Beaten by a marmalade sandwich...kind of...
Huaraz is a city in Peru. I have no idea what relevance this is to either The Beat Maras or the wider populace - although the second track on The Huaraz EP 'The Huaraz Song' (I feel a theme emerging) does contain a sample that raps about dictatorship so maybe I'm missing the bigger picture - but does this really matter? I mean music, songs, records, tracks - whatever you want to call them - should work on a multitude on levels. You do know that you don't have to 'get' everything, don't you?
And so to Peru. Whenever I hear it, read it, write it or say it, I immediately conjure an image in my head of Paddington Bear eating a marmalade sandwich and shuffling around the gutter like a constipated tramp. I can't help that and I don't care. It's a reflex action. A bit like telling the barman to fuck off when he asks you if you want a glass - even if you've ordered a bottle of wine.
I keep up with current events; socio-political news stories, the big yellow 'BREAKING NEWS' stuff, Radio 4, 'Question Time' and all the rest of it; but ask me anything about Peru and all you'll get out of me is that no one who lives there can afford light bulbs, a fact that forced all the indigenous talking bears to emigrate to London and rob us of our taxes. Am I wrong?
Anyhow, as a Devonian, my natural reaction upon discovering that The Beat Maras came together at a Cornish Art College was to shake my head, stamp my feet, punch a dwarf and then vomit onto a map of Truro. You'll be pleased to know that on this occasion, I managed to resist all of these urges. And all because I found out that frontman Alex Templeton-Ward plays bass for Paul Hawkins - and he's fuckin' great - even if he's about as happy as Leonard Cohen would be if he found out that Peter Andre cites him as a key influence when writing 'Mysterious Girl'.
As the name suggests, The Beat Maras are a bit mystic an' shit - though thankfully not in the same way that Kula Shaker were...are...fuck - are they really still touring?! But while Templeton-Ward is guilty of indulging in a spot of circuit bending, Omnichord pumping and the like, the rest of the band thankfully stick to playing proper instruments like guitars and drums and stuff - and the results are nothing less than captivating.
For a start, The Beat Maras's influences are certainly varied. The impassioned vocoded vocals and controlled aggression of 'Getaway Car' and indeed its thick and familiar chord progressions evoke Gliss, Mansun and The Strokes at their very best. The almost acoustic 'The Huaraz Song' sounds like Morrissey and Elvis Costello jamming at Elliott Smith's wake; and The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Libertines have just gotta take direct responsibility for the gorgeously haunting 'The Beauty And The Horror' - even if the production does get a little too sickly-sweet to be easily chewed.
Indeed the only relatively duff note is 'Groping Like The Cave Man'; a portentous big-band circus-style anti-drug ramble that although undeniably intriguing, really doesn't deserve its seat at the dinner table. I mean big cymbals and multiple glissandos might tickle the tackle of The Beat Maras, but to these ears, it sounds like something a gang of Haribo-happy school kids would make if they found the key to the musical instrument cupboard and an ounce of crack cocaine.
I don't reckon The Beat Maras are gonna succeed in their mission to appeal to both "down to earth brickies and up in the air hippies". Most brickies I know wouldn't hesitate to beat the shit out of them and firmly advise them to play some proper music "like Cast or Shed Seven or something, yeah?" instead.
However, The Beat Maras do have balls, guts and the chops - and in my mind that makes them worthy of all the attention that they get. Perhaps they're a little too avant-garde for the mainstream just now - but to paraphrase Eric Clapton: sometimes you gotta just run on faith...and then to paraphrase Kevin Cronin: then you have to believe your time is gonna come...
Oh shut up - REO Speedwagon - that was a fuckin' band - and so might The Beat Maras be...