James Hargreaves is a British singer and songwriter as well as a multi-instrumentalist, hailing from Richmondshire, Yorkshire. Primarily, his career has been in guitar tuition in the UK, Europe and the USA. However, his passion for guitar music, particular the 90’s Britpop style, has led to him founding Hargreaves Records in April, 2021.
Having also built up a successful YouTube channel, Hargreaves set himself the goal of bringing guitar music back into the charts. His fans supported a crowdfunding campaign to get this EP, Good To Be Back, mastered at the legendary Abbey Road Studios by Frank Arkwright (Oasis, Blur, Joy Division, The Smiths and many more). The EP has already become a success and achieved Hargreaves’ aim of breaking into the charts.
The EP consists of four tracks, bursting out of the speakers with the brilliantly titled opener Kremlin Backed Twitter Posting Troll Farm. You can hear an array of Britpop influences in the sound, in particular the lead guitar style of John Squire (Stone Roses, Seahorses). James’ heartfelt vocal style has hints of Ian Brown and Liam Gallagher but also Chris Helme of The Seahorses and Danny McNamara from Embrace.
The song itself is a lively explosion of blues rock based around an infectious, revolving lead guitar riff and has the euphoric, anthemic nature that we associate with the best Britpop music. Particularly impressive is the concise guitar solo that rivals any of the Squire solos on Second Coming by The Stone Roses, for example. A highly entertaining way to start the EP.
Sometime Tomorrow is a nice contrast, an epic six-minute acoustic ballad full of tumbling toms and a strong vocal performance from Hargreaves. The lilting vocal melody on the verse works well before the song explodes into a memorable chorus that mind me think of a band like Inspiral Carpets and songs like This Is How It Feels. They were a big influence on the young Noel Gallagher and very much a precursor to the glories of the Britpop era. Produced to perfection with some soaring strings towards the end, this track showcases Hargreaves’ finely honed songwriting craft and authentic, earthy lead vocals.
Designated Driver (High As A Kite) is a return to the exuberance of the first song, a super catchy and rather amusing tale of a wild night out. After a verse that manages to sound like every Britpop band rolled into one, the music polevaults into a classic skyscraper of a chorus with an All The Young Dudes-style refrain that anyone who has ever enjoyed a drunken night can relate to: “They were all high as a kite, I stood there watching a big girly fight...”.
The down to earth, social observation lyrical style of the verses show more of a post-Britpop Alex Turner (Arctic Monkeys) influence rather than the inspired gobbledygook of Oasis, but there’s no doubt that Hargreaves shares Noel Gallagher‘s gift for writing killer singalong choruses. This seems the obvious choice as a lead single from the EP, a really excellent song that makes you realise what the charts are missing at the moment.
The closing track, Sitting On The Rooftop, is more reminiscent of the bittersweet, melancholy ballads that gave Oasis their emotional depth. Indeed, Hargreaves has stated on record that this song was inspired by Noel Gallagher‘s more reflective and sensitive moments. In fact, it was even written while Hargreaves was a teenager and Britpop was at its height.
The softly strummed acoustic guitar sets the backdrop for a lyric that captures the world weariness and longing for escape from a small town that characterised Oasis songs like Half A World Away and Rockin’ Chair. Featuring another mellifluous, finely crafted guitar solo, it rounds off Good To Be Back nicely.
Overall, this EP is an inspiring and much needed shot in the arm for British guitar music. Using his extensive musical experience and drawing particularly on the Britpop golden age for inspiration, James Hargreaves has proven that the public still want to hear quality guitar music or simply “indie”, as it was known back in the day. Full of belting choruses and relatable lyrics, Good To Be Back could well be the necessary catalyst that inspires kids on council estates to pick up guitars and get indie music front and centre again, where it belongs.