THE SUMS – If Only, Album review, & live review from Liverpool zanzibar 7th APRIL 2012, by Shaun McCoy
The Sums make a welcome return with their excellent new album If Only. It’s been a long time coming, but it’s not the first time these songs have seen the light of day. This flux of compositions has been fantastically showcased during the band’s live performances.
The Sums haven’t released much material since their acclaimed 2008 EP Treat Your Victim. The band is led by lead singer and rhythm guitarist Digsy Deary, who has co-written the songs with bassist and fellow vocalist Chris Mullin. Lead guitar artistry comes courtesy of Lee Watson and Chris Campbell completes the line up on drums.
There are so many prime tracks on here that they all standout as equally as each other – ranging from the seething to the sublime. The opening track Darken My Doorstep has plenty of passion and ferocity. Digsy’s delivery has always been a definitive factor – both live and in the studio. He’s a clever and subjective lyricist.
The album has a powerful side and a more subtle side where the latter is displayed in tracks such as Rise. It’s cool and laid back with Lee providing an excellent bluesy slide guitar while Chris backs Digsy to great effect. Their partnership on the vocals combined with the brilliantly executed music makes this a stylish album.
Who Cares is an absolute gem. Digsy’s voice is wistful creating a melancholic atmosphere with the music. The track rises into a chanting crescendo and then drops back down again. The Sums are back with a bang.
THE SUMS LIVE @ THE ZANZIBAR_7th April 2012
One of the many things I like about watching Digsy Deary perform is his admirable ability of heckling the audience. Sometimes it’s the other way round at other gigs but its all part of the banter as our lead singer throws a series of sarcastically funny wise cracks at the crowd throughout the show.
Musically and vocally The Sums are in a league of their own. They had a quite descent supporting bill in The Sterlings, Professor Yaffle and The Deception. A friend of mine commented: ‘You can see the difference in class between them and the other bands on the bill.’ He meant the step up in talent The Sums have compared to a lot of other bands around.
I’m Not Very Good is one of three new songs (also Hose Me Down and Something’s Afoot) The Sums are showcasing along with others off their 2011 album If Only. The second track Vegetable sees Digsy turn the angst up to 11 riding high with the crunching music. Digsy’s vocal is like a double edged sword – it’s either anarchic or passionately stirring. He delivers both elements in quite a lot of their songs. Digsy also superbly harmonises with bassist Chris Mullin throughout, especially in the soul wrenching Spilt Milk and the peerless Small Smile.
The Sums aren’t just good in the vocal department as lead guitarist Lee Watson adds a strong element to the band’s music with his psychedelic licks and buzz saw riffs. A classic example of Lee’s omnipresence is evident in the psychedelic thriller Mind Field with its cutting vocals, groovy circular bass and fine skin beating from Chris Campbell.
Another standout track is Who Cares? the vocals and lyrics create an endearing mix of melancholy and optimism. You can see the video for the song on YouTube. It contains nostalgic black and white clips of Liverpool, with the song providing an ample soundtrack to the classic footage.
Coming to the end of their set The Sums playout with Scared Of Missing Out which is crescendo of passionately lead vocals and finely executed music. They return for an encore to perform God I Hate This Town. This is the icing on the cake to the packed out Zanzibar crowd who have been lapping up the music all night. Digsy’s lessened the Smaller songs because he wants The Sums material to be at the forefront now, but it’s good to hear one his former band’s songs. God I Hate This Town was off Smaller’s 1996 album Badly Badly. It’s a masterpiece and one of the most underrated albums of all time. If you get a chance to go and see The Sums, grab it with both hands because they are phenomenal.
by Shaun McCoy 2012
below is a set list from the gig (encore not included)