This City - We Were Like Sharks
Nick Lewis 22/10/2009
Former Mobile Act Unsigned contestants This City (a fact they seem keen to hide) have made good, releasing this, their debut album on very respectable punk label Epitaph. This surely ranks up there with the good news that former X Factor contestant Laura White is launching her own label in the “reality TV failures make it in the real world” stakes.
Personally my knowledge of punk music and all its impenetrably labeled offshoots pretty much begins and ends with my prized 12” of Raw Power, which is clearly not the case for this post-hardcore quintet of Brightonians, who bear the indelible mark of At The Drive-In: lots of jerky guitar riffs and tuneless, yelped vocals. Where they differ is in This City's penchant for syncopated beats and pop-punk simulating riffs - presumably aimed at making girls with dyed black hair dance.
And that for me is where it fails. We Were Like Sharks tries too hard to please as many people as possible, aiming for an idea of pop music shared by many bands of this ilk that just does not exist. If your music is at root, noisy and of the hard rock end of the spectrum, particularly if your lead singer expresses himself in a monotonous yelp; no amount of melodic power chord progressions and pedal tone figures are going to make you appeal to audiences outside of your esoteric pond. However, if like At The Drive-In you indulge your noisiness and your awkwardness, you may be a better band for it and surprisingly stray onto the mainstream's radar by virtue of your abilities. By aiming for it, you've missed the mark.
That's not to say this is an abysmal record. Despite my obvious unfamiliarity with the style I did find myself enjoying it, if only for the nostalgic feelings of being 15 and watching all the identical sounding college bands play at my local arts centre. What This City do best is take the largely unpalatable sound of hardcore and add groove to it, as they do on With Loaded Guns. What they fail at is limpid attempts at 'pop' songs, such as eyeliner love anthem Romantic.
If you're into this sort of thing you can probably pick out exactly what This City do that makes them special. To me, We Were Like Sharks is a genre record that aims for a mass appeal it will never have, and consequently blunts any edge it may have had.
Release date: 19.10.09