Sheer unbridled euphoria is a quality that can be in short supply in the often introspective world of guitar music, but it’s the number one weapon in the arsenal of GIITTV Sound of 2018 choice Gabi Garbutt.
Together with her six-piece live outfit The Illuminations, she’s on a mission to take the passion and energy of punk and re-route it through the speedy thrills of the Northern soul dancefloor. Her rowdy and expressive performance, backed up the stirring sounds of a full-on brass section and sweet vocal harmonies, makes no bones about going for the jugular.
At the same time, dig a little deeper and you’ll discover a poetic side to this combat rock. Along with a childhood love of Green Day and The Clash, she fell for the more intellectual inspiration of Patti Smith and, through her was introduced to the work of 18th-century poet and philosopher William Blake. Her debut single ‘Armed With Love’, for instance, manages to push all the right emotional buttons with gushing strings and a climactic chorus, but the words pay tribute to a friend who managed to overcome and cope with horrific, abusive life experiences using positivity and a belief in the inherent good of humanity. Your usual pop pap it most certainly isn’t.
The follow up is a careering, high-speed soul chase that goes closer to capturing the breathless exuberance of the band onstage, A song about “turbulent love and the excitement of night,” says Gabi, admitting also that there’s a big chunk of the “restless brassy energy” of early Dexy’s Midnight Runners in its musical make up. No surprise, perhaps, when you consider her main musical and production collaborator is current Dexys sax/keyboards maestro Sean Read, also known to pop up augmenting the likes of the Manic Street Preachers and Edwyn Collins on occasion.
Work on their debut album is well underway, with The Libertines bassist John Hassall among the guests who’ve made contributions. Gabi and band have only played a handful of shows so far but have already come to the attention of both The Libertines, who invited them to open for them at the Folkestone date of their Seaside tour late Autumn, and Frank Turner, who has booked them for the opening night of his four-night London Roundhouse stint from May 11-14.
‘Lady Matador’ is released on the Famous Times label on April 20.
London Amersham Arms – March 23
London Camden Monarch (Mark Beaumont presents) – May 9
London Roundhouse (w/Frank Turner) – May 11
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