Jonny Cola & The A Grades – Postcode Wars EP

it succeeds on sheer force of personality

London may have a magnetic pull for many people but it’s a dangerous place for a band to base themselves. It’s far too easy for a band to slip through the cracks in the pavement once they get lost in the smoke and sticky floored bars of Greater London. While there are currently hundreds of bands circulating the UK capital in search of fame and fortune, or at the very least a dodgy record deal, it’s very difficult for anybody to care about them. If you live in Greater London you are bombarded with so much information, so many gigs, so many venues that unless you’re of an adventurous nature you end up paying attention to the same large venue gig listings, read the same magazines and broadsheets and follow the same big selling artists everybody from outside the capital pay attention to. It’s just easier.

For many bands, competing against this malaise can be soul destroying. It’s ok to begin with.  You play a few storming Friday night pub gigs in Hoxton, Clapham and Islington but after a year or two it starts to grate. The audiences don’t get smaller, but they never get any bigger and eventually you find yourself in an Irish bar in Hammersmith on a Wednesday night and you really don’t know why the hell you’re doing it anymore. After a while the financial realities start to hit home (you’re not making any money), the fun starts to evaporate, you start to get sick of the songs and suddenly it’s easier to just keep the guitars locked up. The thought of dragging a drum kit into another Camden basement gets less and less appealing and eventually the band just evaporates into nothingness.

Every now and again though, a band comes along that refuses to get downheartened. A band that refuses to give up. A band that still steps up and performs on a Thursday night at the Bull and Gate like their lives depended on it because, frankly, they feel they are bloody worth it. And there songs are worth it too. Ladies, gentlemen and fairy tale creatures, I give you Jonny Cola and the A Grades.

<insert round of applause here>

Ok, so there’s already been a line up change since their debut album – In Debt – was released last year and, essentially, this EP sees them peddling old wares (both the title track and Alpha Male appeared on the album) but, like I said, the songs are worth it.  And in Alpha Male, in particular, the re-recorded version here kicks open its doors and spreads its wings wider than they dared try a year ago. It works to good effect. It shows they’re starting to think bigger.

Like much of their debut album, Postcode Wars documents the life of a band living in London, moving from the ever-so-fashionable (read boring and annoying) north London and moving to the area that taxis refuse to go after dark. It’s a familiar story but, like all Jonny Cola releases it succeeds on sheer force of personality.

They make look like a bunch of part time punks, or Travolta loving T-Bird wannabes, but they are a band that put tunes first and they have a front man that brings a delightful mix of Bowie and Albarn to the table. If that doesn’t whet your appetitie, then you’d better go and listen to the new Coldplay album and bore yourself senseless instead.

Postcode Wars is the kind of cracking EP you spend half the year searching record racks for. Don’t overlook it. Postcode Wars sees the band unafraid to take a chance, reinforcing their belief in themselves and their songs. Essentially it’s the sound of a band that refuses to go away, and that makes me a very happy reviewer indeed. Its time you gave these guys a chance.

I’ll see you in the Bull and Gate on Tuesday.