iLIKETRAiNS - Elegies To Lessons Learnt
Holly Cruise 20/10/2007
You know what music is lacking? History. Not in the sense of it not having any history of its own, but in the sense of actual History, the stuff which happened in the past. In fact modern culture generally has little grasp of history unless it's made into a primetime BBC costume drama, or a Channel 5 documentary. So that's the history of the Georgian middle classes and Hitler nicely covered. And in pop music? Well, you can have the historical insights of Dame Shirley Bassey and The Propellerheads, or… not much really.
So does this mean it's the perfect moment for iLiKETRAiNS to step up to the plate and bring history rock to the masses? Probably not, unless the masses have suddenly changed their taste in music en masse since last night. Are we to be subjected to portentous brooding music springing in a tinny fashion from mobile phones on the back seats of buses? Exactly.
Still, this isn't really to criticise iLiKETRAiNS (and yes, that is a bloody irritating name to keep having to type, easily the worst since Mo-Ho-Bish-O-Pi) for this is their forte. Brooding, slow moving noisescapes based around Dave Martin's voice, a deep tremulous thing which surely cannot belong to the slightly skinny youngster who fronts iLiKETRAiNS. It's the sort of voice which would have a man twice Martin's age wondering what kind of ancient it belonged to. It is both wondrous and ever-so-slightly limiting. Even when iLiKETRAiNS try to pick up the tempo musically on the Salem inspired We Go Hunting or The Deception the songs don't feel like they have picked up the pace thanks to Martin's booming intonations.
Of course this is also a rather wonderful thing. It certainly lends itself well to stories of seventeenth century plague victims ('We All Fall Down') and assassinated prime ministers ('Spencer Perceval'). You couldn't really imagine The Go! Team successfully tackling such a topic with the required gravitas. And though the songs might move slowly so do glaciers and they're pretty damn impressive to go and marvel at. The guitars rumble and build, and ebb and flow, in a manner which manages to sound better and better with each listen. Make no mistake this is not an instant album, there are no sudden pop songs to make the listening journey any easier for beginners. But then again, history isn't that instant either.
For those who aren't familiar with the post/prog rock which is around today this isn't really the best place to start. Other bands (such as Sigur Ros or Oceansize) have more accessible albums to test yourself on. What iLiKETRAiNS have is a sense of ambition and otherness which sees them pushing further into their chosen field of huge guitars, stately pace and lyrical variety. They have stated they wished to add a sense of place to their songs which other post rockers lack. They've managed this, building an atmospheric sweep of the more maudlin aspects of English (and colonial) history. Catch it in the wrong mood and it can come across as same-y and a bit one paced. It could also be argued that using the same building, brooding guitar pattern on each song can seem a little unimaginative, but then again we let less ambitious indie-pop bands get away with such lack of imagination all the time, so perhaps it is to iLiKETRAiNS's credit that the listener can feel certain tracks might not live up to the standards of their very best.
It probably won't be boosting the History Channel's viewing figures substantially, but for those who are intrigued by the possibility that music can be something more than a three minute love song with a verse-chorus-verse structure, then iLiKETRAiNS are worth looking out for. Just don't go looking for them in the here and now.