Jonny Cola & The A-Grades
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Jonny Cola & The A-Grades

London, England, United Kingdom | INDIE

London, England, United Kingdom | INDIE
Band Rock Alternative

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"Succeeds on sheer force of personality"

London may have a magnetic pull for many people but it’s a dangerous place for a band to base themselves. It’s far too easy for a band to slip through the cracks in the pavement once they get lost in the smoke and sticky floored bars of Greater London. While there are currently hundreds of bands circulating the UK capital in search of fame and fortune, or at the very least a dodgy record deal, it’s very difficult for anybody to care about them. If you live in Greater London you are bombarded with so much information, so many gigs, so many venues that unless you’re of an adventurous nature you end up paying attention to the same large venue gig listings, read the same magazines and broadsheets and follow the same big selling artists everybody from outside the capital pay attention to. It’s just easier.
?For many bands, competing against this malaise can be soul destroying. It’s ok to begin with.  You play a few storming Friday night pub gigs in Hoxton, Clapham and Islington but after a year or two it starts to grate. The audiences don’t get smaller, but they never get any bigger and eventually you find yourself in an Irish bar in Hammersmith on a Wednesday night and you really don’t know why the hell you’re doing it anymore. After a while the financial realities start to hit home (you’re not making any money), the fun starts to evaporate, you start to get sick of the songs and suddenly it’s easier to just keep the guitars locked up. The thought of dragging a drum kit into another Camden basement gets less and less appealing and eventually the band just evaporates into nothingness.
Every now and again though, a band comes along that refuses to get downheartened. A band that refuses to give up. A band that still steps up and performs on a Thursday night at the Bull and Gate like their lives depended on it because, frankly, they feel they are bloody worth it. And there songs are worth it too. Ladies, gentlemen and fairy tale creatures, I give you Jonny Cola and the A Grades.
<insert round of applause here>
Ok, so there’s already been a line up change since their debut album – In Debt – was released last year and, essentially, this EP sees them peddling old wares (both the title track and Alpha Male appeared on the album) but, like I said, the songs are worth it.  And in Alpha Male, in particular, the re-recorded version here kicks open its doors and spreads its wings wider than they dared try a year ago. It works to good effect. It shows they’re starting to think bigger.
Like much of their debut album, Postcode Wars documents the life of a band living in London, moving from the ever-so-fashionable (read boring and annoying) north London and moving to the area that taxis refuse to go after dark. It’s a familiar story but, like all Jonny Cola releases it succeeds on sheer force of personality.
They make look like a bunch of part time punks, or Travolta loving T-Bird wannabes, but they are a band that put tunes first and they have a front man that brings a delightful mix of Bowie and Albarn to the table. If that doesn’t whet your appetitie, then you’d better go and listen to the new Coldplay album and bore yourself senseless instead.
Postcode Wars is the kind of cracking EP you spend half the year searching record racks for. Don’t overlook it. Postcode Wars sees the band unafraid to take a chance, reinforcing their belief in themselves and their songs. Essentially it’s the sound of a band that refuses to go away, and that makes me a very happy reviewer indeed. Its time you gave these guys a chance.
I’ll see you in the Bull and Gate on Tuesday. - Incendiary Magazine


"These will be stuck in your head for days"

The first word that comes to mind on hearing the new Jonny Cola & The A-Grades (http://www.jonnycolaandtheagrades.net/ ) single, ‘Postcode Wars’, is “Delicious”. Perfectly crafted POP! complete with falsetto “oo”s in the chorus, like every pop classic should have. And that chorus – “Let’s sort it all out in the bedroom” – is catchy as hell, infectious even. I’ve always been impressed with Jonny Cola’s pop sensibilities, previously seen on debut album “In Debt” and ep “The Yellow Mini”, particularly with “Disappearing Act” and “Out Of Focus”, reaching a climax here. Contrary to what they announced on the last single, the party, far from being “over”, seems to be in full-swing, celebrating with much hook-laden carnage and promising more to come. “Alpha Male” is just as good. Floating on dark, slow, undulating waves, adrift in a huge expanse of soft night, silver reflections of stars (closer than you think) surround, keeping one safe and warm as the turbulence builds and swirls. “Summer Of Hate” is a good old hard rock stomper. And the last song, “If I Leave You Sitting In The Dark (Just Let Me Know)” is one of those gorgeous little b-sides, the romantic younger brother of Saint Etienne’s “You Know I’ll Miss You When You’re Gone”. Highly recommended, these will be stuck in your head for days. 4/5 - God Is In The TV


"Tight, economic songs with something to say"

Pay attention at the back if you haven't heard Jonny Cola and The A Grades yet. Following on from last year's excellent ‘In Debt’ album, this ep starts off with two of its strongest tracks, ‘Postcode Wars’ (think up-dated Joe Strummer in Mescaleros mode) and ‘Alpha Male’. In addition there are two new songs, ‘Summer of Hate’ and ‘If You Leave Me Sitting in the Dark (just let me know)’. Tight, economic songs with something to say, delivered with punch and precision are what Jonny Cola's all about - this should be out by the time you read this. Meanwhile take any chance to catch them live - if you can't do that, there's the video where New York film classic ‘The Warriors’ is relocated to London. - Mudkiss


"Pretty much everything that is best about British music"

I've listened to Postcode Wars probably a dozen times now and the first verse still makes me wonder what the hell I'm listening to. As soon as Jonny Cola & The A-Grades get into their stride it becomes obvious that they have absorbed and understood pretty much everything that is best about British music and are using it to great effect.

