Archive for last.fm

Deftones – Diamond Eyes [Album]

Posted in Album, Review with tags , , , , , on May 2, 2010 by David Hall


Diamond Eyes
is at once surprisingly restrained and understandably aggressive, pitching itself somewhere between the radio-friendly White Pony and the more straightforward Deftones. There’s a noticeable lack of experimentation present, and Deftones content themselves with mostly sticking to a more old school template than we’re recently used to from the Sacramento five-piece.

The story behind Diamond Eyes is relatively well-known, but to outline, the album has been created from scratch in under a year. Following Bassist Chi Cheng’s horrific car accident and subsequent coma in 2008 – he has since remained in a semi-conscious state – Deftones’ all-but-complete project Eros was put on ice. Recruiting Quicksand bassist Sergio Vega, the band decided they’d fallen out of love with Eros, embarking upon the recording of a new album. At times that decision is audible, and as savage as it seems to criticise Diamond Eyes on such terms, it rings true. Sextape for example is unexpectedly gentle given its title and something of a misstep; it fails to develop into anything strident and ends up sounding bland and, dare I say it… middle of the road? Although this record has an apparently more positive outlook than the mooted Eros, its creation is not a response to the stricken Cheng’s situation; therefore there is little sentiment to fall back upon in its criticism. Diamond Eyes is far more immediate than the labyrinthine Saturday Night Wrist, which was far from impeccably received in 2006. However I for one am disappointed that Deftones haven’t invested sufficient time in this project in order to pursue the experimentation displayed on that album. Whatever the opinion of its naysayers, I’m of the firm opinion that Saturday Night Wrist is a fantastic album. Not only does it hang together as a mature and moody piece of cohesive work (Cherry Waves, Xerces) but it also possesses stunning outright single tracks like the punishing Rats!Rats!Rats! and Kimdracula. But that’s enough of reviewing the wrong album, I’m clearly preoccupied with setting straight what I believe to be the bad press that SNW received. 

There’s nothing here to rival the sprawling Beware from that album, or indeed their Maynard James Keenan collaboration Passenger, one of White Pony’s many highlights. Considered moments such as these are largely jettisoned in favour of more immediate material and there’s a vastly different atmosphere surrounding this album. It feels an awful lot like inhibitions have been shed; Diamond Eyes may showcase a more stripped-down and less complex Deftones, but this in no way renders them less interesting. The largely simplified work done on this album simply showcases different palettes in their repertoire, and whilst it’d be a stretch to say there are many moods to Diamond Eyes, the differing textures are certainly commendable. You’ve Seen the Butcher leading into Beauty School is a prime example of this, with the menacing-sounding former, downing the tempo and introducing a technical riff which is nicely offset against Beauty School’s more sketchy, washed-out sound. You’ve Seen the Butcher’s forbidding depths are mostly bestowed upon it by Abe Cunningham’s stunningly and characteristically complex drum track. Whilst Beauty School boasts a similarly accomplished percussion performance, Cunningham simplifies it in the chorus, allowing the numerous guitar and keyboard layers to build a reassuringly saturated sound which is less sinister than its predecessor.

On the overwhelmingly positive side, website-crashing free single Rocket Skates is undeniably one of the best things the band have ever produced. If ever proof were needed that Deftones can simply reach into their collective pocket and flick out something this stunning like so much change and lint, Rocket Skates is it. Chino Moreno’s frenziedly ecstatic chorus of “Guns! Razors! Knives! Woo!” is nothing short of genius and if it wasn’t tearing up moshpits in clubs up and down the land as the summer sets in, it’d be nothing short of criminal. Its pseudo speed metal opening riff is representative of Stephen Carpenter’s work throughout Diamond Eyes, with the guitar performances uniformly low and crushingly heavy. The album opens with its title track, which is also the most adventurous song on offer, a brutal stomping, swaying guitar riff offset against dream pop keyboards in the chorus before shattering back into an evil breakdown. Royal almost primitively straightforward, almost unworthy of comment until a breathless guitar break which descends into a headbutting outro complete with career-ending Hexagram-esque Moreno shriek. Following on from this CMND/CNTRL is considerably more bloody-minded in its totality with a descending verse riff and drum and bass breakdown; it’s much more like the Deftones we’ve come to expect, successfully marrying heaviness with experimentation without sounding forced. Prince forges a similar groove with Frank Delgado’s airport PA system synth tones, its highlight being a middle eight successfully straddling the line between sing- and bounce-along. Moreno’s performance throughout Diamond Eyes, is faultless regardless of lyrics, “And you can’t stop now, row by row, almost out” he hisses on Prince.

