Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Album Review: Strength In Numbers by Sillsy

Ah, the first guest album review for What's Wrong With The Mainstream. Welcome on board Sillsy, over to you:

Somewhere during their lives, Robert Harvey & co. missed their calling. In fact, this moment could probably be pinpointed to 2002, when the zombie-filled yet human-empty ’28 Days Later’ hit cinema screens across the country. At some point that year, the directors offered John Murphy the chance to produce the soundtrack, and he went on to create one of the most memorable Film scores in modern times.

How does this help me review ‘Strength in Numbers’ the 3rd studio album from the Kippax-born quartet The Music, I hear you cry with impatience? Quite simply, several tracks from this LP could be lifted out and placed in any number of the summer blockbusters, as an audio delight to accompany a thrilling car chase, a race against time, or even Rocky-esqe victory against all odds.

The album opens with the title track, and first released single, which reminds you what The Music are all about. Demonstrating ‘Disco-Indie’ as I call it, the track is fast with heavy air-guitar capability, whilst maintaining a booming percussion beat throughout. Think ‘The Sunshine Underground’, but with two more albums under their skinny-fitting belts.

However, whilst I was preparing to sit back and take in more of the same, it became apparent the choice of this track as No. 1 was simply to ease in the old fans, those eager to hear the familiar sounds of Adam Nutter’s Synths after four years in the musical wilderness. Track 3, ‘Drugs’, demonstrates the group’s softer side, offering a song that you find yourself toe tapping to, at an increasing pace, but without the heart-thumping violence we’re used to. Harvey may be a brilliant lyricist, but as usual we don’t get to find out, with the words morphing into one long cascade of noise, the advantages and disadvantages of which are perfectly encapsulated between this track and the next. Whilst ‘Drugs’ keeps your interest, ‘Idle’ passes you by, with all the presence and spirit of a decent instrumental.

The album seems to really kick in with ‘The Left Side’, possible the most soundtrack-worthy number on the album, but sadly this is a pseudo pregnancy, with the following four songs passing me by, and leaving me in a state of general apathy. These are my thoughts on each:
5 –
6 –
7 –
8 –
See? Apathy incarnate. It may be that these tracks are individually golden; it may be that at the right time, in the right place, they would resonate in my mind; but by being grouped together, the familiar mono-tone voice over a thumping beat loses its charm and effect, and makes you wish the album was 15 minutes shorter.

Luckily, the record (and potentially the band’s career) does not just fade away, as it threatened to do. The final three tracks are a vast improvement, with ‘No Weapon Sharper Than Will’ being markedly different to what had preceded it, combining a catchy tune, strong (and understandable!) lyrics, and a great use of a vast array of instruments to produce one of the highlights. The ’28 Days Later’ worthy ‘Cold Blooded’ follows it, slowing the pace down and showing a more purposeful side to the group, leading into the final track, ‘Inconceivable Odds’. For the first time since ‘What’s It For’, a B-side in 2003, The Music demonstrate the range of compositions that they are capable of, dropping the fast beats and crescendo finishes to provide an absolute contrast to the opening of ‘Strength in Numbers’, with this perfect come down track.

One disappointment is the secret track on the album: not because it isn’t good (it definitely is), but because you have to choose between this, or the ‘Special Edition’, which has two more tracks on it, but not the secret track that is on the normal version. Annoying...
In summary, they don’t have the catchy choruses of the Kaiser Chiefs, they don’t have the recognisable Guitar-Hero riffs of Franz Ferdinand, and they don’t have the powerful lyrical genius of Brandon Flowers and The Killers. But they do have something, and to best demonstrate it, put this on your iPod next time you’re going out running, or cycling, or on the way to a big football match, and I guarantee that by the end of the album, you’ll have started to understand what it is that makes The Music a must-have band in your CD collection...

MP3: Drugs - The Music

MP3: The Left Side - The Music

MP3: No Weapon Sharper Than Will - The Music


Jal said...

The Drugs track sounds like a Blondie song at the start. Haven't made my mind up about the tracks yet, I'll give them a few more listens before I make any comments.

Anonymous said...

It took me a few listens to get me into the songs I like now, stick with it, my friend...