A couple months back, I was sitting at a friends house and he popped in a CD that he wanted me to hear. It started out with some rather rumbling percussion, a syrupy bassline and some droning organs before the light, crooning vocals came in and held it all together. As usual when I'm discussing music with this friend, our conversation was soon onto another artist, and I sort of shoved the track into the back of my head. After reading some fairly positive reviews of the release, I was again reminded of it, and finally decided to see if the fuss was justified (as I often do). To my surprise, the domestic release of the album (which just came out this year, although it's been out in the UK for nearly a year) had an extra track stuck on just for the enjoyment of those stateside.
The track I described above is "Any Day Now," and it's the opening track on the release and a solid lead-in to the groups sound, which mixes a touch of Catherine Wheel musically and vocals by Guy Garvey that recalls both Peter Gabriel and Rob Dickinson of the aforementioned group at different moments. With 12 tracks that run over an hour long, it's also a group that doesn't mind stretching their songs out a bit and letting them breath.
After the initial burst of "Any Day Now," the album calms down quite a bit with a piano and stringed instruments providing the main backing on "Red." It provides a nice backdrop to the lyrics, which touch on trying to keep someone from heading down a self-destructive path. Lyrically, much of the tracks on the release deal with relationships, both the painful and the good. When singer Garvey drops the line, 'I'll be the corpse in your bathtub,' at the beginning of "Newborn," it comes out of nowhere until the rest of the song fills in the context.
Musically, the album is just about as tight as it possibly can be. Although this is the debut album from the group, it's easy to tell that they've been around for awhile and playing together. Although the crux of most songs is made up of the standard rock band instruments, most every song on the album is filled out with piano, subtle synths, horns, some other percussion, or random other instruments. They pull off quiet, ballad-like tracks such as "Scattered Black And Whites," but also pull some nice quiet/loud moments on "Bitten By The Barfly." The huge build and release on "Can't Stop" again shows the group working a nice dynamic, from an almost minimal atmospheric track to squalling chorus. Overall, the disc is solid and the group is obviously up on their game, but for some reason everything feels a slight bit too polished, but that's not a huge fault. When I hear the term "british rock," this is the sort of album I think of, and it's one of the better ones that I've heard in quite some time.