For those who don’t recognize the bands name , you might well recognize the face behind it. Alex Krienke (AJK) was the longtime male vocalist behind Bonn’s long running coverband Sunny Skies.
A couple of months ago at the Harmonie I got a pat on the back and a how are you from a guy I couldn’t quite place (blame the long hair he didn’t have before) and it was Alex, talking enthusiastically about making music of his own and a band he was getting together.
The fruits of that band’s labors went into my cd player recently, and an interesting little disc it turned out to be too. So much so that it has made several returns to my cd player since in fact. I didn’t know quite what to expect, certainly there were some pleasant surprises in store. Alex was a keen fan of the immortal Freddie Mercury but he never sat at the piano for a Sunny Skies song as far as I could remember. He was/is a keen fan of heavier rock than I am, being a member of the local Iron Maiden coverband Killerz. I sort of oriented my expectancy of the bands debut ‘AJK’ on the back of Killerz – was I wrong or was I WRONG?!
There is a Metal cover here of Queensryche’s ‘Revolution Calling’ but it’s actually a bare bones interpretation, and quite beautifully delivered too. There is also certainly a strong rhythmic nod to Deep Purple on ‘Suddenly’ (along with ‘Let it Be’ which makes for an interesting and quirky mix – which is to me the real magic of this disc. What Krienke and his excellent band do is actually somewhat reminiscent of Mr Mercury and his mega-hit band Queen. They take Rock music and strip it down to it’s essentials – piano so more often than not, and build it up again from there. It had me thinking that ‘Holiday in Cambodia’ was a Queen song rather than from the Dead Kennedys. Krienke’s own song (and indeed most of the disc is self composed) ‘Unique’ starts off in Freddie’s typical ‘We are the Champions’ style with its tinkling piano. It builds too, although not reaching the sheer dynamics of Queen, which for me is the one disappoint of this excellent disc – and let’s be honest, that’s a pretty tall order to get disappointed about.
There is often a nervousness in Krienke’s voice as on ‘The Love You Swore’ and Blue Oyster Cult’s ‘Last days of May’. When he is totally confident though this really becomes a super disc. An example, and probably my favorite of the faster paced numbers on the disc, is the second take of ‘Think of You’ with it’s swaggeringly drunken brass driven backing. This is also a rather super debut cd in the moments when there is just a piano and a simple vocal to deliver. Best of all in this vain ‘The day that I stopped loving you’ which had me looking at the cover to see who did it first – only to discover Krienke himself did!
Lots to enjoy here then and its obvious that Alex and co are ambitious with their plans. That’s a bit of an Achilles heel in a way because the ambition doesn’t match the budget. A slick song needs a slick production and maybe some orchestration even. I remember some great vocal performances from Alex onstage in the past on songs like ‘Too much love can kill you’ and ‘Angels’ whereas here there is sometimes a nervousness about his vocal that the quality of the songs doesn’t deserve. The band are excellent, with Sunny Skies bassman Martin Phillipi and drummer Jens Olaf ‘Paul’ Mayland keeping the beat and some nice guitar work by Andreas J. Ballnus. The sleevenotes tell me that Nadine Weyer is in there vocally although I couldn’t spot her, and the brass section shine so much on ‘Think of You’ that I wish they had more to do elsewhere too. I have a feeling that when he gets on the road with this material (promoters take note!) and it gets ‘played in’ we could see a genuine new local hero emerging. Certainly there are some true gems on offer here that, with a bit of a polish up, will shine brightly indeed. Early days then for AJK but also promising ones of a lot for fans of intelligent Rock to enjoy in future.