In conclusion, a Deftones album conceived and released in less than a year falls short of their own impeccable standards. But since those standards are hitherto so high, that by no means makes Diamond Eyes a bad album. It may well convince those who were irked by Saturday Night Wrist, but will more than likely be regarded on the same level as their 2003 self-titled album, a record that probably failed to live up to the sum of its’ parts. There are some outstanding moments, and some really powerful tracks, but also just too many mistakes; Risk and 976-EVIL (despite its’ interesting, almost M83-esque chorus) represent the album’s low point. It’s tempting to characterise Diamond Eyes as one of Deftones’ weaker albums, but a fairer criticism is that it’s a mostly excellent but too inconsistent piece of work to be regarded as an absolute triumph.

 8 out of 10.

Stream Diamond Eyes for a limited time at NME.com
Deftones on Myspace

Deftones on Last.fm
One Love For Chi on Twitter

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65daysofstatic – We Were Exploding Anyway [At The 405]

Posted in Album, Review with tags , , , , , , , , on May 2, 2010 by David Hall


“I’ve long been an admirer of 65daysofstatic’s work; in fact, I’d probably list them amongst my favourite bands. But remaining impartial for this review of course, whilst
We Were Exploding Anyway by no means disappoints, neither does it truly astonish.”
65daysofstatic – We Were Exploding Anyway review at The 405

It’s nice to be vindicated from time to time. We can’t all muddle through life without any idea as to whether our actions are good and correct or dunderheaded and awful. Whether that takes the form of being burned by a hot thing and learning not to put parts of one’s anatomy near such a heat source or having your opinions validated is neither here nor there. Learning from victories and mistakes is how the world works.

So I was pretty pleased when I was vindicated in my opinion of the new 65daysofstatic album We Were Exploding Anyway, by a source I respect and admire no less. Following my own review being published on The 405, I noticed Drowned in Sound had also released theirs. Heading on over to check it out, I quickly realised that not only had we both awarded identical scores to the album (8 out of 10), but also shared key points within the review.

Compare and contrast:

DiS: “[The band’s] status has indubitably waned of late. Maybe this was due to the unexpected tack on last album The Destruction Of Small Ideas, or the even more recent Dance Parties EP, both ravier affairs that seemed to alienate that which had so brilliantly preceded it”
Me: “We Were Exploding Anyway is a more successful meshing of 65dos’ electronic and analogue elements than convoluted and over-intricate previous album The Destruction of Small Ideas. Although the Sheffield four-piece have displaying an increasing penchant for predominantly-electronic tracks in the past (see The Distant and Mechanised Glow of European Dance Parties EP), WWEA is unexpectedly dance-oriented”

DiS: “‘Crash Tactics’ plays on ‘Smack My Bitch Up’-like bass lines […] ‘Weak 04’, also, verges too close into Dance Parties-style Europop behaviour […] ‘Go Complex[‘s]’ opening is reminiscent of the god-awful Hadouken!”
Me: “Some of the album – ‘Crash Tactics’ included – veers alarmingly closely to the nu-rave-punk missteps of The Prodigy’s Invaders Must Die; ‘Go Complex’ and ‘Weak4’ are particularly guilty of lulling into this trap at times”

DiS: “An appearance from recent-tour-mate-slash-renowned-goth-chap Robert Smith on ‘Come To Me’ only furthers those [positive] feelings”
Me: “The Cure’s Robert Smith (zomg!, etc) provides that vocal layer, guesting on the cut-up would-be-club-anthem ‘Come to Me’, which hits a thrilling stride and is representative of We Were Exploding Anyway’s most successful moments”

