I probably listen to more new music than just about anyone my age. Each and every week, I scour several websites dedicated to promoting new and unsigned bands. One thing always is true about a band of some interest. It is difficult to quantify because it is not easily discernible to the casual listener. It is difficult to identify and even more difficult to measure. It is chemistry. What? That’s right, personal chemistry between the band members which translates to passion in their music. Many famous bands featuring world class musicians have gotten together but nothing came of it because the individuals had no chemistry. I am reminded of a venture that was tentatively called XYZ featuring members of the band Yes along with Jimmy Page and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin after both bands broke apart. With that kind of pedigree, you would think it was a home run but alas, never got off the ground. I was not at those sessions but I am willing to bet the reason they did not work was, in part, there was little chemistry between the players (not to mention the legal logistics and contract obligations from the principals). Then I look at a band like The Ramones who were arguably raw and somewhat unskilled musically but they had more than enough chemistry to carry them to fame.
I can always tell when a band possesses the kind of chemistry necessary to propel them past the first level of success in the music business. It is not a quality that is easily identifiable but one can hear it in the music. A young band out of Belgium seems to have “it”. The 5 AM based in Aarschot, is set to release their debut album in late May and already have a substantial following in Europe without an album or even a single having been released. That, in and of itself speaks to the chemistry evident in the band. I have not seen their live show but have seen some of their youtube videos and can tell you that their interaction on stage and even their body language emits a positive vibe.
I was first drawn to the band by a song called “Lights Closing Down” which is on their debut album ‘Free’ due to be released in late May. The song is a slower tempo than the band’s usual groove and is reminiscent of some of U2’s mid period work (Zooropa). “Way of Life” is another slow track I enjoyed immensely. Make no mistake; The 5 AM similarly does up-tempo material very well. The title track “Free” is a hard charging but controlled number bound to win fans the world over. If this, their debut album is any indication, The 5 AM out of Belgium is destined to attract a lot of attention and I look forward to hearing more from this band.
Uncle Duke; a.k.a. Rob Penland is the producer and host of "The Mad Music Asylum" a 4 hour weekly syndicated radio show and now a 24 hour streaming internet station.