You could easily be forgiven for thinking “not another shoegazing London-based electronic band” – it’s true, London has produced an extraordinary number of electronic artists in the last ten years (Chase and Status, Bronski Beat, etc.), why? ‘Cause when something ain’t broke there ain’t no point in fixin’ it! It brings success, if ever there was a formula for instant commercial dividends, then this is it. It’s a way of getting around those tricky debut albums; if you know that you’re going to get success then it gives you greater license to do something different, put your own twist on the formula as it were.
There is, unsurprisingly, a pretty big catch: it’s very easy to fall in to the trap of not just following the blueprint, but copying it. Think about it, if you know that you’re going to have commercial success(es) then what’s the harm in doing something that everybody does? You could quite easily mistake deadmau5 for Pendulum or Calvin Harris for Chase and Status, a blueprint for success is only as good as the bands it produces. For every Kraftwerk there is a Tangerine Dream.
This is where this album comes in; Years and Years anticipated debut album. It’s safe to say that it won’t pull up trees by itself, the songs eventually homogenise and you start to wonder if you’re CD player is broken. The main criticism of this album is that the songs appear to be very ‘copy and paste’ (however in a competitive music business, is that really a unique criticism?) – ‘Desire’ and ‘King’ are virtually indistinguishable. The lyrics are very one-dimensional too, they seem to all relate to relationships that need to be ‘let go’ or of destructive feelings that they feel should be expunged.
However, Kraftwerk (the bar by which all electronic acts are judged!) didn’t exactly write lyrical layers – Autobahn was pretty simple for a 20+min song! If you’re listening to electronic music for the lyrics, then you’re in for a pretty slow time. At 48mins, this isn’t a long albumhowever due to the generic nature of the songs it seems like a lot longer than that, but I’ll praise them for keeping it tight – the longest song clocks in at 4:22 and most are on the shy side of 3mins. It’s good album construction if the songs don’t wear out their welcome, no matter how good a song is it could always be trimmed (take a look at Wire’s album Pink Flag for how to construct an album).
There are criticisms of this album, many of them; it is nowhere near the finished article (it’s difficult to shrug the feeling that it was a rushed production). But, by the same token, the band aren’t either. There is enough on this album to suggest the band could progress and become better (the songwriting is never forced, even if it does get same after awhile and the music is accomplished, if derivative). Every song on this album is good (you don’t win the BBC Sound of… prize if you’re terrible), but my suspicion is that every song could be better, and that’s a good thing. A good debut should leave you wanting more.
The second album is something to look forward to with almost equal anticipation.