DiS: “Thinking back to how ‘Fix The Sky A Little’ first moved you, or how ’65 Doesn’t Understand You’ made you throw yourself around with reckless abandon”
Me: “There’s nothing here that makes me want to flail my limbs in so uninhibited a manner as would suggest my motor skills failed to successfully develop during infancy like ‘Retreat! Retreat!’ does” 

DiS: “It’s the final two songs that seem to have the balance of power, finally, correct.”
Me: “‘Debutante’ is starkly yet organically beautiful, segueing into closer ‘Tiger Girl’”

Whether that just means these were obvious talking points is up for debate; I chose to see the glass as half full for a change. For the record I’m neither a positive ‘glass half full’ nor a negative ‘glass half empty’ person. I’m more of an angry/cynical ‘some bastard has stolen half of my drink’ person.

65daysofstatic – We Were Exploding Anyway review at The 405
65daysofstatic on Myspace

65daysofstatic on Last.fm
We Were Exploding Anyway on Spotify

Alessi’s Ark – Soul Proprietor [At The 405]

Posted in EP, Review with tags , , , , , , , on May 1, 2010 by David Hall


“Alessi’s Ark operates in a comfortable middle ground between the sheer eye-twitching madness of Joanna Newsom and the mild manners of Laura Marling […] But since both Marling and Newsom released major new albums this year, Alessi might be drowned out to a great extent, pleasant though this EP is.”
Alessi’s Ark – Soul Proprietor EP reviewed at The 405.

Life is far too short for half-decent EP’s and that’s a fact. Half decent albums are fair enough really; at least you’ll get your money’s worth of actually ‘good’ songs in there, theoretically. Half decent songs make up most of your existence and most of your record collection, and don’t try to tell me that’s not true. Anyway, they’re over much quicker than either EP’s or albums so half-decent songs are neither here nor there. But bloody half-decent EP’s… all they do is take up disk space, quite frankly.

I’ve just bought Glen Duncan’s I, Lucifer, and I could be reading that. But instead I’m taking time out to tell you about the new (ish) Alessi’s Ark EP Soul Proprietor, which is desperately alright. Take this as me listening to it in order to tell you that you don’t have to; and since I have and I wrote about it, you might as well know about it. There’s very little to recommend it over Alessi’s debut album Notes from the Birdhouse, and to be honest I suggest you skip Soul Proprietor entirely and just pretend she’s been perfecting cheesecake receipes until her next album comes out. As I mention in this review, Notes from the Birdhouse is a wonderful little album, which you will find infinitely more enriching than the sparse Soul Proprietor. Talented though Alessi Laurent-Marke clearly is, spare yourself from her half-decent EP.

Alessi’s Ark – Soul Proprietor EP reviewed at The 405
Alessi’s Ark on Myspace

Alessi’s Ark on Last.fm
Listen to Soul Proprietor and Notes from the Birdhouse on Spotify

The Dillinger Escape Plan – Option Paralysis [At The 405]

Posted in Album, video with tags , , , , on April 2, 2010 by David Hall


“For anyone tired of the cliché used when describing female vocalists that they could “read out a telephone directory and make it sound sexy”, Greg Puciato could read out a birthday card and make it sound threatening”
The Dillinger Escape Plan – Option Paralysis review on The 405

I was already a big fan of The Dillinger Escape Plan, so when the opportunity came along to review their new album for The 405, I snapped it straight up. For me Option Paralysis simply cements their reputation as one of the most exciting and innovative metal bands in the world. In a genre that can often sound stultified and archaic, Dillinger are bordering on the peerless.

Can I just point out that you can currently listen to Option Paralysis in its entirety on Dillinger Esc Plan’s Last.fm page. I doubt that situation will last forever, or even very much longer, so I suggest you check out the link below post-haste.

