The fifth E.P released by blues/rock five-piece group Half Crown, Live & Acoustic, features four previously released tracks from the band’s other albums, and one cover song. Although this E.P is the newest, it was released in December 2014. The five Brighton boys were busy touring for most of last year, so chances are a new E.P will be on the way for 2016.
Keep Up or Keep Out opens the record with a funky, ska feel. The first verse is a little more than borrowed from The Talking Heads Psycho Killer, so an obvious influence for the group. Borrowing lines and verses from other songs was a tradition in old Blues music, a genre the band is again clearly influenced by. The acoustic guitar is relaxingly strummed, with backing vocals and melodic ska interludes. Instrumentation is fairly simple with a little trumpet added for depth. The vocals take centre stage with harmonies and vocal effects paired with old London reggae style rapping to add layers.
The second track, Seven Nation Army is a White Stripes cover. Half Crown strip it back a bit with a more rhythm and blues beat to the song. The boys add their own verses, rapped with original lyrics to heighten their own spin and make the song their own. The blues style and original rap give a unique twist to an otherwise over-covered song, and adds to the E.P as a whole, showcasing the band’s versatility.
Brighton to Barcelona introduces a more indie side to the band, but still including the rap to keep the band’s distinct sound. The lyrics tell of a love story on the beach, and hoping for the future. In keeping with the title, the guitar has a slightly Spanish feel. The instruments remain stripped back, allowing the lyrics and vocal power to really come through. The passion in this song makes it stand out from all the other acoustic love songs out there. Half Crown seem to be experts in getting their own sound across, even in an acoustic E.P. The fourth song, Electric, opens with trumpet to add melody, while the guitar keeps steady strums to create a solid foundation. Again, the vocals are given most of the sound, but that’s more or less inevitable with an acoustic set. This track is a little playful, and the lyrics are cleverly written. With a little Electric Six reference thrown in, the rap continues to add depth and variety to the album.
The E.P closes with She’s Got Eyes with a rhythmic, latin jazz style guitar playing to continue the flow of the previous tracks. The lack of syncopation that is usually found in jazz, however, adds a touch of pop to this song, creating a solid, clean, on-the-beat instrumentation. There is little of the boys’ reggae influence on this song, showing, once more, their versatility and wide range of genres, while still bringing the album to a strong close with a distinct Half Crown sound.