|JONNY COLA & THE A-GRADES bounce back from illness and go 'Straight To Video'|
|Friday, 01 February 2013 18:14|
It would be an understatement to say Jonny Cola & The A-Grades have been through some testing times in the year since their last release. After March 2012’s ‘Halo’ EP delivered four cuts of skilfully crafted black glitter ’n’ grit British guitar pop, and an impression of a band brimming with ideas and promise, the A-Grades’ future was suddenly thrown into uncertainty early last April, when frontman Jonny took a call from his doctor.
The test results Jonny received that day indicated a diagnosis end-stage kidney failure. Over the coming months, recording sessions for the A-Grades’ second album and even Jonny’s wedding day were postponed indefinitely, while his focus switched to day-by-day management of the condition, through a draining regime of dialysis and medication. A chance for significant and sustained improvements at last arose when Jonny’s fiancée stepped forward to make a commitment arguably far greater than marriage, by volunteering as a living donor. Jonny underwent a transplant operation last November and - literally thanks to the power of love - experienced almost immediate improvements to his health, meaning the A-Grades are now able to make a triumphant return.
The April 3rd arrival of double A-side single ‘Straight To Video / Marlborough Road’ tells in itself of the quite exceptional determination and passion for playing rock ‘n’ roll that Jonny and his bandmates - guitarists Mauro Venegas and Jez Leather, bassist Simon Drowner, and drummer Marco Testa-Ryan - have summoned in the past year. Truly though, the band’s survival saga provides only the backstory to this inventive new release which capably stands on its own merits, and its own grand narrative ambitions.
Though the single will be available as a limited edition 7” and audio download via Scratchy Records, advance promos are presented as a DVD. Featuring two videos - directed by Jonny and Jez, along with Jonny’s partner and Glamracket DJ / promoter Heidi Heelz, and 90s MTV legend Toby Amies - the unusual format serves to fully showcase the A-Grades’ blend of glam-punk visual style with smart substance. Drawing viewers into dream-like scenes populated by a cast of sailors and call girls, and inviting a sinister figure straight out of a Japanese horror to stalk through the British capital, the two videos form one continuous piece, whereby the end of each links to the beginning of the other. At the same time, they work effectively as two stand-alone shorts, each vividly illustrating one of two very different sides to the A-Grades’ multi-faceted sound.
The ‘Marlborough Road’ video will be made generally available at YouTube on the March 20th, before ‘Straight To Video’ is uploaded two weeks later on the release day itself. The more punchy and immediate of the pair, ‘Marlborough Road’ returns again to the London streets that have been something of a signature muse to the A-Grades across previous recordings and videos. Turning a witty, observational eye, and ‘write what you know’ lyrical method to his hometown, Jonny affectionately maps a London of faulty electrics and flooded flats, that listeners belonging to ‘Generation Rent’ will know only too well.
At six minutes, ‘Straight To Video’ is a brooding epic built on haunting keys, a centrepiece solo from Mauro and a compelling vocal performance from Jonny, which adds a Pulp-esque high drama to the kitchen sink imagery. Intentionally cinematic in its soaring atmospherics and ambitious structure, the song moves through four distinct acts - and even marks the transition from one into the next with a moment of silent suspense, that eerily emphasises the life-affirming hook line of “don’t freeze frame, hell no! / Your life goes straight to video”.
As a grand re-entrance, the double A-side release speaks surely and certainly of the buzz of passion, inspiration and activity in the A-Grades camp today. Already, work has begun on a follow-up to debut album ’In Debt’, and a release tentatively set for later this year. Before then, the band make their return to the stage on March 22nd at Islington’s Buffalo Bar, as part of Simon and Mauro’s burgeoning rock ’n’ roll club night Some Weird Sin. Catch them at;
Fri 22nd March - LONDON Buffalo Bar (Some Weird Sin club night - with Fallen Leaves (ex-Subway Sect) & DJ Heidi Heelz)