This is also a great opportunity to share with you what is probably up there in my favourite Youtube videos of all time. Which suggests I’ve constructed such a list, so I should move on. If you haven’t seen it already, watch, pick your jaw up and watch again. Incredible stuff…

The Dillinger Escape Plan – Option Paralysis review on The 405
The Dillinger Escape Plan on Last.fm
The Dillinger Escape Plan on Myspace

Photo of The Dillinger Escape Plan live from Wikimedia Commons.

Gorillaz – Plastic Beach [Album]

Posted in Album, Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 8, 2010 by David Hall


Taking it upon themselves to assemble some of the music world’s finest talent on a remote non-bio-degradable island, Gorillaz deliver their new album Plastic Beach. Over thirteen million record sales in, they’re still delivering cutting-edge, forward-thinking and pretty much unique pop music.

Snoop Dogg’s usual gleeful nonsense (“’Cos I’m rollin’, deep holin’, click-clackin’, crack-a-lackin’”) is undiluted, cast into a laid-back opener continuing from the Orchestral Intro prologue. Plastic Beach eschews Demon Days’ cosmic leanings in favour of the more earthbound, environmental outlook suggested by its title. Indeed even the Stylo video – specifically the bizarrely incongruous scene in which a scary smoke demon materialises from the ground to consume an obese stricken cop reaching for a doughnut even in the throes of death – supports such a reading. This sequence appears symbolic of a commodity-based, ignorant public (the cop) pointedly ignoring the pressing issue of climate change in their channel-hopping mindset (reaching for our metaphorical doughnut) even as the end looms large over our heads ready to strike (embodied in the genuinely unnerving, ghastly entity elsewhere seen attacking a passive 2D, gawping at a manic urban sprawl). Closer Pirate Jet is also mocking in a way that only a virtual band unconcerned with and unaffected by climate change can be.

Although Plastic Beach’s concept is something of a heavy one, it never feels like the album becomes entangled in it. The atmosphere always remains that of a loose jam; it’s fun, informal, creative. Therefore, the results are mostly spectacular, with only a few misfires due to heightened expectations of the album’s big names; Glitter Breeze for example is a strident cyborg stomp on which Mark E. Smith may as well not be present. By contrast, Lou Reed’s input is much more extensive, his indistinct lyrics and lazy delivery colouring Some Kind of Nature pleasingly. It’s one of the more blendsome tracks however, and certainly doesn’t benefit from being placed before Melancholy Hill’s massive Super Mario-style hook. On the whole, it’s a massive testament to the production work done on the album that Plastic Beach comes off so well. A decent slew of the guest stars are way past their creative peaks; definitely Reed, Jones and Simonon and arguably Smith and Rhys slipped from the height of their powers years ago. And the shift to a more electronic, mostly hip-hop-based template posits them in interestingly unfamiliar territory. The most consistently rewarding collaborations however are those with Little Dragon and Mos Def, and the various ensembles such as the Sinfonia ViVA and Lebanese National Orchestra for Oriental Arabic Music. The energetic one-off White Flag for instance dissolves from the Orchestra’s organic intro to the processed, ruined fairground surrounding Kano and Bashy, through which the former occasionally permeate. Rather obviously however, it’s a happy and peaceful track at heart, “White Flag? White Flag.” the grime duo concurring.

Stylo is the runaway highlight of Plastic Beach, easily the most subtly poppish, multi-faceted, and yet soulful thing Gorillaz have yet produced. It’s four-minutes-thirty of highlight after highlight, each vying for the listener’s attention as much as the last. Mos Def’s E. E. Cummings-style free associations (“love, electricity, shockwave, central, power on the motherboard yes”), 2D’s laconic verse phrases and mantra-based chorus and Bobby Womack’s freakout middle eight all gel seamlessly into a dazzling standout. Superfast Jellyfish is like a debased cartoon re-imagining of Empire State of Mind with toy drums, a stoned-sounding De La Soul and Gruff Rhys’ breakfast cereal jingle chorus. Both Little Dragon hook-ups are winners; Empire Ants begins as something blissfully sunny before shifting into a glistening disco bounce, and Albarn’s influence comes through most strongly in the comparatively stripped-down To Binge. Aside from criticisms specific to the material, the major criticism of Plastic Beach is as follows:

