Tom Mansi and the Icebreaker’s Rock and Roll on Bones is my album of the year so far.
His gravelly purr of a voice, which oozes depth and character, is the epitome of the blues rock genre, effortlessly painting an image of interminable touring, excessive whisky consumption and a broken heart or ten.
His voice is also supported by the freshest writing I’ve heard in a long time and I’m stunned that I could have so easily missed this album, the band desperately lacking the profile they deserve.
Mansi’s unique writing is a rarity in an increasingly homogenised market, with even the most seemingly alternative names micro-managed and marketed by their corporate record labels.
But there’s none of that nonsense here. This is pure unfiltered talent.
The trio that make up this band met at school and have been playing together for nearly 20 years in one form or another.
‘We’ve been playing together for longer than we haven’t,’ Tom Mansi told Neonfiller. This is the trio’s fourth album but the third under the name Tom Mansi and the Icebreakers. I asked Mansi, if they’ve been together for such a long time, how did this album come about?
He attributed a number of things. Escaping from a fast-paced London lifestyle before the birth of his first daughter was one, he said. ‘I just had time to write, plus the writing was done with the bass rather than guitar so the tracks were written in a more stripped down way,’ he said.
The album was also kick-starter’, so its launch was paid for by multiple donors rather than a label.
‘We knew people really wanted it,’ said Mansi. No doubt the band’s recent residency at Shorditch’s Blue’s Kitchen supported this endeavour.
The recording process was also different from their previous efforts, with each of the tracks recorded live. ‘Our dynamics (on the album) are completely natural, we all sang and played at the same time. And I think recording live makes it more of a music experience than a process,’ Mansi said.
The album opens with the title track ‘Rock and Roll on Bones’, a funk swing styled track that offers a taste of interesting history. It describes a time during the Soviet era when Western music was banned, explains Mansi. ‘They bootlegged rock, pressing it into whatever they could find, including ex-rays that could be carried around easily.’
There are multiple stand-out tracks on the album, No Comment scoring high on my chart along with the devastatingly sexy Heartbreak Hooligan. The phenomenal bass-lead melody of Year as a Ghost is as brilliant as it is earie, Mansi sounding like a modern-day Jim Morrison with his convincing sorrow and genius poetry. No wonder the band included the lyrics on the album sleeve.
Little Black Box follows suit with brilliantly surreal marine-based analogies for problems in love, guitarist Paul White using a playful special effect to support the underwater theme.
While these three men have been playing together for a long time, this album is clearly a significant breakthrough, Mansi describing it as the album they’ve always been waiting for.
My only criticism is that while the writing is original, there is some formula to their presentation with the trio relying on White’s guitar playing to carry the album touch more than they should. But luckily for us listeners, for now it’s a formula that works brilliantly.
By Sarah Robertson
For more information about Tom Mansi and the Icebreakers visit their site here.