Dance away until you have reggae reggae sores
From the early moments of The Soho Road Sessions, it is clear that there is something special about Midlands reggae rockers XOVA. Kicking off with 9 Lives, the British band bounce into life with an uber-tight horn section, an indescribably delicious bass tone and subtle yet complementary keyboard decoration. On top of this lies a sincerely soulful vocal performance that gives a strong front to XOVA's highly developed sound and compositional competency. Beautifully layered horn parts and the perfection of the palm-muted guitar in the second verse are just two of the many understated elements that combine so effortlessly in what becomes a practically flawless start to the EP.
The Birmingham-based band's ska/rock influences emerge in the group's Euro 2012 song Are You Ready?, particularly with the driving guitar and its lead that blisters with energy after the first anthemic chorus. Despite the recording not possessing quite the same level of polish as its predecessor (especially noticeable in the choruses where the guitar blares in, yet lacks the overwhelming force that should blow you away), the upbeat vivacity works well and utilizes both the keyboards parts and the ensemble's horn section effectively.
R Generation (G Corp dub) is a bold change in direction, putting the frivolous off-beats on hold for a more laid back reggae feel with electronic embellishments and almost psychedelic reverb-heavy horns. The group's youth-against-conflict charity work is voiced well through the anti-violence lyrical content of the song and is smartly further enforced by the chilled out ambience. A welcome change of pace, but it doesn't however allow the band to go out on a bang, as one may have come to expect given the exciting energy encapsulated in so much of their music.
Funky bass grooves and a delightfully tight horn section make XOVA's The Soho Road Sessions a worthwhile investment for those seeking to invest in a promising band flourishing from their reggae roots. Leading track 9 Lives establishes an almost unmatchable standard and unfortunately does make the three tune release appear as little more than a single with accompanying bonus songs, rather than an EP boasting a trio of tracks of comparable strength. Do not let this act as a deterrent, though; The Soho Road Sessions is a laudable outing from the highly talented Birmingham troupe.