The collaborations have become a bit of a ‘thing’; at a super-critical stretch, maybe even slightly contrived. Whilst providing some amazing moments, they at times verge on what resembles a crutch that the album leans more and more heavily, particularly in its final act. The simple fact is, however, that solo Gorillaz can handle themselves as competently as on either of their previous albums. An undeniable highlight is Rhinestone Eyes – its neon artifice sounding like overloaded circuitboards in a child’s keyboard – which most strongly recalls Slow Country from Gorillaz and features no guest vocalists. For all its professed eclectism, the album as a whole resembles Demon Days’ dark midsection of MF Doom and Roots Manuva collaborations (also taking in Every Planet We Reach is Dead and White Light). Sweepstakes, despite being full-on, dense hip-hop, is the closest we get to the naive charms of DARE, and is consequently awesome; the album shifts down a gear after Sweepstakes’ dance-off, beginning with the title track featuring Mick Jones and Paul Simonon. As an equal consequence of the former’s strength and the latter’s weakness, Sweepstakes makes Plastic Beach look like a complete mug.

It’s worth pointing out that whilst the collaborative element to Gorillaz wears ever-so-slightly thin at times, their ‘virtual band’ schtick admirably still hasn’t. A band whose activities, music and (for want of a better word) lives are only governed by the imagination of their creators could have become the ‘albatross’ that Murdoc cited as the reason behind their Mercury Music Prize boycott way back when. But taken as an entry into their already-brilliant canon, Plastic Beach is another triumph that again has the rest of popular music running to catch up.

9 out of 10

Parlophone
Gorillaz on Myspace
Gorillaz on Last.fm
Plastic Beach cover from Wikimedia Commons.

The Silent Years – The Globe [Album]

Posted in Album, Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 19, 2010 by David Hall


Originally published at Sonic Dice, November 2009.

With some bands, eclecticism is their prerogative. The Arcade Fire, Florence + the Machine, Mercury Rev, Super Furry Animals. Coincidentally, these are just some of the bands that The Silent Years sound like a watered-down version of; it’s best to get it out of the way early, there isn’t much original about their first album The Globe.

There are two main criticisms that can be levelled at this album, the second twice as significant as the first. Initially, the simple fact is that The Globe is too long to effectively hold the attention; all the places where it would’ve benefitted from being concise are overlong and overthought. At thirteen tracks (with three bonus tracks pushing the album well over the hour mark) it’s a bit ponderous and hard work to get through. The largely vague, noodling compositions on offer here will struggle to carry the casual listener all the way through. In short – words The Silent Years’ main man Josh Epstein apparently is unfamiliar with – it’s a chore rather than a pleasure to sit down and listen to this album in its entirety. We’ll return to that other criticism in due course.

Out into the Wild begins the record with cavernous distortion and galloping drums, ornate baroque piano lines skipping and pirouetting across it. Quickly getting lost in its own intricacies however, Out into the Wild eschews the direct and forceful approach of its drumming to wander, indulging itself in vocal loops. The album’s highlight comes mercifully quickly, but mercilessly rips off Fleet Foxes in the process. On Our Way Home, despite the redundancy of its repeated title lyric stops off in some gorgeous scenery, for the most part sad and acoustic. “On our way home, we buried all our photo albums; everyone we’ve ever known was in ‘em,” Epstein maligns, before the track eventually explodes in a supernova of electric guitar and cymbals, drowning the singer in a hailstorm. Climb on my Back bravely tries to offer an alternative in full-on pop, but the falsetto singing and wah-wah guitar in the chorus slips inevitably into annoyance. The lyrics are cod-philosophical, more towards the Kaiser Chiefs than the Modest Mouse end of the market. “Now I feel like I’m the Overman that Dostoevsky wrote about”; yeah, alright fella, enough of that cheers. I read books too.

