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By Calum Bradbury-Sparvell
Ashley Cooke takes a dose of Oxford band Marvellous Medicine…
Marvellous Medicine are six Oxford students making funk-infused reggae music, with afrobeat leanings and occasionally rapped lyrics. It really has to be seen live to be appreciated. Charismatically led by George Cooke, confirming the Roald Dahl reference, the sextet played at the Wheatsheaf in seventh week to an enraptured crowd that seemed to engage on an almost cult-level. The group don’t have a physical release yet, but several well-executed videos on youtube and appearances at balls and music events around Oxford have given them a buzzband status and wide recognition.
Opening track ‘Colour’ is driven by funk-bass rhythms, but by second track ‘Cardiff’, Marvellous Medicine demonstrate the reggae side to their music. Guitarist Jamie Cruickshank delivers lilting, guitar chords, with the ska stroke offbeat-stress, as Rob Yates’ groove bass lines ensure even the slower tracks retain an upbeat character. ‘Medicine’ is another stand out track, which showcases Jake O’Keefe’s saxophone. Drawing on afrobeat influences, and featuring a djembe solo that gives them more credibility than Vampire Weekend’s take on the genre, it makes apparent their diverse influences, which are performed with a distinct character that stems in large part from George’s pronounced vocal register.
Songs like ‘Memories Break’ find Marvellous Medicine at their most creative and playful. Opening with a melodious harmony between George, Jamie, and Rob, which is essentially a-capella aside from the strained chords of pianist Piers Kennedy, the drums then rapturously lead in the guitar and bass. A soaring yet quite effortlessly delivered guitar solo precedes a drum breakdown that urges Rob into a fluid and flawless rap, with flowing rhythm and tight execution. As abruptly as it entered, the track returns to George’s lead vocals and the ska stroke guitar. On paper it doesn’t sound particularly cohesive, but Holly Manners’ drumming, and some sustained chords seemed to craft the perfect lead in, and the song was brilliantly congruous.
Perhaps Marvellous Medicine’s greatest strength however, is the charisma they exude on stage. Jamie sports an irrepressible smile for the duration of the set, George spends his time frolicking across the stage during instrumentals, and grins are almost constantly exchanged between the whole band. Their music is upbeat and encourages the crowd to put aside any apprehensions and dance, whilst Robs’ rapping is met with a plethora of upthrust hands. The audience take their cues from the band who appear to be having just as much fun as the crowd, and their quite magnetic presence really galvanises the energy of their music. Even the pouring rain and claustrophobic alley that meet you upon leaving the Wheatsheaf after a hour-long set couldn’t put a dampener on the charm of Marvellous Medicine’s emphatic performance.