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Island rock tackles a Christmas standard
The new arrangement of The Little Drummer Boy by 5 Miles to Midnight (5M2M) released last week begins gently and reassuringly enough.
There are gentle chimes and a soaring chorale hinting at the most traditional interpretations of the song, and you’re lulled into thinking how sweet and gentle it all is.
Then vocalist Liam King cuts in with a keening riff on the lyrics and drummer Rhys Thompson begins to anchor the angelic aspirations of the song with increasingly rigorous runs on his kit before opening the song to its alt rock rereading with a muscular ripple across his drums.
As King begins a proper reading of the song, drums, bass and buzzing guitars charge in behind him.
As the band begins taking the song in more adventurous directions, the chimes become more percussive than ceremonial.
By the time 5M2M has stormed through half of the song, it’s clear that we aren’t in traditional Christmas carol territory and Alex Burt Ou Young and Shallun Sammy trade riffs with vigorous enthusiasm over Thompson’s teeth-rattling drum attack.
I’d first heard the song as the closing number in a Christmas event gig by the band two weeks ago; my first time hearing them live. It was a room with muddy acoustics and a barely polite bunch of tipsy people barely paying attention for an audience, but the band played their hearts out, and the energy they put into Little Drummer Boy was truly inspiring.
This is a band that’s collaborated with Fay Ann Lyons and worked with Kerwyn Dubois and Blaxx, so a 75-year-old Christmas carol composed for chorale wasn’t likely to pose much of a problem.
I first contacted Thompson, quite possibly the most personable and charming musician I’ve ever met on the local rock scene, to suggest that the band release the song as a promotion.
These young people were already ahead of me; having put down the tracks and the song was already in mastering.
As of December 1, you can hear it on the band’s YouTube channel (http://ow.ly/qzgg306Mprn) and on SoundCloud.
“We chose this song because we had an arrangement for it since last December,” said Thompson.
“We played it at our Christmas concert, people liked it so we decided it would be a great idea to record it. A holiday song will play forever. The response has been amazing. So many positive comments on YouTube and on the radio as well. The next time we’ll play it is on December 18 at the Big Black Box for a concert called DopeSkis da Night 2.”
The band plans to do a live video of the song before Christmas day and is actively soliciting ideas for another Christmas arrangement.
“We already have an idea for Silent Night,” Thompson said.
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