The new xx or the ‘alt-Corrs’?! Having jumped on the xx bandwagon way after it had departed, I was determined not to miss the boat on this one. However, I played it to a friend of mine and he said it reminded him of the All-Ireland Talent Show’s token ‘alternative’ band. Not sure how he knows this (!) but thought I’d better give it the once-over.
It’s plain to hear that there’s something going on here. ‘Set Your Arms Down’ starts with a hesitant groove and a high-pitched female voice with some gorgeous backing vocals. The music is warm and rich, building nicely reminiscent of a slightly over-produced Portishead.
Undertow gently rips off ‘Dreams’ by Fleetwood Mac, which surprisingly is a good thing with ringing guitars and a danceable beat. ‘Bees’ has a remarkable way about it, dragging itself around like a grouchy Massive Attack.
There are subtle touches throughout this album like ‘Shadows’ off-key gossamer guitar, the title track’s touches of the Cure and the soaring electronic midsection of ‘Majesty’. ‘Baby’ (dreadful title) is a bluesy ode to jealousy (“don’t you call anybody else baby”) which conjures up Stevie Nicks.
It doesn’t all work, ‘Composure’ is anything but, bursting with too many ideas and is a bit of a mess despite some clean guitar lines. But for the most part the songs exude iciness and warmth in equal measures.
It’s not the new xx. But it’s a slick collection of songs that will find good use in BBC/C4 dramas and the like. Moody soft-rock for the modern age. And we’ll all be sick of it by next May.