Q Without U - Shut Up! I Invented You
Mark Shields 07/06/2008
Lets take a black board. Then, I am going to ask you to mark hundreds of tally marks individually on the board with a black chalk and then stand back. I will then ask you to pick out the seventeenth from the left on the fifth row from 20 feet away. This is the problem facing Q Without U in this rather anonymous landscape of synth indie bands that are all climbing the charts before falling back into obscurity. They need something to set them apart from the pack, and listening to "Shut Up! I Invented You" you notice that there are some good ideas that might take them to the multicoloured chalk board of success (to keep with the analogy).
However skimming down the track list you fear the worst. The track names are obscure - "Poland Syndrome" and "Licking Batteries" to name check but two, but like all good indie bands they have to be; Take a look at the most recent Los Campesinos! album you'll read trackname sgeared to being "What Are You Up To?" captions on Facebook or MSN profile names. The obtuse band name aside ( the band groan as I point out the similarities with a certain Q and Not U) and with the rather punctuation hellbent album title forgotten, the band's ideas simmer under a slight production that feels like it should be more, emphasising certain instruments and the surreal nature of the band washes over you. This in contrast to the scatter hyperactive LC! and Vampire Weekend, being compared to bands like these is a double edged sword that shows the short comings with Q Without U.
There are a couple of stand out tracks. The aforementioned "Poland Syndrome" has a charging melody taps your toes and has you head nodding. This is single material. If the rest of the album was of this ilk then you could add another star. "Threes" is trying to be an epic but turns out to be a pretty impressive slow song, it stands out not because it's amazing or incredible, but that it's different. Remember the Black chalk board from the first paragraph? Well, unfortunately for the most part the album sounds like that. The songs stop and start at the same time, the drumming is of the same style and speed almost all the way through the album, and while there is a certain charm about the vocals being twinged with the Scottish accent, there is little power to them - it is as if they are just there because they have to be. The sprinkling of brass over the album is welcome - that is something that sounds rather fresh but it is under used.
I don't want to get dragged into saying how bad a record it is as it really isn't, it just isn't that good. Capable, assured in its direction and with a theme, it is the sort of album I can imagine being excellent live but it underwhelms on record. Their chalk mark is grey against black which is better than another black mark. One to watch I suspect.