts.


NRG is, I think, the very core of what Red Velvet are all about - an upbeat, energetic battle cry. "When we all rise, when we unite..." is a call to arms to bring any wayward Waissel Warriors back to the fold - they're an easily distracted bunch, and it has been a while, so it's a perfect opening to the set (even though it was the last track to be added...!).

It's not the most original of the set's songs, by any means, but it's got strong guitar riffs and a thudding drum track, not to mention Katie's accent is stronger than ever, and it manages to have plenty of identity without stepping too far from the core concept of this kind of rock track.

Straight Up Straight Laced

Straight Up Straight Laced miraculously bridges the chasm between Waissel's X Factor performances and the much more pedigree rock sound of Red Velvet. Her boys again deliver a fine instrumental backing, with noisy guitar and clattering drums, while Katie adds vocals with crystal clarity on top.

The chorus is where the magic happens here though, as the 'oh-oh' bridge turns into a few lines of scat-jazz-style ba-bahs from Waissel. It works well in the context of the song, but it's also a hallmark of Waissel's music, from her earlier recordings right through her X Factor performances, and it provides some much-needed continuity for her latest incarnation.


My personal favourite (I always prefer the ballads...), Gloria is a much more mellow track with a long strummed-guitar introduction before Katie's voice joins in. Once again, her clarity helps to carry the emotion of the piece, and it's good to hear her keep her accent and all of those unique nuances of her voice when singing.

Notable moments include the lyric "She's heard it all before... she's got her lipstick on, but her clothes left at the door," which reminds me of Richard Thompson's Turning of the Tide, in sentiment if not in style. And, parents, look out because there's some naughty words in there too. "Why does she need to spoil a perfectly good song with a swear word?" Well, because she's a grown-up, and so are you, and one day your kids will be too, so deal with it.


Hollywood is much more of a rollercoaster track, with a more varied pace than the other songs, and some subtle but satisfying background melodies on the keys. In principle, its storyline is similar to my interpretation of Gloria - whereas the ballad seems to be about a girl desperate for company and emotion, Hollywood is about the thirst for fame, but both are arguably about the need for others' approval, something Katie is perfectly placed to write about.

Waissel has hinted on Twitter that one of the Red Velvet tracks is about Simon Cowell... I wonder, could it be this fame-hunger piece, or is it one of the others? And how much of Hollywood might apply equally well to Waissel's own efforts to find fame? I can't help but wonder, but I suppose we'll never know...

Piece By Piece

Piece By Piece rounds off this current five-track collection with a stylish guitar opening and a decent balance of vocals and riffs. Lyrically it's not the strongest of the batch, but it's still got some good imagery - "I'm gonna rip my superhero T-shirt from your hands" - that anyone who's been through a nasty breakup will probably be able to recognise.

It's interesting that the set as a whole is more about the search for fame and love, than about the end of a relationship - and gives an insight into the struggle Waissel has had over the years to really find her place in the music industry. She's still got her critics, but generally there's little to complain about. She's not demanding global attention, by any means, but she's producing music that doesn't patronise her fans, and that lives up to her rock aspirations without overwhelming the distinctive breathiness of her voice.

We will, of course, be looking out for more from Red Velvet - the Red Velvet Band website will hopefully grow soon enough to give even more of an idea of their ultimate direction. Until then, these five tracks are gonna get played on shuffle, and loop, for quite a while.

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