Sunday, 20 March 2016
Harrison Rimmer - C
The next time someone asks me life in York is like, I'm gonna tell them to go check out Harrison Rimmer. He's been kicking about in the vibrant York singer/songwriter scene for a few years now. C is his third EP, and was recorded piecemeal over the course of 2015, with Rimmer playing all the instruments on it. And, surprisingly for an artist located in a small town in the North of England, it comes across sounding like it was birthed in the heartland of America, soaring acoustic guitars, organs and driving rhythms. But I guess it exposes the contradictions of my hometown pretty nicely; it's a city with no high rises, where you can slip down a side street and be mistaken for falling into the sixteenth century, or walk for an hour in one direction and find yourself in the countryside by accident. It feels like an outpost in the middle of the Moors and Dales, so I guess that's where the small-town Americana feel comes from, as well as the inner city angst that Rimmer captures perfectly in his distinct voice. It's the perfect backdrop for this EP. So let's dive in eh?
On The Way Side, Rimmer's gravelly voice shines through, a unique blend between Bruce Springsteen and Chuck Ragan. But it's in Rimmer's terse vocal delivery that his personality really shines through. Every line is sung through gritted teeth, terminating just a millisecond too soon, every breath choking and catching in his throat, moulding his voice into something distinctly terse and standoffish. It fits nicely with the bitter, venomous lyrics that are rolling off his tongue, feeling cast off and resenting it. I don't know if it's because Rimmer is struggling to sing at this intensity, or if it's deliberate, but it is really catchy and rounds out his voice. Either way, the gravelly intensity works great as counterpoint with the Americana, quiet, subdued acoustic guitars giving way to a loud and multi-layered wall of sound. It's pissed off, and on Roots, Rimmer only serves to get even more agitated, swerving massively into distorted grunge guitar riffs and pounding, leaping drums. It's like a slightly more chilled version of Territorial Pissings, only insofar as it's more relaxed because Nirvana made that song so fucking furious. But Roots has a few aces up its sleeves as well, with the slightly swung drums carrying the same kind of power and intensity that Dave Grohl brought to the Seattle band's sound. Rimmer's a flexible musician, being able to swap between these two styles of music easily, yet his voice carries through it all as a constant.
Before We Had To Grow is a cool summery song, bringing in a few more electric guitar influences and bouncing along with an upbeat pop-punk groove. It's a cool song, but it seems a little bit like it's retreading the dynamics of the opening track. Still, it's the kinda song that does make me think back to the kind of music summers in York helps to create. There's an intensity to it, but a lot of space as well, that small town graft coming through in the music. And then we get onto the best track on the EP. Ripped Up Magazine is classic Springsteen era from the get go, arena rock graft filtered through Chuck Ragan's own brand of driving Americana. Rimmer really finds his style here, with his growled vocals complimenting the acoustic guitar that lies at the core of this track. And the thing is, you can tell that at its barest and most honest, devoid of any other instrumentation, this track is an honest, solid killer. Rimmer's declaration in the chorus, that he's a "crook, a liar, and a ripped up magazine" is full of venom and regret, looking inwards and not really liking what he finds there. Sure, it may be melodramatic, but the music is so finely balanced and in control that it takes the edge off the lyrics. Despite Rimmer's desperate plea of "I hope you'll see me and run away," you can't help but be drawn in by the music. I've been spinning this one regularly since I got the review copy of this EP and I adore it.
C ends on a slightly downbeat note with the solely acoustic rendition of Scared. It's a simple chord progression in the chorus, heard a thousand times before, but it's also a tender and self-reflective point of punctuation to close the EP on. Completely abandoning the bravado on display on the other tracks, Rimmer lets his guard down and sings openly and honestly about the loneliness of moving on from a relationship that's broken down, the paranoia that no one wants, a cocktail of hormonal mess stressed over the easiness of picking up the phone, or the he-said-she-said thoughts of someone else looking at your ex-lover, and admitting that you just have no idea what to do, you're just scared. Sure, moving on is an easy thing to do on paper, but in execution it's a minefield, and Rimmer's honesty on this song is testament to everyone who's been through that hell. It may end the EP on less of a bang, but definitely not a whimper; it's an honest and defiant voice trying to make sense of a difficult situation.
Harrison Rimmer is carving out a niche for himself here. There's some room for improvements - the drumming could be a bit tighter, the production feels a bit too wall-of-sound on The Way Side - but at its core, this is an EP of 5 tight, well written and well produced songs. And the more I think about it, the more it's the perfect soundtrack for answering the question "what's your hometown like?" My hometown is a beautiful contradiction, city in a sea of green, and it confuses me, scares me, excites and enthrals me. And I can't think of any other place I've been or seen that would birth a record like C. It's vulnerable and fragile, it's bold and it's beautiful, and I'll be spinning it for a long time to come.