By Liam Menzies (@blnkclyr)
While their influences may not be anything against the norm, it’s natural for any band to show admiration for the likes of Radiohead, London act Plastic Barricades are more than just a band trying to replicate the sounds of their peers. Over Mechanics of Life and its 11 tracks, the alt-rock outfit find themselves channelling an almost chameleon-esque trait of blending themselves into whatever the situation calls for.
When they need to be moody, like during the intro of Half Your Soul, the band are ambiguous as to how the rest of the track will go, adding piece to piece with true restraint as opposed to splurging it all at once. Even if the chorus feels so juxtaposing that it could be regarded as out of place, the following bridge and climax all continue the broodiness that the band really excel at when the album needs or wants it.
Indie-rock seems to be Plastic Barricades bread and butter, something that is shown from the get go with How Goldfish Grow: it may not be breaking any new ground but with a strong resemblance to Foal’s debut record and its pin point instrumental accuracy, it’s definitely a strong start. It’s during this song that the band’s vocals also become more apparent for better or worse: there’s a definite charm to Dan Kert’s pipes, especially when it’s paired up with such peculiar lines about sea-life and evolution, and it doesn’t act as a hindrance during any songs though there’s a distinct delivery at certain points that will either having you scratch your head or lapping it up like a dehydrated animal at a lake.
For a debut album that has been in the works for quite a while, shown by some older singles making their way onto this LP, it can feel somewhat safe or even dated depending on your opinion when it comes to the current state of indie rock. With that being said, it would be a lie to say there’s not a lot to take away from Plastic Barricades and their music: whether it be the peculiar, strangely alluring vocals or the versatility shown throughout, Plastic Barricades show the endurance and potential to make a name in an over saturated genre.
By Liam Menzies (@blinkclyro)
To say that American Football are the epitome of emo rock would be putting it lightly. Despite only releasing one album and a subsequent EP, the influence the Illinois outfit have had on the genre is all too clear to see, paving the way for bands like Moose Blood, Basement and The Front Bottoms who owe so much for their self-titled release. Now, more than 17 years since their eponymous release at the turn of the century, American Football have returned to share what could possibly be the most overdue sophomore album in god knows how long.
The fact that American Football (2), or LP2 as I’ll call it for the remainder of the review, even exists is risky enough: the band may have been able to craft some timeless tunes such as Never Meant back during their creative peak in the 90’s but surely that doesn’t guarantee that lightning will strike twice? Whilst nothing that appears on LP2 is as iconic or as breathtaking as its predecessor, the quality of this belated release is still on the positive side of the spectrum. As always, Mike Kinsella, