According to Wikipedia, these guys got lumped in with Britpop and resented it. And, yeah, that seems about right to me. They’re unapologetically British, singing in a full-on, breathy British accent and playing guitars that, while distorted, have an air of gentility about them. But this is pretty clearly a cut above the direct British-in-your-face of Oasis or Blur.
“Modern History” is a great exemplar of the album. It takes a long time to get going and for the first half of the song I’m flirting with making it a broken heart. But by the end it’s built up so well and engaged me so fully that I want to make it a full heart. And it ends up being open because it’s just so hard to justify a full heart based on about half of a song.
The songwriting’s excellent, if a bit reliant on one particular method, and the instrumentation is subtly masterful, giving the songs more variety than they would have otherwise. Bandleader Luke Haines is justifiably enamored with his ability to bring a slow, quiet song to a boil so imperceptibly a frog wouldn’t jump out midway through, but it’s employed a bit too often over these tracks. Thankfully, though, he adds color with some bells here, some keys there, some strings throughout, and some gross-sounding guitar that comes out of nowhere and lasts for just one beat…these little touches end up being the highlight of this album, the main reason it stands above the Britpop crowd.
The lead guitarist (also Haines?) is also killer when he’s allowed to be. He really shines on the album’s two biggest rockers: “I’m A Rich Man’s Toy” and “New French Girlfriend.”
I could do with a bit less British-ness on these tracks. I’d prefer a little more American biker bar rawness, mainly because I know they can get there. I also know they can pull it back and make it distinctly their own, so let loose a bit more guys. You’ve really got something here.
Mix: “New French Girlfriend,” “Chinese Bakery”
– “Lenny Valentino,” “I’m A Rich Man’s Toy,” “The Upper Classes,” “Underground Movies,” “Life Classes/Life Model,” “Daughter Of A Child”
– “A Sister Like You,” “Modern History”
Filed Between: Murray Attaway (In Thrall) and Babe The Blue Ox (People)
Song Notes: After the jump
- Lenny Valentino –
- Brainchild – The only truly bad song on the album. Sucks that it’s up top like this.
- I’m A Rich Man’s Toy – Has that note that reminds me of Mark Lanegan’s “Deep River”, or maybe it’s Screaming Trees. Borderline open/full.
- New French Girlfriend – The guitar in this song is just so wonderful.
- The Upper Classes – Never would have guessed this was 6:45.
- Chinese Bakery – Along with “New French Girlfriend,” making mix because they’re kind of the obvious ones to do so with and it’s nice to have a mixer from an album. Not sure if they’ll stand up with the rest of the crowd by the end of the year, though.
- A Sister Like You –
- Underground Movies – borderline open
- Life Classes/Life Model – The juxtaposition of the static-y dirty guitar with the cello(?) is wonderful.
- Modern History – This is like a perfect example of the record, too, where it is lame on the surface, but the subtle little instrumental additions and the slow, slow build make it work really well in parts. I want to give it a full heart for the good parts.
- Daughter Of A Child –