Drive-By Argument - Drive-By Argument
Mark Shields 05/05/2008
When you get to the end of your first play of this album you might be asking yourself what all the fuss is about, wondering where the buzz came from - their lyrics are not the sharpest, the melodies don't seem to be immediate, the overall sound of the band is good but there is something that instantly doesn't leave an impression. Then, a couple of hours later you'll be sitting in silence and there, creeping into your head, is that opening synth bar from "The SEGA Method", and you go "I'll put that album back on" and before you know it you are at track 8, smiling like a loon. There is something incredibly fantastic about this band, and all the while you're not trying to remember the songs they are getting burned into your head and they will stay with you for the rest of the day. There won't be any Stockholm Syndrome with the songs though as you won't get tired of them - you will just crave to listen to them again.
"Sex Lines are Expensive Comedy", one of the album's singles, is a good example of the band and a good primer for the album - it has a chorus that you will be humming along to after the first play a speedy driving beat that takes the album beyond the level of "just another synth band", a pitiful that accounts for many bands. The production brings the synths to the front of the arrangement and the guitars are slightly hidden amongst the mix, but that might be intentional as it gives the band a louder dimension when seen live. The scatter-shot style of the album is something to behold - the normal progression is shut in a drawer and then locked with many stop-starts, fast-slows and synth-guitar bursts at almost very opportunity, double then triple guessing you. The surprise is how flowing this jittering technique actually feels.
Only once or twice do Drive-By Argument slightly waver in their direction. When they slow down on "There is Nothing As Epic As Golden Axe" you get the creeping suspicion that there is a little too much of the Kooks and Luke Pritchard's horrible vocal vowel droning effect appearing. Luckily the song just about keeps its head above water, and they redeem themselves on "Eye Fish Star Fish Eye" showing that they can handle an original slower song, before taking it to levels of synth-happy solos that Moog himself would be stunned to hear. Later, you might be noticing the lyrics are almost nonsensical for being stupid rather than Idlewild's pretentiousness, but thoughts like these are few and far between thankfully, and by the end you will have forgotten you were ever worried. The moments of slight calm punctuate a slew of stomping rock tracks that will get anyone up on the floor dancing. This is the album's strength.
Making a record that gets people dancing was one of Scotland's big success story's biggest remit and whilst they managed to corner that part of the market from more critically well-held acts, Franz Ferdinand will now have an uphill battle on their hands because Drive-by Argument's debut has the potential to have the same effect that Franz's debut had; this is a great first record, and great record, and the band have the potential to be pretty much the biggest Scottish band this year. Now, I am going to try to forget the melodies on this record, for they are driving me to a permanent grin and age-defying smile lines. I might need a new pair of shoes for the feet tapping is wearing my Converse to nothing. Also, naming some of you songs after the biggest event in my childhood, namely my SEGA Megadrive, is a sure fire way to enter my heart.
Release date: 12th May