Review by Ciarán Steward
The Ironweed Project in the latest incarnation of Aniff Akinola, a man who is no stranger to success. Akinola’s musical past includes working with Kirsty MacColl and Ian Brown, as well as being half of Backyard Dog whose song ‘Baddest Ruffest’ was featured in ‘Bend It Like Beckham’ as well as being chosen as a Coca Cola World Cup theme. This latest project by Akinola sees a combination of genres ranging from rock and blues to hip-hop and dubstep. With a unique take on music and its boundaries, ‘These Chains Ain’t Gonna Hold Me’ is like nothing you’ve ever heard before.
It is incredibly refreshing to hear a new take on blues music and by fusing these ideas with more modern styles a fresh sound is created. The album opens with ‘The Whole World’s on Fire’, similar in many ways to some of Beck’s work. With a crisp guitar sound accompanying the simple vocal line, the track contains an environmentally friendly message that certainly wouldn’t be expected. Though the Australian accent may be nothing to write home about, the positive theme of the lyrics is a pleasant surprise and the musical accompaniment certainly helps the cause. ‘You Got Me Working’ opens with a Hawaii 5-0 style feel and as the song builds it rapidly gains momentum and life. Basic lyrics in the chorus break the song up slightly and the electric organ is a particular highlight, the song perhaps being let down by its reliance on one progression.
These opening tracks are followed by the politically challenging ‘Fat City’ and the blues meets funk track ‘I Just Like It’. The title track from the album is next, beginning in a colonial style before the introduction of a thumping bass, frantic drums, and pounding synth lines. A peculiar combination of ideas, the track seems to work well and the Gorillaz-like breakdown in the middle is a pleasant release from the powerful verses. As the track rebuilds through the heavily distorted guitar another feel in introduced and once again it is the mixture of genres that shows the inner workings of Akinola’s mind. ‘Life is Getting Serious’, the subsequent track, is taken at a much slower pace before making way for ‘Making All Kinds Of Music’, Akinola’s acknowledgement of what he has achieved with this album whilst singing in a manner typical of Jimi Hendrix, one of the album’s key influences.
‘In A Box’ is certainly a must-listen track for fans of modern blues as basic blues ideas are built upon with guitar solos, brass stabs, and a nice double bass lead as the song draws to a close. The influence of Jimi Hendrix is also evident in ‘A Little Love’, the rapping over the guitar parts telling the listener of the protagonists struggling adolescent love-life. ‘Addicted To Love’ is a catchy track that places a memorable chorus within a laid-back piece that manipulates the keyboard role and guitar parts well. The closing tracks ‘Heart n Sould’ and ‘Goodbye Blues’ are typical of the rest of the album, the former making the most of Akinola’s close vocals whilst the latter is an upbeat blues track that begins stripped down before building up to be a real toe-tapper.
A truly individual work, ‘These Chains Ain’t Gonna Hold Me’ manages to create a nice blend between styles that other artists would stay well away from. Akinola must surely be heralded for his originality in creating the album and the pioneering nature of The Ironweed Project could well lead to a deserved success.
Review by Ciarán Steward