The New Pornos new release is starting to grow on me, and I'm starting to really enjoy Merchandise's debut effort. On the downside, The Magic Numbers new album 'Alias' is a bit of a fizzer.....while it's not terrible by any means, I think that they seem to have fired all their bullets on albums 1 & 2...such a shame, as their top 6-8 songs are as good as you'd get from any band.
I think the rest of the year is looking like a bit of a goldmine with new releases....bring it on!
The first thing I noticed with Chorus, was just how much difference a recording budget has made to the bands sound. Not that the style of music is any different, more so that quality of production results in a much fuller and higher quality sound....happy days!
I am very happy when I say that the style of music hasn't changed as well. Just like Arab Spring, these guys don't fuck around and 11 songs clocks in at just under 30 minutes, with just 3 songs venturing past the 3 minute barrier. The majority of these are fast paced and punchy, as well as being catchy as all hell....they sound like they're having fun. Right from the opening whoop and guitar hook that kicks off 'The Girl, The Gold Watch, and Everything', it only takes 30 second for the entire band to join in with what has become their trademark chorusing alongside melodious face paced guitars.
Before you know it, The English Softhearts & 'Blasé' have scooted on by and the familiar opening lines of 'Tie-Dye (Your Life)', which has been re-recorded from a 2013 single release explode all around you. This is probably a better track than I originally gave it credit for, so it was a good idea of the boys to chuck this one in. It also shows how far their overall sound has come in only a year.
Things continue at a frenetic pace with 'Court/Date', and then soften out a little with the almost dreamy 'New Jacket' that get some very serious harmonising guitar riffs happening as the song build to a crescendo, and surprisingly enough 'Chime Hours', which (dare I say) is almost a ballad....well at the start anyway......and shows that another string has been added to their bow....this is probably my favorite track to date.
From here, Literature bring it all home in a sprint to the line, with 'Chorus', 'Jimmy', 'Dance Shoes' and ' Kites' rounding out a most enjoyable half hour. I love that the band has continued to do what it does on this album, and I reckon they'd be a ripping live show.....although the gig would probably be on the short side!! Top album. 7/10
First off here, I have to say that I'm sick to fucking death of moronic music critics bemoaning the fact that 'Belong' and now 'Days Of Abandon' don't sound like, or are not as good as, that first album. I have no doubt at all that these same muppets would have criticised the band even if they'd kept the same sound and style for not 'growing'.....it's very easy to criticise instead of praising, especially when you're a fuckwit imbecile who listens to the album once before publicly reviewing it. Many of the reviews I read were absolutely laughable in their predictability, similarity, and of course the stock standard negativity. This is despite the fact that it actually sounded as though most of them liked the album!! Anyway, rant over.....here's a proper review!
It has been much publicised that the majority of the band departed (on good terms) sometime after 'Belong', however without wanting to belittle the contribution of any of the departing members, there is really very little doubt that frontman Kip Berman pretty much IS the band. Losing Peggy Wang is a very big disappointment to me though, as her backing vocals were lovely and along with Kip, she really was the face of the band. I still picture Peggy whenever I think of the band....and I quite happily will keep on doing this I reckon....hopefully one day she returns. From a personnel perspective, the only real addition worth mentioning is Jen Goma from 'A Sunny Day In Glasgow' being involved in the album in its entirety, and taking lead vocals on 2 songs. She has an absolutely stunning voice, and this is one component of the new direction that has been an outstanding success. It's worth mentioning here that she is absolutely wasted in ASDIG, you can barely even hear her voice on their latest album, and in my opinion she should give them the arse immediately and join The Pains full time!
I get the feeling that after the much acclaimed debut album, with it's fuzzy and jangly guitars and classic indie pop persona, Kip came to a fork in the road musically. With 'Belong', we got a much, much heavier guitar sound almost to the point of a grunge style. Even though Kip's incredible knack for a melody managed to 'save' it from falling into that genre, I have a strong hunch that a relatively inexperienced band were somewhat railroaded into that sound by the producers that they chose.....the one trick ponies in Flood and Alan Moulder.....who have a knack of making everything they produce sound similar.
Don't get me wrong here either, as I really loved 'Belong' and made it my #3 album of 2011, but with 'Days Of Abandon' I think that Kip took a step back and decided to go down the other path of that forked road, and with the benefit of crystal clear 20/20 hindsight, this was probably the path he should have chosen in 2011. Still, I doubt he'd have it any other way....and neither would I.
The album kicks off with ‘Art Smock’ , which I think is a bit of a nod to the current trend of having a low key, or different style album 'intro'. After reading many of the interviews he has given to promote the album, and chuckled at how he has absolutely run rings around the majority of the journos (without them even realising he's doing it), I'd say it's possibly even a bit of a piss take as well as it takes a little swipe at 'art rock' in the lyrics. It's a nice enough little track, and apparently they currently open their gigs with it with Kip starting alone and being gradually joined by the remaining band members. I can see that this would actually work quite well on this current tour. However, I'd probably also say that it's a somewhat underwhelming opener.
