British band Hooton Tennis Club may cite american garage as one of their biggest influences, but like the proverbial British dentistry they are far more charming in their imperfection. The band’s debut album, Highest Point In Cliff Town, comes mere months after signing to Heavenly Recordings. In such a short time, it’s unlikely that Hooton Tennis Club had the time to agonise over this first record – which probably explains the exuberance and sense of casual assurance that emanates from Highest Point In Cliff Town.
Working with former Coral guitarist Bill Ryder-Jones as producer, the band held fast to their DIY style. Initial ideas for songs were recorded on singer Ryan Murphy’s phone while he was working on a Robbie Williams tour. And former recordings had a definite make-do-and-mend feel – backing vocals in wardrobes and building kit out of anything to hand. Ryder-Jones set them off in the their comfort zone for this album; recording in his mother’s house surrounded by her numerous pets.
Hooton Tennis Club aren’t too precious about perfection, more interested in the organic process and the charm that lives in accidents and errors. Coupled with the expert production on Highest Point In Cliff Town, the album really does capture the youthful optimism of a young band with everything to reach for. Scuzzy guitars wail over a rhythm section which is a subtle but solid foundation for the band’s off kilter wanderings. Murphy’s vocals come off the cuff, skirting the edges of conversation and discordance pretty perfectly, reminiscent of a young Damon Albarn.
Single releases like Jasper stand strong with big riffs and vocals that have a touch more dream pop about them, but new tracks really round off the release. I’m Not Going Roses Again is slower paced but brings together a gorgeous guitar part with a laid back vocal rant. Leaning more heavily on a garage influence, this track also descends into some fantastically odd vocal acrobatics that launch a bit more of that electric guitar. Lower moments like …And Then Camilla Drew Fourteen Dots On Her Knee do have something of early Blur about them, but with more of an indie spin.
With their narrative style song titles and conversational lyrics, there’s a lazy buoyancy and optimism to Highest Point In Cliff Town that is hard to resist. It’s a strong debut from Hooton Tennis Club and we can only hope that they don’t lose the charm of youth and experimentation that has carried them this far.