31 January 2009


Apologies for the lack of blogging over the last two weeks. The internet has been decidedly unkind to me.

Grammatics may not be a big name on anyone's lips in terms of tips for 2009, apart from a handful of those in the know. The Leeds quartet mix Foals-esque guitars that border on prog with heavy chunks of distortion, choirboy vocals, cello and a distinctly emo-sounding production. Not that any of that should put you off their eponymous debut.

The album kicks off with their more accessible material, such as the shouty yet swirling pop-rock of "Shadow Commitee" and "D.I.L.E.M.M.A" which could come straight from the soundtrack of an eerie horror/thriller with it's chiming guitars, funky ominous bass and stabs of cello. "Murderer" sounds more classic Bloc Party than the actual Bloc Party have done for quite some time due to the strong drumming that powers the track and yearning lyrics and vocals of singer Owen Brinely.

Despite being their more accessible songs, upto now the album isn't exactly full of singalong pop nuggets made for the festivals. But really, this is to be expected from a band who wants to reinject some drama and grandeur back into English music in this post-Libertines/Arctics era, and describe themselves as "maximalist" pop. This approach is exemplified perfectly on "The Vague Archive", which is more angular than Franz Ferdinand and Foals in a protractor shop before morphing into an anthemic driving rock chorus and finally to a sombre Arcade Fire-aping lullaby.

But it's the next group of songs that show the ambition and talent of Grammatics in the greatest light. "Broken Wing" begins as a simple, uplifting acoustic ballad, which isn't really spectacular but is a highlight amongst already high standards. Suddenly, it explodes into some headphone bursting riffing, giving the song another dimension and the listener a bit of a welcome shock. "Relentless Fours" returns to the chiming math-rock guitars of the earlier tracks, coming worryingly close to "in one ear, right out the other territory", but as with "Broken Wing", the salvo of Led Zep riffing and wall of noise is enough to almost destroy my speakers and totally unexpected from four twee looking kids (unless you knew they were influenced by QOTSA and My Bloody Valentine).

From here, the album does tend to tail off a little, getting bogged down by repetitive instrumentation and a lack of lyrical hooks. But there are a few moments worthy of repeated listens on the remaining tracks, mainly "Cruel Tricks Of The Light". You can't fault Grammatics ambition at all, seeing as they've released an epic debut, with no songs under three and a half minutes (not counting the 'secret track'). While it may need repeated listens to uncover some hidden moments of genius, they've produced a solid starting point for what will hopefully be a long and interesting career.
ESSENTIAL TRACKS: "Murderer", "The Vague Archive", "Broken Wings", "Relentless Fours".
FOR FANS OF: Foals, Biffy Clyro, Arcade Fire


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