‘Simple and Sure’ was the first single released, and (obviously) the first track I heard from the album. Initially I wasn't quite sure what to make of it, as no doubt it was a pretty big leap away from most of 'Belong'. In fact, to me it almost sounded as there was something wrong with the whole timing of it, and the (excellent) harmonies throughout the song were almost misplaced....I'll be honest that I was a little bit alarmed!! It took me a few listens to work out that the harmonies, that interestingly kick the song off, are on the off beat which I reckon it a pretty bloody bold move and, once I got my head around this, I quickly fell right into the track. Like most of the Pains better tracks, this has an irresistible catchy and strong guitar hook throughout and is a canny choice to essentially get you into the album proper. This is one of many highlights of the album, and a step forward in harmonies as there are clearly 2 female voices amongst them, and they are just lovely.
If ‘Simple and Sure’ was an eye opener, then ‘Kelly’ was an even bigger change of tack from anything The Pains have previously released, and not just because it's the first all female lead vocals they've done, but musically it sounds more like something from a 80's Prince album! Surprising yes....but also an absolutely lovely song that is a perfect vehicle for Jen's beautiful voice. It's catchy, smooth, hugely poppy, and thoroughly enjoyable, and another high point of the album, although I have to say that if they released an album that all sounded like this track, I wouldn't be as keen to listen. I do like that the band is now confident enough to throw a change up like this into the mix though.
The opening beats to ‘Beautiful You’ sounds (to me) like a stripped back and slightly slower version to the opening (title) track from 'Belong', which again makes me think that this is Kip sending a small message that this is perhaps how he would have preferred to do that back in 2011. The longest track on the album at just over 6 minutes, this was when I started to think that this really was going to be a Pains album, and I love how the song just flows on with a great balance of guitars and synths, and it segues perfectly into ‘Coral and Gold’ that also somewhat drifts along further seducing you with the increased focus on harmonies.
All is travelling along very nicely up to ‘Eurydice’, which increases the tempo from the first verse right up to the absolute classical Pains sounding fast and fuzzy guitar-y singalong chorus.....and it gets better with a mid song cacophony of harmonies from Kip and the 2 gals fading in and out over trademark Pains guitar riffs. The track races to the finish with Jen singing an excellent outro that, although minor, adds massively to the enjoyment of the song, and is followed by some really strong synth work that chime deeply, loudly and end things on a real high. For me this is probably the best track on the album...there have been many times I've hit the repeat button here and it would absolutely go off live I reckon!! ‘Masokissed’ continues with the change up in tempo that ‘Eurydice’ gave and although I have no idea what it's supposed to be about, it's yet another strong track.
Suddenly Kip takes us right back to where it all started 2009 with ‘Until The Sun Explodes’ which is the only track on 'Days Of Abandon' that would not be out of place on the debut album.....guitar, guitar, fucking guitar!! This song just races along and by this stage you're realising just how good this album is, and how incredibly talented Kip Berman is.
Back to 2014, and Jen's second solo vocal track ‘Life After Life’ gives us another first for The Pains with some very understated, and classy, horns complementing what is yet another incredibly catchy track. By now it's also becoming clearer that there are quite a lot of synths going on in the album, and although I'm generally not a huge rap for too much of these, I think that it all works brilliantly...sometimes it's actually hard to know where the guitar stops and the synths start, which to me would indicate that they have absolutely nailed this balance. Yet another high point on an album that just keeps on delivering.
All good things must unfortunately come to an end, and the tempo slows for the almost haunting album closer ‘The Asp In My Chest’, while the entree of horns that we got from ‘Life After Life’, is ramped up as the song gains momentum. A very strong and fitting end, as this quite brilliant album gives you another change up, and then just wanders off into the distance, and you wonder if you should play it again....it's hard not to!
A very, very strong contender for album of the year from The Pains, and I have to say that while not reaching their early heights, I can't believe that they've managed to come so close here. Absolutely brilliant album....absolutely brilliant band. 9.5/10
Cymbals Eat Guitars - Lose:
Dry The River - Alarms In The Heart:
The Magic Numbers - Alias:
Merchandise - After The End: (This is really growing on me...excellent music!)
The New Pornographers - Brill Bruisers: (Good follow up to Together, another grower)
The Proctors - Kaleidoscope (EP): (Love this band!!)
Ra Ra Riot - The Orchard (2010):
Ra Ra Riot - The Rhumb Line (2008):
First Aid Kit - Drunken Trees (2008): (A real sign of what was to come....very nice)
The Rentals - Lost In Alphaville:
Avi Buffalo - At Best Cuckold: (Good reviews, but really average I reckon. 'So What' is the most annoying song of the year to date.....)
Ballet School - The Dew Lasts An Hour: (Decent early signs)
Childhood - Lacuna: (Another grower.....this could be really good)
Hiss Golden Messenger - Lateness Of Dancers:
The Pierces - Creation: (Very poppy, but extremely likeable)
Tennis - Ritual In Repeat: