F451 - The Catastrophe EP
Mark L 04/09/2006
This is a hard one to review. Firstly lets say, that these guys have good taste. Their Myspace influences are none too shabby, 'Classic Indie Punk' they state, such as the Manics, Idlewild and Mansun, oh and their 'recent listening' is The Holy Bible. Probably my favourite album ever. In fact the Manics, namely early Manics, are perhaps the main influence running through this political punk three track EP 'The Catastrophe EP'. No bad thing.
Opener 'Don't Change The Calender' takes the taut acerbic riffing of bible era manics and has a soaring classic manics esque pre-chorus with thumping chugging chord changes. The vocals consist of a very British sounding, almost John Lyndon, wobble, and soar in all the right places. In fact it reminds me of another vocalist, and it has been driving me mad who it is....shit yeah, the guy from Terrovision. Just came to me. Anyway, they are very strong on this track, and one of my favourite things about these guys. The main singer has a real identity to his voice. I say 'main' singer, because the geezer who does the backing vocals, attempts to take a large slice of the action. It's just a real shame his 'call and response' backing occasionally lends a corny generic 'emo-American punk' sound to proceedings, which I think brings the feel of the track down in select places.
The second track, 'The Inequality of Now' is also a chiming and powerful slab of indie punk reminiscent of former political punk contenders Kinesis or Miss Black America. Starting with a lovely chiming 80s riff it builds itself into a fury and is a raw and powerful statement of intent. It's really really good too. Backing vox are better than on the first track, more atmospheric, better judged, and more English....... erm, yeah, I know what I mean by that. In fact they are bloody brilliantly soaring towards the end.
So whats wrong here? Well lets start by saying that the third track is utter bloated, stodgy, boring, Green Day B side whining shite, and also represents what is wrong with this band (to a lesser extent) throughout the other tracks. Firstly the backing vocals. They were short of overkill on the first two tracks, but they are terribly terribly over used here, making the track sound cluttered and difficult to listen to. It's as if two lead vocalists are vying for attention at times. And the 'call and response' bits start to grate as they have already been done a fair bit on the first track, and bring back memories of that slightly faux corny American emo feel mentioned before. The lyrics, are also pretty weak. The great skill of the early Manics, was having a political edge to the themes but cleverly mixing it up without making it obvious that these were like 'anti war/establishment maaaan' songs. The Manics fused the political with the personal, and featured exceptional wordplay. So this stuff doesn't pass muster:
'I don't know what you think You don't know how I feel So let's be honest before this war's real'
'If we can't trust each other now (it's the end of the world)'
To be fair the lyrics on the other tracks are better overall, but lines such as the following do rear their ugly heads:
'especially you and your fake democracy'
'And I don't want to live in a world that starts and ends in America Where the cash flows back to America'
Both those lines from 'Don't Change The Calender' verge on the parody of what a political band should be saying. I do prefer the statement (in the same song) 'Cos they're dropping the levels of literacy, to cover the urgency. And with their private armies and daddy's profits, they're gonna make us know. They're gonna make us know that god is good' which is a little less obvious, and pertains to a bit more cleverness.
So a bit of a mixed feeling here. If I had not heard the third track, based on the first two stormers these guys would be well on there way to scraping the underside of a four star review. But for now they will have to make do with a solid three. I do think they have real potential if they play to their strengths.