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Jagwar Ma
Howlin Joe Clay , June 12th, 2013 08:22

For such an iconic scene, it's weird that the baggy/Madchester music scene hasn't spawned more of a direct sonic legacy. You can hear echoes of the music in many acts; a hint of something druggy or Balearic, or just a bog-standard re-appropriation of the music in its basest form - dance beats and a bendy bassline grafted on to an uninspired indie chugger. It doesn't help that most of the music hasn't aged well and sounds horrific out of context of the era. But like many people who lived through it first time round, I am a sucker for any "tunes" that can transport me back to the days when I wore purple Kickers and sported hoodies from Top Man that looked like somebody had puked down the front of them. Enter Jagwar Ma, who have effortlessly tapped into the section of my brain that I left behind the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 1990, when I was too spangled on acid to join the masses round the front, listening to the double good vibes of the Happy Mondays drifting enticingly on a breeze in the early evening sun. And not only have the young Aussie duo found that drug-fried sliver of my grey matter, they've sent in a Screamadelica-era Andrew Weatherall through my ear, Inner Space-style, to remix it and take me back to those halcyon days.

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The opening trio of songs are the most overtly baggy, but modern-day production techniques provide an appealing sheen that makes them sound bang up to date. The throbbing groove of opener 'What Love' is an almost direct lift from the live version of 'W.F.L.' from the Mondays' seminal performance at the G-Mex in 1990, but with a tripped-out vocal loop that takes it off the streets of Manchester and into sunnier climes - the duo's native Sydney, perhaps. 'Uncertainty' sounds like a lost Candy Flip song (in a good way), while the epic 'The Throw' is stupendous. It takes the idea sketched out on 'What Love' and turns it into seven minutes of gloriously incandescent indie dance, with echoes of Screamadelica, The Orb, Acid house and a Boys Own remix of The Farm. Put 'The Throw' on repeat and Bez would dance himself straight through to Australia, maracas an' all.  

But thankfully the baggy scene isn't quite Year Zero for Jono Ma and Gabriel Winterfield – however well delivered, those vibes couldn't carry an entire album. 'That Loneliness' is a fine 60s-referencing pop song that sounds incongruously like early-Wham! produced by a Pet Sounds-era Brian Wilson. There is also more than likely a copy of The Beatles' Revolver kicking around somewhere in their record collection, as demonstrated by 'Come Save Me', which lifts the drum loop from 'Tomorrow Never Knows' to underpin some delicious Beach Boys-aping harmonies – imagine a subtler, more tuneful take on Noely G's collaborations with the Chemical Brothers

The pumping 'Four' is a nice surprise; a straight down the line prog-house belter that would be well at home on a Sasha mix album. 'Man I Need' does the Liam Gallagher trick of assuming that adding a backwards-tracked guitar to a song instantly makes it psychedelic. It doesn't, it actually sounds a bit like Jesus Jones, or another example of what happens when a Gallagher bro fronts a dance track. 'Exercise' blends muted piano house chords with another loose-limbed groove, while the boys advise you to "exercise your chemistry", which definitely isn't a request to take your test tube, copper sulphate and bunsen burner to the local gymnasium.

Ignoring the pair of low-key, forgettable tracks that close the album, Howlin is a cracking summer album, and with the band being a brilliant live act, their performances on this season's festival circuit (they are playing Glastonbury and Latitude) could be epochal moments for those who witness them – but whether the album has a shelf life beyond that remains to be seen. It has been rumoured that a mutual love of Jagwar Ma has got Liam and Noel Gallagher on speaking terms again, so when Oasis reform for the Definitely Maybe 20th anniversary cash-in next year you know who to blame. 

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