I love when a band comes along that finds inspiration from artists that I love and that I grew up listening to as well. Dylan, Springsteen, The Jam and plenty of Philly Soul pour out of the music of a band from Carlisle in the UK. Led by brothers Jonny Foster (lead vocals and guitar) and Tom Foster (drums), the quintet known as Hardwicke Circus is on repeat at my house.
Their latest album, Fly The Flag, was released last month and is a true joy to listen to. A blend of rock and roll, Motown and 21st Century pop, the songs are catchy, classic and sound like a band that works so well together and is comfortable with each other. Did I mention that Dave “Stiff Records” Robinson produced it?
“Essentially, the band asked me to work with them. I haven't produced anything for quite some time but at one point did about 30 albums and one or two did moderately well…It was nice to be asked and they had a good set of songs and I think it turned out pretty good.”
For those that don’t know who Dave Robinson is - a quick history lesson. He was the co-founder of Stiff Records where he signed up The Damned, Tracey Ullman, Kirsty MacColl, The Pogues and Madness. He also managed Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe and many others.
Kicking off with the Brit-pop “Everyday I Find The Luck”, I’m reminded of the fantastic sound that came out of the UK back in the 80s/90s. A rich full sound with enough sax and hand claps to get you moving.
Up next is some blue-eyed Philly Soul with the track “Bang My Head (To The Rhythm of Life)”. There’s shades of early Van Morrison. And look out for that sax solo from Jack Pierce (dearly missed out on from a lot of the music that’s out now).
Pierce said of working with Dave Robinson, “For me to be able to learn from someone who worked with those bands I used to listen to as a kid on Stiff Records is something I definitely don't take for granted. While there may be the occasional passionate discussion between us about how to proceed with a recording, we mostly disagree agreeably and produce a recording we're both happy with. It's a very positive working relationship and I absolutely appreciate the opportunity to work with Dave, long may it continue.”
The band balances their writing between pop love songs and ones with heavier topics. “Can You Hear Me Now?” tells the story of Sadiqi and Dritan - both refugees - and the Vietnamese families attempting to reach their loved ones who died in the back of a chiller truck as they sought refuge in the UK. It’s as close to a Springsteen track on that side of the pond.
Kicking in with some ska-sounding tunes is “A Johnny Come Lately” with the emphasis on the two and four and a killer sax solo. Better yet, check out the ska-tinged “Night Train to London” which reminds me so much of “One Step Beyond” by Madness. The band writes about reluctantly getting out of their small town.
I LOVE THIS BAND!
And while there are no plans yet to hit the States (maybe spring of 2024), a bloke by the name of Paul McCartney arranged for the band to get on at Glastonbury Festival last year year (sadly, the band announced in the last few weeks that they wouldn’t be playing there this year due to some strange scheduling conflicts).
With a rapidly-building reputation as one of the most exciting bands to emerge from the UK in recent years, Hardwicke Circus is poised to capture the attention of new fans both here in the US and around the world. They’ve already got one in me.