24 year-old Frenchman Felix Rabin, has been on my radar for a couple of years now. I had the pleasure of seeing what I think was one his first UK gigs when he opened for Danish dude Thorbjorn Risager (try saying that after four pints) at the 100 Club back in March 2018. Well he impressed me, and he obviously impressed some others in the know that night as he ended up as the support for Wishbone Ash later that year which put him in front of loads of discerning ears and eyeballs.
Momentum gained, in 2019 he did not one but two headline tours up and down the UK and satisfyingly saw the crowds grow when he returned to the same venues. When I saw him I picked up his EP ‘Down Our Roads’ which featured 5 originals and a polite cover of ‘Hey Joe’ all recorded back in 2015 when Felix was just 19. You can’t quite believe that this nice French boy would talk back to his Mum, let along shoot his old lady as the protagonist in ‘Hey Joe’ does, but the guitar work here is far from polite and drenched in fuzzy wah wah and weaving way around the beat in a suitably Jimi-esque fashion. The originals are strong too, especially when you consider that the Stones didn’t actually get around to writing their own material until Keef & Mick were 22 and here’s Felix knocking out them out at 19. The recordings on that EP gave you a good taste of Felix’s talents and whet the appetite for what the future might bring.
Well that future is here and Felix has a new EP called ‘Pogboy’. The title comes from the nickname he earned in the studio while recording it due to his habit of using the “Pog” effects pedal on just about every song. According to the maker’s website it gives you a “peanut butter milkshake thick sound”. Well you can certainly here it on a lot of the tracks here, particularly the crunchy double tracked ‘Angels’ (no, not a Robbie Williams cover, phew).
Engineered by Ross Hogart, the man behind the knobs for Van Halen and REM, there’s an airiness and sparkle to the sound that was missing from ‘Down Our Roads’, which sounds more like an unusually good demo in comparison.
Everything has moved up several notches here - the writing, the playing, the mood, the singing and the production all sound like the proud work of a young man taking his first steps into greatness rather than a precocious boy who’s been studying SRV in his bedroom. The feel of it puts me in mind of John Mayer’s ‘Heavier Things’ - a laid back vibe of Blues-but-not-Blues where the songs are given space to shine and subtle shades of brass pop up here and there for colour. It’s interesting how brass is used on this EP, sometimes it’s way in your face like on Gary Moore’s ‘Back To The Blues’ album and other times it’s more in laid back Miles Davis ‘Blue In Green’ territory. Whoever arranged it has done a fine job. That’s not to say Felix has put that Strat back in the case - the subject of death makes a return on the slow burner called, um, ‘Death’ where Felix gets all Gary Moore on yo’ ass, accompanied by those mournful muted trumpets.
If there’s one problem with this EP it’s that it comes to an end after just half an hour - you just wish there were another half a dozen songs like the ones you’ve just heard. But perhaps Felix has been quite canny in producing an all-killer-no-filler work here that will get him noticed and leave those listeners hungry for more. You won’t to get to hear it until April, but in the meantime you can hear those old songs on Spotify and there’s videos of a few of them on Felix’s web site - which Felix himself edited the clever clogs. He’s touring the UK in March opening for the marvellous Samantha Fish and hopefully he’ll have a few sneaky advance copies there that you can score ahead of the release date.