A Silent Film - The City That Sleeps
Mark Shields 06/10/2008
No matter what anyone says, there is parity between indie fandom and the critical success of bands. If a band becomes exceedingly successful, many indie types will scoff and consequently balk at their newer releases. The fine line between success and indie acclaim is something somebody should write a guide to as it makes or breaks careers. A few choice references should include Fightstar's Charlie and Snow Patrol, whose Gary Lightbody managed to craft two sterling albums of indie perfection, but now is seen as the epitome of mainstream crossover bands it's uncool to admit to liking.
This all means that A Silent Film have a troubling task. In this album they have made a very mature record, with well crafted songs, but have the exact formula that might win them the stadium filling status; piano, brilliant choruses, clever structures, and rousing epic songs.
The City That Sleeps is filled with the kind of ballads that will always sell millions of copies, but in the same way that Keane's debut was sterling and Coldplay's Parachutes was heralded by some as the album of the year in 2001. In the case of A Silent Film, their album must walk that fine line between stardom and credibility if they want to last the storm.
The use of piano in the forefront of the mix and the main melody driver is a classic technique and used expertly. On Lamplight the band shoot into the skies with a soaring chorus and catchy melody, managing to orchestrate one epic line after another, and even the breakdown 3 minutes into the track sits well on this track. It is a good example of how a well crafted song, no matter how obvious it may be, always works if done right.
It's impressive that for a debut this is so accomplished. You Will Leave A Mark is the type of song that would explode live, the frantic drumming and ghostly vocals rushing around the piano, the song meanders its way through several hoops. Polished lyrics and tight riffs on the guitar and piano keep you interested for most of the album. There are few filler tracks, with most connecting well and making an impact. The short, but no less epic Gerontion is a stand out example of the band excelling at their craft, with a slow rumbling piano thread, that is accompanied by a loud guitar rasp and vocal performance that is amazing.
In the end, these guys are more than mere Keane clones. They outdo such comparisons because they create a voice for themselves. The songs are of the highest quality; they do the job expertly, and rather than fading away, will stay with you for a while after listening to them.
In the right hands this band could be massive, and they might deserve all the success they obtain. For the moment however, they are ours, with the indie credibility that they have which is strong, and the album is definitely worth checking out. Could they be the next big thing? It depends on several factors; what is certain is that this is one of the best debut albums I have heard in a while.