Hackney Colliery Band need very little introduction. Since the release of their eponymous debut in 2011, this brass juggernaut have blown their way into the public consciousness, as well as some of the more discerning dance floors, with their cunning cover versions (in particular Africa and No Diggity) and catchy original recordings.
Over the past two years the band have earned themselves an army of loyal fans, including a number of big names, and have played at some very special events indeed. From live collaborations with the late Amy Winehouse and more recently Eliza Doolittle, to headlining the Manchester Jazz and Durham Brass Festivals, and in 2012 being the only fully live band to play at the Closing Ceremony of the London Olympics, they haven’t paused for breath.
Add to that an ongoing partnership with the Roundhouse, a recent Balkan tour where they played to capacity crowds in Slovenia, Kosovo and Montenegro and relentless touring in the UK and Europe, and it becomes obvious why the critics have described them as 'an inspired musical collision' (The Times), 'one of our favourite performers on the London scene today' (The Upcoming) and 'the most enjoyable, fun live music I know of’ (The Observer).
With a tongue-in-cheek, yet respectful, nod to the great tradition of British brass bands, Hackney Colliery's influences are as diverse as the London borough that gave them their name. Mixing rock, afro-beat, hip hop, Balkan beats, contemporary jazz and soul, the new album Common Decency is a uniquely British take on the modern brass band sound. The opener, A Bit Of Common Decency, builds from a delicately brooding intro to an almost punky rock groove, and with its imploring whispers and shouts for 'a bit of common decency' sets the tone of the album: by turns polite and forceful, mellow and fiery, energetic and, well, even more energetic. By the closing track, Prodigy Medley (a favourite of club and radio DJs all over the world), the listener can be left with little doubt that HCB’s time has come.
Engineered by the appropriately-named Tristan Hackney (Katy B, Bjork, U2) and mixed by Luke Buttery (Mark Ronson, Alice Russell, Noel Gallagher) at Ray Davies' Konk studios in North London, Common Decency was recorded almost entirely 'as live' with the band all playing in the same room at the same time; a rare and high-risk method indeed, but the only one that could hope to capture the energy and passion of one of HCB's live shows.
Fortunately, with musicians whose credits include the likes of Bonobo, Cinematic Orchestra and even the Royal Opera House, there was no danger of this compromising the quality or detail of the performances. Add a little extra honk from Melt Yourself Down and Acoustic Ladyland head honcho Pete Wareham on the track Superhero Disco and there is no shortage of virtuoso playing. Which is lucky, because HCB aren't a simple 'brass n beats' groove band. Writers Olly Blackman, Luke Christie and Steve Pretty have between them penned unquestionably the outfit's strongest material to date ¬– powerful original compositions that sit alongside unexpected drum n bass, soul and hip hop covers; a tour de force of screaming energy and masterly writing. As intricate as it is energetic, as virtuosic as it is passionate, Common Decency marks HCB's arrival as a leading light in the global brass band scene.
As front-man Steve Pretty puts it, "When we started out back in 2008 our mission was to create a uniquely British take on the modern brass band and to prove that with nothing but some bits of twisted metal, wood and plastic we could get any party started. We've had an incredible couple of years and Common Decency is the realisation of those ambitions”.