Sunday, December 24, 2006

Sweeping The Nation Albums Of 2006: Number 8

Speed camera warnings became ever more overelaborate in Oxfordshire

The problem with critiquing albums that come under the aegis of The Post-Punk Revival is that you end up repeating the same few stock comparisons. The Cure, XTC, Gang Of Four... We'd love to hear a band emerge in 2007 that really sound like James Chance, early Scritti Politti or the Associates, but for the time being the only way to make yourself noticed in the whirling gene pool of new wave referencing is to prove yourself that little bit smarter, more intrinsically playful or ambitiously scoped. That the band who best achieved this in 2006 are better known for dressing all funny proved a Trojan horse when that band see whimsy and statement making on modernity as equals. No matter that statement of intent Part Timer breaks down in mid-flow or Tailors confuses the issue by turning into mellow folky Syd Barrett pastoral psychedelia with scissors as percussion, it's a sharp, relentless album with next to nothing in the way of filler and plenty in the way of vigour, sly wit, self-assurance leftfield turns and above all melodies turned inside out and presented sharp edges first, the console presence of Andy Gill probably not a coincidence in this regard.

Much of Voices Of Animals And Men is made by Henry Dartnall and House Of Lords' (look, if you don't know by now you might never) interplay, both in vocal swaps and face-offs and in the most full-on crossthreading guitar and basslines, standing out a mile from the morass, as do the tagline-worthy lyrical hooks - "back down, it's the best you can hope for", "they'll keep on lying to you", most famously "you were screaming at your mum and I was punching your dad". And just when it starts dragging its feet slightly, it breaks into possibly the best run of closing tracks of the year: Another Hollow Line's delicately cut and pasted harmonics and almost laidback, acid-edged summery pop (Albarn! You used to do this), Coastguard's bleak death rattle, Loughborough Suicide's evocation of quiet English desperation and closing declaration that "I will never go down fighting" and Tremblings Of Trails' similar go at escape therapy, this time as irked melancholia. It's this that really sets them apart from the herd, that their angst is less existential than reflective of their setting, which means that their much vaunted sense enjoyment is tempered by awkwardness.

LISTEN ON: Loughborough Suicide
WATCH ON: original The Decision video; Here Comes The Rumour Mill live at HMV
READ ON: makenoiseanddance get some quality free association

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