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Friday, April 15, 2011

Album Review: Lower Than Atlantis – World Record

Working out of Dear Old Blighty, as I do, has its advantages when it comes to getting an early taster of something local and something truly brilliant. Before they get huge, having that opportunity to review early releases and talk about them with bands like , , , , and has definitely been an honour. Some of those bands, you might not even have heard of yet (tell your friends it was The NewReview who tipped you off), others you will. Occasionally it falls on us to let the rest of the world know what they’re missing out on, and that’s the best part of writing for an American website; arms across the ocean with a worldwide audience listening in. This brings me neatly to – a band that has got several here at TNR quite excited. Here I hold a copy of their sophomore album which has surprisingly popped up on the battering ram that is Sumerian Records. It’s the follow up to their stunning debut full-length, the niftily-titled Far Q and, if you’re a fan of rock music, I have four little words for you – your new favourite band.

This Hertfordshire quartet have taken the calculating brain of rock, the energetic heart of punk and the shadowy soul of pop to create a monster with rapid-fire rhythms, bruising stop-gaps, heartily melodious vocals and addictively slick riffs. It’s like listening to the genius of early- after it’s been welded to the pop hooks of . I can also hear in this, perhaps with the sunnier side of thrown in for good measure.

There is much in World Record that picks up where Far Q left off, but plenty more that has seen them drop the cheese; step up to the plate; basically “grow up” as vocalist/guitarist Mike Duce puts it. He reveals that “the tunings for most of the songs have dropped two whole steps to add a darker feel.” On top of this, they recorded at Outhouse Studios in Reading with the result being a smoother, less gritty production (their debut was recorded in an office space above a nearby factory). If anything, almost unexpectedly, the end result is an album that leans more towards the pop than the punk, with their mainstream side peeking through on tracks like “High At Five”. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, right? Singles “Beech Like The Tree” and “The Deadliest Catch” are now chunky, crisply hooked and will have you bouncing all over the room, whilst the painfully sincere vocals and attention-grabbing, clean strings of the adjacent “Uni 9mm” and “Another Sad Song” will make you believe you can actually hear the cracks as Duce breaks apart. “Flashback to 1999 / It’s the Summer, not a cloud in the the sky / Present day, things have changed / Summer’s over and it rains here every day” – when lyrics like this are delivered at a snail’s pace, wrapped up in a faltering, croaky regional accent, you can’t help but be ensnared by his story.

Picking at a few stray ends we find, despite the twelve tracks, it’s not the longest of albums. The quirky one and a half minutes of “Marilyn’s Mansion” feels like a bit of filler, and the fiery gang vocals that work so well on “Bug” are overpowering when they turn into woah-ohs for “Could You? Would You?” Hypercritical, yes. But, on the flip side, there are so many little pieces of brilliance – the cute little harmonies on “(Motor) Way Of Life” and “High At Five”, Declan Hart’s throbbing basslines that boil up spectacularly for “Working For The Man By Day, Sticking It To The Man By Night”, the jinking top-end picking on “Beech Like A Tree”, the crystal-clear string-scratching on “The Deadliest Catch” and the barely-disguised spiked punch of “R.O.I.” All these things prove that have talent by the bucket-load. Their songwriting ability, the immediacy of the delivery, the lightness of touch – I could go on. And, of course, it’s all radio-friendly too, so LTA may soon be impossible to escape even if you wanted to. At the end of the day though, this is all about Mike Duce handing you his heart on a plate. Whether you take it or not depends entirely on you.

Also online (with samples) @ The New Review = http://thenewreview.net/reviews/lower-than-atlantis-world-record

Far Q review = http://johnskibeat.blogspot.com/2010/04/album-review-lower-than-atlantis-far-q.html

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