We need rock stars, we need larger than life characters. We need songwriters and performers that do have something to say and are prepared to deliver the goods. More than ever grassroots, DIY bands need our help as it’s a freakin’ jungle out there, a day to day struggle for a band to stay alive.
The recent PledgeMusic debacle has not helped matters. Being fucked over by the very platform you have put trust in to get your music direct to your fan base is possibly the worst thing that could have happened to Hands Off Gretel, at the most important time of their career.
The band is out of pocket and the fans are out of pocket. But where there’s a will there’s a way. The world needs to hear this album and with the help of their fans, Hands Off Gretel have maybe succeeded in being even more independent than they ever dreamed of.
The title of Hands Off Gretel’s sophomore album says a lot about the attitude of their singer, chief songwriter and resident art co-ordinator Lauren Tate. Planning world domination from her bedroom in South Yorkshire since she could probably hold a crayon, this girl has ambition and she knows what she wants. Hours and hours listening to Hole, The Distillers and Pink. Creating artwork, writing lyrics and dreaming that one day she will show those who bullied and those who put her down that she could succeed…that she could be somebody.
While their debut album ‘Burn The Beauty Queen’ was a lo-fi, grunge obsessed ride, Hands Off Gretel have taken things up a notch with ‘I Want The World’. The hooks are more instant, the choruses stick like glue and the guitars are even more furious than before.
The change was evident in the first single and album opener ‘Kiss Me Girl’. An ode to lesbian desire, with a killer hook that adds a commercial element to Lauren’s inner Brody Dalle. It’s a game-changer of a song that takes their post-grunge/alt 90’s sound to another level. It’s the blueprint for their new sound and the perfect anthem for angst-ridden teens who feel alienated from the world.
And this is where Hands Off Gretel have a serious advantage. They appeal to a disenchanted youth, as they are still a part of that demographic. Lauren especially, while cute and diminutive, has a fire in her belly and can pen angst fuelled lyrics as well as her peers ever have. She has real stuff to write about. Kids will relate to her lyrics, girls will want to be her, boys will want to be with her. They are a poster band for the new generation.
The recent change shows a new confidence and self-assurance from a band who I have been watching evolve. With the recent addition of Becky Baldwin on bass, the band look and feel like a cohesive unit live. With two strong female characters and long-standing members Sean Bon (guitar) and Sam Hobbins (drums), it all just seems to have gelled.
Anyway, I digress. The previously released singles/videos were enough to whet the appetite with their No Doubt meets L7 vibes. ‘S.A.S.S’ is a dirt-smeared and groovy, dancefloor filler with a killer chorus. Exciting, sassy and cool as you like. The title track is a big middle finger to the naysayers. “I’m the rudest, I’m the cutest, I’m the one that hurts” she croons before exploding in a helium induced diatribe. With furious guitar work from Sean, it’s a song full of angst and fire. It could be their best work to date.
In total contrast, the following ‘Blame Myself’ is more commercial, slicker. In the verses, Lauren is sounding more like her heroine Pink than ever before. In a similar way, ‘It’s My Fault’ has that same pop suss, that great use of sugary sweet melodies. ‘Freaks Like Us’ is a cleverly penned anthem for a disenchanted youth, a song that demands you hold your lighter in the air.
This move towards a more commercial sound is a natural songwriting progression for a girl who has been finding her feet as a songwriter, not just a singer over the past couple of years.
The grungy vibes are omnipresent. With its guttural, screamo vibes, wah-wah infused guitars and pumping bass, ‘Milk’ is a mash-up of ‘Heart Shaped Box’ meets ‘Pretend We’re Dead’. And the hyper album closer ‘Rot (All The Good Things)’ is a final shot of adrenaline to the vein, as it has one of the most instant and memorable hooks you will hear this year.
Whether its shades of KatieJane Garside craziness, Pink’s spot on pop suss or the angst of Courtney Love and Brody Dalle, Lauren Tate’s vocals and melodies are the driving force behind one of the most exciting underground bands we have here in the UK. Punk infused angst with fuzzy guitars, loud/quiet nineties vibes, dreamy pop anthems with lush backing vocals. Yep, with the songs and the style to match, they got the whole package, baby!
In 2019 it’s fair to say rock stars are a dying breed, especially the female role models. You wanna know who has the balls to fit into Joan Jett’s leather jacket? Who has the “fuck you” attitude of Courtney or L7? Well, with a mass of two-tone dreads, khol smeared eyes and ruby red lips, a diminutive Yorkshire lass is happily being Alice In Grungeland every day of the week and it’ll take more than PledgeMusic to destroy Lauren Tate’s dreams of world domination. Are you man enough to follow her down the rabbit hole?
Author: Ben Hughes
Buy I Want The World Here