• Heather McAleavy

EP Review: Rab McGowan - Wake Up

Combining enchanting 80s synth melodies with high energy alt rock riffs, singer-songwriter Rab McGowan excels in every style he explores in this debut EP. Released on 19th June, Wake Up is comprised of only four tracks but intertwines various genre tropes so no two sound alike.

The opening title track for example, kicks off with a gentle plucked tune reminiscent of that heard at the start of Every Breath You Take by The Police, however, a new wave injection quickly diminishes any preconceptions of genre. Mellow synth rules the track, and is subtly accompanied by a wider range of instrumentation that keeps the listener alert. From bongos to the short click of a metronome, McGowan provides enough variation to halt any chance of the track growing stagnant or overly repetitive. The introduction to his vocal range also hints at the eras that have influenced him. His southern-soaked accent and use of punk spoken-word techniques add even more personality to his music. While this does enhance his music, his range requires development though as his attempts at higher notes are often a pitchy struggle.

Moving away from new wave, following track Stars is a gorgeous ballad that provides a real Bowie-like soundscape. Mixing gentle piano and strings with subtle disco, anthemic classic rock riffs and prominent snare patterns, upon the first listen there’s no predicting where this will end up. As the vocals take a more rough approach, the whole song becomes a raw, spine-tingling, emotion-filled affair that stands out as the strongest and most developed on the EP.

Souring space synth takes over the aptly named third track Rising. Somehow, McGowan manages to fuse these bold electronic sounds with Nirvana-like guitar melodies and grungy vocals similar to Kurt Cobain’s, miraculously pulling it off. While the chorus is quite overwhelming and messy, without the excessive and high pitched synth, it would be pure punk, which makes the chaos justifiable to an extent.

Get Out of My Head makes sure the EP is closed with a big hit. Showcasing his love of hard rock, more classic techniques and instrumentation are focused on here, while production is used underneath to compliment and keep the time. It’s also more melodic, allowing for longer notes and a more traditional pop vocal style to shine through as yet another skill under his belt. This track feels like it was pulled straight from the 80s - more so than the previous three as every element that defined the era has been replicated so authentically.

This may only be a debut, hence the vast variation and slight issues, however it’s a remarkable one at that. In Wake Up, Rab McGowan has made sure every part of his artistry and influences are heard, and it’s a grand introduction to his sound. Once this has been refined and a direction has been chosen, there’s no telling where you’ll see his name in future, but it’ll be big.

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