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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Album Review: Motion Picture Soundtrack - The Shapes We Fear Are Of Our Own

With Motion Picture Soundtrack’s last release, the 'Departure EP', appearing late last year it‘s no surprise to find that this debut album 'The Shapes We Fear Are Of Our Own', features the same haunting, nihilistic approach to songwriting. This time round, though, the band have not one, or two, but three producers on board. Paul Schroeder (The Stone Roses, The Verve), Bob Ludwig (Rage Against The Machine, Tool) and Cenzo Townshend (Editors, Bloc Party) - I don’t know about you but that sounds like a case of too many cooks to me. I think we can safely assume that certainly Ludwing’s input has resulted in a heavier product whilst Schroeder and Townshend (both who featured on the EP as producer and mixer respectively) would be the ones wrestling their sound back towards the contemporary.

In essence, MPS are an eclectic mix of Editors, White Lies and Placebo and who come across as both disarmingly sincere and simpering at the same time. With lead single ‘Glass Figures’, for instance, there is an attack that invigorates as it crescendos, yet resorts to falling back into line along a well-trodden path, far too readily. Strikingly clean, yet lazily repetitive guitar sits beneath Alastair Blackwood’s urgently emotive, morbid musings with the damaged whole echoing climactically from beginning to embittered end.

Often the band seem happy pounding away at a few repetitious chords, perhaps to engender a poppier sound, but when they do flick about between song parts they manage to create luxurious layers of rhythm and texture. Simultaneous fierce undercurrents, jangling mid-range and falsetto peaks feature within tracks like ‘Make It Through The Night’ or ‘Whiterooms’ which tug upon a Coldplay/Keane loose seam until the whole thing happily disassembles itself. Heartier fodder sweeps in with tracks like ‘I Clipped Your Wing’ or ’On Earth (As It Is In Heaven) which are anchored down to a bruising bass and thunderous piano combo whilst all around piercing vocal crashes at the listener in cresting wave upon cresting wave.

The real disappointments here hide within the lack of momentum and the dearth of stop-gaps. Each song keeps to the same vague pattern that echoes the others around it. The last three tracks fight desperately to escape the familiar arrangement, but that wavering vocal drags it all kicking and screaming back into line. Sure, there are peaks and troughs on show here, but in the end it just feels like one big featureless ocean of sound. Whilst you’ll crave the sight of an iceberg or an island, I was simply finding it a struggle to stop from drowning.

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