Union Sound Set - Start/Stop

Bill Cummings 05/11/2010

Rating: 4/5

Five piece Union Sound Set were forged from the ashes of London group Prego, reforming and gathering their sense of purpose, gathered around a shared ideal, for producing pavment shattering, shimmering epic alternative rock anthems that possess an immense melodic musicality and dynamism that's redolent of My Virtiol's debut 'Fine Lines.' But it's lead singer's Edd Simpson richly world weary tone that really brings life to his throbbing, internal dialogues that whilst introspective their themes chime with every person that walks the planet: doomed relationships, uncertainty and clinging onto that last shaft of hope at the end of a long dark tunnel. Simpson's vocals are the catlyst that elavates Union Sound Set above the rest, switching effortlessly from bruised to defiant in an instant, elevating Union Sound Set and bringing to mind the work of The National and Elbow.

Highlights are numerous and plentiful from the tenderness of the intricate lyrics of existential anthem "My Current State (is your latest objective)" from chiming guitars, militaristic rhythms, and swooning vocals it expertly details those tiny emotional shifts that we experience every day, through eyes of an awe inspiring rock song that literally personifies the ability and power of a song "to pull you through." Last single 'Hiding Places' is the stunning centrepiece of the album. A thundering rattling powerhouse anthem that's comparable to the best moments of Peal Jam's back catalogue, full of thundering drums, waves of backing sound and a chest beating vocal that acts as a badge of self empowerment for the underdog (“We'll take the weight out of the wonder!”), the pre chorus releasing the pressure valve on Dan Best's spellbing guitar riff and cascading rhythms that floods forth: the entire edifice careering unstoppably into your ears. An song to accompany the immortal Camus quote 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger!"

Elsewhere melodic waves of glistening guitar and tumbling rhythms characterise the less vocal heavy melody rushes of forthcoming single 'Cause and Resolve' its defiant gleaming chorus stings are inspirational. While 'Trailing' spirals down warren holes of arpeggio patterns, clambering onto flexible baselines and earth shattering chorus' that literally throws every bit of blood sweat, tears and instrumentation onto the walls and sees what sticks.

Away from the clatter and commotion there's a tenderness at the heart of 'Start/Stop' it's there in the brittle twinkling frailty of "Here's to you" that's impassioned lyrics are both intensely personal and self exploratory, the repeated refrain 'I'm not scared just not prepared' feels like a mantra and a promise that permeating through Simpson's heart as he details a break-up that clearly left a considerable mark. Taking things down a further notch is "This Will Change Us" a crumpled up love letter to that someone he's lost, emotive vocals vividly sketches out tiny details of intimacy, the unbearable lightness of being: ('you know when you sleep/Because you're the most beautiful thing in my life') above a backdrop of a haunted sighing feedback, its truly affecting and whilst it has echoes of 'Run' it's up there with anything Snow Patrol have produced in terms of emotive balladry in fact its better. There are moments when you feel like they're covering the same ground the likes of 'Answers' and 'Years Days Months' are two examples of songs that whilst not bad, fair less favourably compared to their piers in this track listing.

At fourteen tracks and with an eleven minute closer "Waiting Minds"(that sounds like three songs rather stapled together?), perhaps 'Start/Stop' is a little long. But as a piece of works it's colossal achievement is to breath life into such a well worn alternative rock genre and imbue with such heart and personality, the constant imaginative shifting grounds of instrumentation, and especially the intricate deeply emotive lyrics of that truly mark Union Sound Set as something special. In a sea of mediocre British rock bands brave, bold five piece Union Sound Set are punching well above their weight, powerful and affecting and at times quite bloody awe inspiring!

Release date: 25/10/2010