Black Hole tries to reconjure the intimate atmosphere of On Our Way Home whilst mercenarily nicking the central idea from Modest Mouse’s Dark Center of the Universe. The lyrics are far too wordy, any sense of metre lost in the multisyllabic hubbub, backed by largely sparse and simple music. The drumming however is consistently excellent, and it has been procured a noticeably prominent place in the mix, sounding powerful, assured and inventive. Ryan Clancy pounds away in tribal style at the beginning of Ropes while Epstein rambles on about amputation and a single high-pitched piano key is struck repeatedly and a cartoonish breakdown comes through a tunnel previously painted on a wall. Know Your Place sees the rhythm section locked in a grim tango, Clancy and bassist Mike Majewski hurling each other around whilst the other instruments sound airy and superfluous all about them. Eventually, the layers double and treble until it eventually feels like the listener is wading through porridge to get to the end of the track.

Apart from that, there’s very little else to comment upon. The Sun is Alive is anything but lively, it’s a none-event. Goddamn You is a Neon Bible-era Arcade Fire rip-off complete with church organ. The Axiom is the clearest Mercury Rev takeoff, with the singer sounding a lot like Jonathan Donahue and the instrumentation generally aping Opus 40 from Deserter’s Songs. It must be reiterated at this point that The Globe is no Deserter’s Songs.

So anyway, the second criticism much graver than the first was actually mentioned at the outset. The Globe just isn’t very original or interesting. The bands you’d have to make a conscious effort to step over in order to pursue The Silent Years just doesn’t bear thinking about. You may view this as an unfair line of reasoning, but ask yourself; why would anybody listen to a band that sound like an inferior version of another band, precisely because they are not that second band? For a start, you could instead listen to Florence + the Machine, who sound like they’ve been found playing on toadstools on a woodland glade with autumnal sun low in the sky. Whatever Lungs’ shortcomings, it’s a bewitching listen and far less arduous than The Globe. Meanwhile The Arcade Fire are introspective despite their rousingly layered music and inhabit a novelistic world of carnivalistic inversion. The Globe is totally anonymous compared to Funeral, devoid of the personality a record of this ilk requires. Although it’d be incredibly surprising if The Silent Years have ever heard anything by them, Super Furry Animals are famously magpieish in their approach to music making. They sound like nothing else on earth, and The Silent Years can only aspire to this. Finally there’s Mercury Rev, who’ve got this trippy sub-sub-genre of music down to a fine art. The Silent Years have nowhere near the tunes of MR; there’s no Goddess On A Hiway, or even Senses On Fire. And as for the instantly-memorable The Dark is Rising… well no, there’s nothing like that here, so move along.

4 out of 10.

Sonic Dice score: 3 out of 6

Gift Music
The Silent Years on Myspace
The Silent Years on Last.fm

Tubelord – Our First American Friends [Album]

Posted in Album, Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 19, 2010 by David Hall


Originally published at Sonic Dice, November 2009.

Tubelord are one of those bands that remind you of about a million other bands, but never lose their own uniqueness. These cultured devils release their debut album, the appropriately-titled Our First American Friends, on Hassle Records. The trio are led by singer/guitarist Joe Prendergast, backed up by fleet of foot drummer David Catmur and recently-recruited bassist Damien Gabet. If you’re new to them, imagine the fragile voice of Mew, the rickety guitar riffs and solos of Biffy Clyro, the eclectic atmosphere of Stars, minimalist approach of Grizzly Bear and the precision drumming of Reuben all gaffa-taped together and you may be getting somewhere. Then graft on a massive wad of distortion and listen through a Walkman whilst jogging until the amalgamation skips and tics like its undergoing electroshock therapy and season to taste.