There are hints of Pulp and flickers of Blur, both of whom built on some great British pop traditions, however Jonny Cola & The A-Grades have evolved it a bit further to really produce a sound of their own. - New Singles Review


"Tunes that'd be plastered in 'genius' stickers if Doherty had released them"

They wrote "you can still have fun with a Les Paul, eyeliner and
some top pop tunes" and we played the record and then wrote
this...There are more peachy keen and more cynically wry
indie rockers than there are grains of sand up the arse of Brian
'Let Me Patronise You' Cox and we'd happilly boil them all, but
Jonny Cola & The A-Grades crack the Camden mask with
some endearing self awareness, self deprecation and some
tunes that'd be plastered in 'genius' stickers if Doherty had
released them. Today, we're playing their "Postcode Wars EP",
a little something that drags Blur into bed with Captain
Dangerous, the children will all sound like Space Waltz
b-sides, but that's not important right now, just make a start
with "Summer Of Hate", it's entirely apposite on a day when
The Faces let Prick Hucknall have Rod's shirt. - Unpeeled


"Witty, intelligent, seductive and melodic"

Some of us of a certain age and inclination will remember, perhaps with fondness, a small phenomenon around the turn of the century that saw a handful of young upstart bands take 70’s glam and sexual ambiguity and mix it with the fierce-panda-type quirky rock n roll of the time, creating a kind of mutant ‘indierock-glam’. Motley Crue were still out of fashion on the whole, so glam still meant Bowie and Velvet Goldmine, and Kaiser Chiefs hadn’t fully broken so indie still meant independent – not shite.
Many of you out there probably don’t remember (or will never have heard of) a lot of these bands, but for those that do, Jonny Cola & The A-Grades remind me very much of that time, whilst still retaining a freshness and relevance that places them as very much a must see band of today. Roxy Music meets Easyworld with a hint of Ultrasound via Remote Control perhaps? Or in the theme of thoughtful ambiguity, perhaps not. Either way, this is Proper British Pop – fronted by the eponymous Jonny Cola, they are a visually exciting and highly invigorating experience, that comes off the stage and grabs your attention (sometimes quite physically if memory serves correctly) and makes you listen.
And all this translates well onto the EP. Backed by a genuinely interesting video (not just another live rock-out piece – they’ve had some real fun with this), lead track Postcode Wars is at once witty, intelligent, seductive and melodic to the extent that even the handclaps don’t sound out of place. But this is not a band in one dimension, as there’s also some very open and personal introspection on the quieter tracks, which come out as fairly anthemic as they build and slowly captivate the senses.
You know what just happened? I enjoyed pop music again. Well bugger me, I did not see that coming. Go see this band and see if it happens to you too. - Pure Rawk


"All The Young Dudes with the slick rhythms of Blondie"

Budget glam rockers with a dancefloor sheen - think 'All The Young Dudes' with the slick rhythms of Blondie, through an endearingly DIY filter. Give the single a couple of minutes to invade your headspace and by the time the fuzzy solos are kicking in you'll be waving a feather boa over your head and grinning like a muppet. - Artrocker


Discography

The Yellow Mini (BBA Highland) - mini album - June 2009

Out Of Focus (BBA Highland) - single - January 2010

In Debt (Corporate) - album - November 2010

Postcode Wars (Scratchy) - EP - June 2011

Photos

Bio

London, this fallen city. Reclaimed by the old boys, scrubbed and neutered, wired up and hyper-connected, ruinously expensive. But still London.

A pigeon’s eye view along a main road in an as-yet ungentrified neighbourhood of Zone 2. Outer commuters thunder through on buses, bendy and otherwise, with barely a glance at the nail parlours and chicken joints, the deceased pubs. On the top floor, behind rotting window frames, hidden away from the world, sits Jonny Cola. Twin screens light the room - laptop spewing out triviality and TV showing endless reruns of Only Fools And Horses on mute. The flickering of the latter plays on the racks of vinyl and CDs, once alphabetised and now largely neglected. Jonny sighs, briefly overwhelmed by the horror, the horror, takes a good long drink, and clicks Send.

*Low-budget special effects sequence*

Gasping, Jonny hits the pavement in a cloud of smoke and glitter. We pull out to reveal four men in black and leopard print leaning against the iron railings of an East London square. Simon is the tall one, really tall, in the PVC jacket, all ex-pat Brummie scorn and eyeliner. Marco is Irish-Italian, hops freight trains and can operate a forklift at the drop of a hat. Mauro and Jez are the leaders of this motley crew, twin dynamos with a psychic link stretching from Santiago to Stoke-on-Trent, sharp-eyed and ready for anything.

Jonny is smitten.

With a smile, the two axemen step forward. Mauro clicks his fingers, sounds a pure E, and all the pigeons in London rise in a vast cloud, blocking out the setting sun and fanning out to the suburbs. With a wail of feedback, Jez seizes up his guitar. Marco slams the kick and Simon spits out a growling, rumbling bass riff. Eyes shining, Jonny steps up to the mic and it all just melts away - the wasted years, the disappointment, the overpriced and substandard food and booze and trains and clubs and drugs and the rest of it, the fear of getting stabbed or shot or simply ignored, the terrible over-privileged sons of sons of sons running the whole shoddy debacle from a high-security bunker in Belgravia or Mayfair or Hampstead Garden Suburb... For a moment, for just one tiny little fraction of an instant, it all just disappears.

Forget your postcode wars and find something that’s worth fighting for... now.