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Last Man Standing - False Starts & Broken Promises

Last Man Standing, False Starts and Broken Promises

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

LAST Man Stand were recently hailed by The Guardian as “the best unsigned band in London”. They operate as something of a guerilla force, gigging anywhere they can find a stage.

Fronted by American Max Vanderwolf, they’re a nine-piece of down-trodden, bedraggled misfits who live and die for rock ‘n’ roll. And their debut album False Starts & Broken Promises is an intriguing collection of songs that eschew many of the values of ’70s influences such as Bowie, Zappa, Steely Dan, Clapton and Dylan.

The songs mash drunken blues with dirty country, full-on rock with city slick jazz and they’re designed to inspire, make you think and even get you dancing at different points.

In live form, they’ve already established a firm cult following and LP success should certainly broaden their appeal if it enables some of their songs to get on the radio. But in these days of myspace and self-promotion, don’t bet against Last Man Standing emerging as one of rock’s newest forces come the end of the year.

False Starts kinda hooks you in from the beginning, opening with the enchanting instrumental Variation, an utterly breezy compilation of folk-tinged banjos and guitars complete with harmonica and strings. For a rock album, it couldn’t be further removed from what you may be expecting.

It immediately changes gear with the more urgent, bluesy Queen King, a song that introduces us to Vanderwolf’s distinct vocals for the first time. Backed by a striking central guitar riff, it’s a track that’s steeped in classic rock values, hinting at T-Rex vocally.

A piano loop takes centre stage on the engaging Waiting So Long, one of the first highlights the album has up its sleeve. Vanderwolf comes over all aching and longing, while the guitar work mourns with him in exemplary style.

There’s a really slinky feel to Everything Must Go, a neat fusion of city slick jazz and blues that features a slightly strained vocal turn from Vanderwolf (circa Mick Jagger in Exile On Main Street form). The gospel-backed chorus ensures the track emerges as another memorable standout.

And there’s a definite sense of The Doors wafting throughout A Man Condemned, a trippy, psychedelia-laced journey that marks yet another change of pace.

Elsewhere, tracks take a little longer to win you over – but there’s no denying the band boasts a certain appeal and aren’t afraid to wear their influences on their sleeves. Hence, fans of the aforementioned classic bands are sure to dig the sound of Last Man Standing and there’s plenty here to suggest there’s a great deal more to come from them.

Download picks: Variation, Queen Kong, Waiting So Long, A Man Condemned, Everything Must Go

Track listing:

  1. Variation
  2. Queen Kong
  3. Waiting So Long
  4. The Dean Street Stumble
  5. Everything Must Go
  6. The Climb
  7. Bar Room Floor
  8. A Man Condemned
  9. Go Home
  10. Theme For The Last Man Standing