It’s official; your favourite band usually end up being the ones that have to change their names. This seems to be a particular problem for Sydney-born artists, many of whom are our friends and have had to change their monikers to avoid suit (or the threat of it) just as they’re cracking the big time. The Preatures (who were called The Preachers the last few times we gushed about them) join an esteemed list of name-swappers that includes Ghostwood, Danimals, The Valentinos and Pivot in the brave new world, hoping desperately that the kids will still like them in their new outfits. Of course, they sound like a million dollars regardless of what name you slap on them, so this was never really going to be an issue unless you work in the catalogue department of Mercury Records, where The Preatures recently signed a five-album deal. That, for the record, is halfway to Jamiroquai or Robbie Williams territory. Evidently someone out there with a fountain pen and a binding piece of parchment believes in them as much as we do.
Rather than change over time, What The Preatures have successfully done from their early days with Gideon Bensen up front alone through to the gradual inclusion of the divine Ms Isabella Manfredi, her boyfriend/guitar hero Jak Orion and a ruthless rhythm section is simply get better. That sounds very boring, but it’s actually pretty impressive when you consider that they did most of it on their own. It’s one thing to push yourselves to create better and more engaging material using the same base of members when there’s a corporation with financial considerations breathing down your neck, but no so much when you’re independent. In fact, there are many independent bands who simply churn out schizophrenic discographies, hoping for something to stick. The Preatures, having firmly situated themselves both historically and thematically almost three years ago, have steadfastly refused to deviate from their classic rock, blues-inspired, harmony driven shimmy-and-shake formula unless they decide they can better themselves. they did it a while ago with ‘Take A Card’, perhaps their most catchy single in ages but also still emphatically them, and they’ve done it again here. The band sent a raw version of this record to me a while ago, asking for notes. Aside from telling them to get rid of the handclaps, I said it was pretty much perfect. That’s something I still stand by.
As Isabella has expanded her vocal wings, so to has Gideon, the founder of this band and the bottomless reservoir of rock and roll knowledge that allows the excellent songwriting that you hear here to exist. Once rough-as-guts and enough to make Dylan cower, he’s turned his drawl into a real harmonic tool as well as a point of difference. His lower octave inclusions beef up what is already a spectacular melodic showing from Manfredi in the chorus, which is halfway between a desert rock ballad and an ’80s synth-pop strutter. It should be pointed out, also that the guitar sounds on this track are simply sublime. The little flecks of diamonds that spill out between Gideon and Jak’s interplay in the verses is really delightful to hear, and reminds you of the attention to detail that has all but disappeared in our quantised, mp3 existence. Manfredi never seemed to have any doubts about how to slay it up the front, but those high notes and falsetto swoops here are magic. There’s actually no other way to describe it.
As much as The Preatures know themselves, they also know when they need to write a hit. ‘Is This How You Feel?’ succeeds on both counts, and has the added advantage of sounding romantically retro and utterly of-the-now simultaneously. It’s sort of Blondie, sort of Fleetwood Mac, sort of a whole lot of other bands we should know but don’t. Consider The Preatures an education, then, or even a revelation. Even if they aren’t allowed to preach anymore.
The Preatures – ‘Is This How You Feel?’