Your Bed is Kind of Frightening bounces from sunny pop vocal harmonies to Biffy-esque strikes of staccato distortion and tempo changes then back again, piggybacking an excellent bassline which carries the verses along. The surrealist lyrics (“carousels, emit your fumes”) casts Prendergast as literate and enigmatic, an impression at odds with Tubelord’s largely American-influenced sound which at times verges on the bombastic and crisp production of Silversun Pickups. Synthesize is a case in point, being a dose of unashamed alt-pop with a chorus at least as massive as Living is a Problem Because Everything Dies, all frantically chopped octave slides and fluid arpeggios. In case you were in any doubt that the singer sounded like Jonas Bjerre from Mew, he lays it on with a trowel throughout the stuttering Stacey’s Left Arm, which starts like Mew or Mogwai and ends in spasm like Be Your Own Pet’s Fuuuuuun. He Awoke on a Beach in Abergavenny (not to be confused with I Woke Up on a Beach in Aberystwyth on Johnny Foreigner’s recently-released new album) begins with another atonal Biffy Clyro-endorsed riff but also recalls mid-period Nirvana in its loud-quiet-loud dynamic and powerful performances. But not the xylophone bit. Tubelord might be as heavy as you need in places, but there’s no denying that they’re also pretty twee at times. These schizoid tendencies are played off against each other to the most thrilling effect so far on this track, with xylophone quickly followed by the album’s heaviest riff before the pedal is kept firmly to the floor until Abergavenny’s conclusion. This is reiterated in I am Azerrad’s jangly intro, quickly kicked to death by the rest of the track’s ‘distortion turned all the way up’ approach.

The Wasp Factory-aping Somewhere Out There a Dog is on Fire follows Your Bed is Kind of Frightening, landing with a thud and immediately beginning to glisten brightly, with a spritely rhythm section performance and Prendergast’s voice and guitar twinkling on top. It’s loud, it’s heavy, but it certainly isn’t dumb; Tubelord seem to know instinctively when an idea is nearing the limits of its welcome. The track ends up banging on about tin men, stomping along in truly Ted Hughes or Antony Gormley-ish style. Night of Pencils is a testament to the bands musical creativity, lyrically comprising a collection of odd and awkward phrases which would sound daft in a lesser song. But more often than not they somehow come off as sounding great; coy and lovesick in the correct places, anthemic and cheerful when appropriate. A quick hammering-on intro guitar riff and we’re already in cryptic territory at early doors; “Mavis told the truth, I’m the one for you”. Later on, Night of Pencils’ main hook ends up as, “We’re bigger than Memphis, you only exist when I want you to”, which sounds suspiciously like something Fall Out Boy would come out with. But in the wider context of Our First American Friends, it clears the ‘this guy doesn’t know what he’s on about’ fence lands firmly on the ‘oblique and interesting’ side. Tubelord move from unstoppable thrashing to eventual controlled powerchord stabs without a blink, displaying this tendency most impressively here. Propeller is appropriately titled given its driving bassline, and swirls around to encompass the listener like a tropical storm, the sky darkening as Gabet’s bass coils tightly around a galloping drum roll. A mocking breakdown ushers in the tranquil eye of the storm, which is followed by a fiddly guitar riff before the track hurtles conclusion-wards, head down.

Our First American Friends seems to calm down a great deal towards its end. The quiet acoustic Cows to the East, Cities to the West may not come close in length or grandeur, but more than matches Mew’s Comforting Sounds in terms of scope. The title track rounds out the album, thrillingly attempting to reconcile the introspection of Cows to the East with Night of Pencils’ distortion-strewn, dinnerplate-eyed cinematic wonder, capturing Tubelord’s manifesto of awkward alternative rock with poppish sensibilities and pretensions amicably. No matter how many times it breaks down, it can never quite escape Prendergast’s feelgood sustained chorus notes, not even when it lulls into a 50’s melodrama, Good Night-style ending. Although Tubelord may wear their inspirations on their sleeve, an identity all their own shines through, proving them to be more than mere rip-off merchants. From its title onwards Our First American Friends discloses a thirst for exposure, and will surely gain them just that by proving more than the sum of its parts. Tastefully arranged influences are all well and good, but Tubelord have made the extra leap to crafting something truly original out of them.

9 out of 10.

Sonic Dice score: 5 out of 6

Night of the Pencils on Spotify
This is much cooler than the emo dorks it may remind you of in passing; sing along without guilt, “We’re bigger than Memphis…”

Hassle Records
Tubelord on Myspace
Tubelord on Last.fm