Dhani Harrison had tried his best to avoid a career in music, and for obvious reasons. Children of A-list celebrities can often be unfavourably compared to their parents, and as Dhani’s father was one quarter of the most widely cherished and spectacularly successful bands in history, any creative output he adds his name to is bound to be judged on an uneven playing field.
That said, after studying physics and industrial design, Dhani now appears to have abandoned an early calling to be an aerodynamicist — inspired, no doubt, by the love of Formula 1 motor racing that he shared with his father — and has succumbed to what must have always been his natural vocation. Even so, he appears reluctant to trade on his illustrious surname, choosing instead to launch his musical career not as a solo performer, but behind the relative anonymity of the band name ‘thenewno2’.
Pronounced "The New Number Two’, the group is basically the duo of Dhani on guitar, vocals and synthesizer, and his friend Oli Hecks on drums and synthesizer; while the moniker is an allusion to The Prisoner, the British allegorical sci-fi thriller series of the Sixties, a favourite of George’s, apparently. The group’s mainstays are augmented by Amanda Butterworth on vocals on some tracks and, for live shows, Holland Greco (vocals), Scott Seiver (keyboards) and Josh Lopez (guitar).
Thenewno2 describe themselves as "post-Bristol electro blues", the Bristol part referencing the South West English city that plays home to trip-hop acts such as Tricky and Massive Attack. That particular production-heavy, laid-back sound is only half the picture, however, as thenewno2 also have a neat line in 21st century, guitar-driven alternative rock. Each track on their debut release — a low-key independent EP that was made available as a promo-only CD — features subtly different sounds. Oli Hecks’ drumming is contemporary and refreshingly funky, while Dhani’s guitar playing on tracks such as ‘Say’, ‘Out Of Mind’ and ‘Lord Lord’ (a very Harrison title, that!) is understated in that grand Harrison tradition. His beautifully fluid lead lines blend effortlessly into the warm mix rather than shout out loud centre stage. Much of his playing has been recorded backwards as well, which adds an hypnotic psychedelic feel to the proceedings.
The melodies are self-possessed and slow-burning, and waste no time weaving their luxurious way into your consciousness. The lyrics are intelligent and observational and, for the most part, Dhani’s lead vocals, particularly on the rock-out track ‘Choose What You’re Watching’, sounds uncannily like his father’s, which is perhaps inevitable, but of course no bad thing. On the evidence of these few recordings (which can be found on MySpace, YouTube and at www.thenewno2.com) there’s an exciting future ahead for the young Mr. Harrison.
written by Andrew Davis