And What Will Be Left Of Them? - The Hi-Fi Low Life

Neil Watts 22/02/2009

Rating: 4/5

To say that this album has been a long time coming would be a massive understatement. AWWBLOT? is now five years old and The Hi-Fi Low Life was two years in the making, only being primed for release after the first attempt wasn't deemed good enough by the band themselves. Eventually the i's were dotted and the t's crossed back in the August of last year. Hell, they even had a wrap party to celebrate the occasion.

Then the bombshell landed; co-vocalist Lucy Harvey-Wells decided to leave the band. What to do now? With the album ready, but the band certainly not, months of umming and ahhing followed, which included welcoming Heather Wilson and James Perry to their ranks as singer and guitarist respectively. It was looking ever more likely that it would end up as another eagerly awaited record lost in the mists of time, then the trusty types at Pop Art London stepped forward to salvage the record from the chaos.

The album itself is a snapshot of AWWBLOT? over the years, packed with their previous singles. Yet owing to the upheaval and change in personnel it already feels like something of a faded Polaroid of the past. Though that is to ignore how unbelievably infectious their brand of booze soaked indie-pop actually is. From the shrill cries of album opener DIY Not DIE to the camp rock of closing track Kids In America most tracks merely flirt with the idea of beginning to bother the three minute mark as buzzsaw guitars rip through your ears and fleet-fingered synth lines swirl around your head.

Lost live favourite Hi-Fi Low Life makes a very welcome appearance having undergone a glossy reinvention. The nonstop vocal duelling between Lucy and Peter Adams makes for an edgy B52s-meets-Bearsuit atmosphere. Dance, Damn You, Dance is perhaps even more polished, offering the casual listener the most accessible path to their bass driven inner workings; it positively sparkles and twinkles.

Servants Of The State To Be could well be a taste of things to come with the thunderous track being the last to be written. It is altogether grittier darker than the majority of their previous output, exposing their grimy underbelly for all to see. Calling All Cars sings from the same hymn sheet, once more highlighting the band's use of the power of repetition to create off-kilter pop that you simply can't forget.

For the normally perky clatter-pop tarts the album's artwork is oddly dark with a hint of Banksy about it, reflecting the confusion and disruption that surrounded the album from the outset. Now with the new line-up in place, and new songs emerging, you'd hope that they'll be able to roll onto album number two with the minimum of fuss and cement their reputation as lo-fi cult heroes.

Release date: 13/03/09