Pilotlight - The Post War Musical
Owain Paciuszko 22/11/2010
Things get going when second track Pulling On Doors That Say Push kicks in with the kind of fiery vibe familliar to the likes of We Were Promised Jetpacks, perhaps the release is all the more euphoric as it follows the tiresomely sombre All Purpose Underneath which strives for a kind of affecting melancholy, but winds up meandering through a series of warbles that do little to stir the soul. Instead the second track wakes up both the band and the listener, and while it nestles into a sound eventually closer to stadium-rock mode Idlewild, it is nonetheless a confident and exciting tune that doens't out-stay its welcome as it ascends towards a twinkling climax.
There are deliberate nods to a softer, floaty Radiohead it would seem on They Had Names, which has a pleasing moody bass line and scruffy guitar, in amongst Gavin Farrell's vocals which are decent, if matched to somewhat insipid lyrics, which is a pity because he proves he's got the chops on the falsetto choruses, it's a shame there's nothing to hold onto in his words.
Bringing Flowers To The Black Banks is an atmospheric little instrumental that serves a prologue to Health & Safety, which with its murmuring bass-line and gradual coaelescence of instruments sets its stall up firmly as 'epic indie anthem'. It scores points for Mick O'Connell's imaginative drumming livening up the track just as it swerves dangerously close to Snow Patrol territory, before erupting into a clatter of instruments and howled, emotive singing that feels distinctly pedestrian, far more satisfying is the grimy bridge around the four minute, with Andrew Carey's bass a serpent in amongst the squall of frenzied guitar noise.
It's a shame that they slide so lazily back into twinkly-rock with Bite Your Nails, the most flimsy track on the record. After the rather literal 44 second track Bells it's on to this record's debut single Afraid of Heights which bares some aural similarity to Doves more recent turns, and brings nothing new to the Pilotlight mix, though the lyric 'The explosions look like fairy lights' is quite nice. Likewise South is just more of the same, and there's only really so much 'anthemic indie' you can be exposed to before it kinds of washes over in waves.
Music To Cross The Road To works as a pretty decent showcase for Farrell's vocal ability, but there's a certain been-there-done-that vibe to the record, where a change of pace is sorely needed to at least give more weight to songs that quickly become mirrors of one another. Letting Balloons Go manages to deliver the same formula with a little more passion and energy than other efforts, but with the record's tone so relentlessly samey the power is lost and the track - ironically - deflates quite quickly. Closing song The Shortest Route To Happiness Is A Straight Line begins with a simple melody played on glockenspiel, with drums providing a slow and steady heartbeat whilst Farrell softens his voice delivering something a little croakier and fractured than normal, but there's the over-riding fear that is quickly - sadly - confirmed as the song begins that dreary build towards 'grand finale' territory.
After a soggy opening track this record picks up a little momentum for a handful of tracks, and occasionally there's a glint of inspiration inbetween the stadium-shaped pop-rockery; but as a complete listen this album falls a bit flat and whilst there's a lot of talent on display here there's a strong need to shake things up a bit and diversify their sound to keep the listener's interest.