The second offering from local band Known Associates breaks new ground and allows the uninitiated the ability to surf along with the freedom of a lone surfer amidst the COVID -19 blues.
Known Associates are a band I have followed for some time and have watched with interest as the maturity and song-writing skills of Warren (Wazza) Cate have come to the fore. This album is a testament to all that time grafting away in his solo career, and more recently with his buddies Dave Hartley (bass), Tory Leggett (drums) and the effervescent Grant Wills (lead guitar), culminating with this epic 2020 release during the strangest times that any of us have ever endured.
It would be easy to link this rollicking ride of tracks to the back roads of the Arizona desert, but I think the title track and diversity of songs sit much better down at the beach.
The first track, and title of the album, Ride The Wave, starts off with a heavy pulse from Hartley’s bass, much like a stranded surfer’s heartbeat as he finally reaches the beach he has been yearning for throughout lockdown.
Cate is never shy to tell you what he thinks (trust me I know), and the lyrics are sung with a snarl not too unfamiliar to his earlier work. But this song transitions from the angry surf to the relief of finally reaching the back of the breaking waves. Grant adds some haunting, brilliant lead guitar licks to finish it off nicely.
No-One to Blame follows with a similar vibe, if not with a little more breadth. This is classic Known Associates: more traditional sounding with the lead guitar abruptly starting and stopping through the verse, allowing the bass and drums to weave their way through the sets, not giving a hint to what the next track Paradise was going to deliver.
I liken it to when you are minding your own business in the sea and then a rip drags you away from your previous thoughts and demands your attention. A flood of goose pimples hit me when I first heard this song.
Paradise is something you can’t avoid, and is the gem of the album for me. With help from his accomplished friends Boh Runga and Stacey Wah, Cate stretches his legs effortlessly here and makes you want to find a loved one and give them a hug.
A delicate guitar intro kicks this little beauty off. With catchy riffs and poignant lyrics the track builds to the chorus, filled with grandeur and heart. The harmonies of Runga and Wah provide the richness and depth that just make you smile.
Kiwis have quite an affiliation with the ukulele, and the track that comes to mind when I think of that is Lyin in the Sand by Hello Sailor or a little ditty like Titus from early Split Enz. Reminiscent of that era, Cate surprises again, with the brilliant and catchy Rockstar. Something that you could easily see yourself listening to with some buddies as the sun sets on the beach and you talk about the day with a rum and coke in hand.
All systems are restored with Someone Still. The traditional guitar tease (a signature of sorts from Cate) starts off the track before opening up to the thundering bass and driving drums of Leggett. It’s worth mentioning here Hartley and Leggett are the anchor to the band. Never wavering, a solid platform that ensures Wills and Cate don’t stray too far from between the flags.
If the Rolling Stones were given the sixth track Reparation, which was lifted from Cate’s fourth solo album The Reparation Tapes, this is what I think they would have jammed out. Set in a back alley lounge bar well after the Cinderella hour, Cate has given his original a good pixie dusting of dirty rock, while maintaining one of the best choruses he has ever come up with. The combination of the Stones’ licks, mixed with Known Associates’ own sound brings new life to one of Cate’s best solo outings.
Dream Baby, Three, Wear It, and Deep Sea Diver, are cut from the same cloth as their last album, Mercy, but with just a little more sheen and tightness from a band that are now very comfortable in their own skin.
Satin Love is an example of Cate throwing down the gauntlet just to keep the rest of the band on their toes. While not slotting comfortably with the rest of the set, it does allow them to let their hair down and just go a little freestyle. Terror Beach is the closing track of the album and allows the band to get their breath back, and jump into the surf one last time. A nice finish to a long day on the water and a time to party methinks.
Ride The Wave was something I always wanted to do when I was younger. Wazza, our old mate Jibba and I had always dreamed of catching that exhilaration, however I never really got close. Wazza, along with his band of brothers, have shown what it feels like, so come on in the water’s fine.