Exeposé Music’s very own Josh Grey had a listen to a new album, then wrote his thoughts about it. Good eh?
East London’s hugely hipsterish but massively talented Breton are back for round two with a sophomore album that’s equal parts innovation, technical refinement and big synthy tunes. If you never got a chance to hear the band’s 2011 debut, Other People’s Problems, go find it and listen to it back to back. Granted, the album had an occasional tendency to meander into a lyrical cage of achingly self-aware art-school showing off (such as the questionable line “Like it was all written down like a narrative, That was absorbed and put down missing adjectives” on the otherwise excellent Governing Correctly). But generally the band, which began as one wing of a multimedia art collective, perfectly toed the line between industrial experimentation and pop sensibility, taken to new levels by a liberal use of string samples.
War Room Stories continues on a similar tangent as their debut without ever attempting to directly emulate it. Lead single Got Well Soon contains the band’s trademark urbanity, evoking borrowed nostalgia for finding yourself still up in Soho at 5am (despite the fact this cash-strapped midlander has never even been clubbing in bloody London) through a perfect combination of rugged bass swells and a really sleek surface hook. Both here and on the multi-layered Legs and Arms the vocals, constantly delivered by multiple members of the band, are heavily distorted, thankfully putting their sometimes painful lyrics in the passenger seat and letting the pure musicianship shine through.
Another interesting addition to this album is the band’s cheerier sound. While Problems did have a few more major-chord based pop songs, these always felt like they were being performed ironically by a band who were in their element performing more hauntingly beautiful music, such as the unequivocally brilliant album closer The Commission. But, for some reason, on Stories they’ve managed to flip their strengths and weaknesses upside down. Songs where they attempt to recreate the atmospheric minimalism of ‘The Commission’, such as the LCD Soundsystem-esque S4 and the slow burning Brothers, feel strangely underpowered and disappointing. Conversely, the balls to the wall power ballad ‘Closed Category’ works far better than it should have any right to, ditto album opener ‘Envy’, which could have made the Radio 1 A-list had it been released six years ago.
The secret to this album’s intense listenability is how meticulously well constructed every song on it is. Each track is constructed like an art installation, with each new layer introduced sliding over the last like a slick new layer of paint. The concept of merging art and music has been put through the blender in recent times, with overly self-assured bands such as These New Puritans and The Young Knives creating albums that are partially interesting and partially unlistenable. War Room Stories, however, is an album that is wholly listenable and wholly interesting, winning the London boys the Talking Heads’ ‘art-rock done right’ trophy for now.
Josh Grey, Print Music Editorbookmark me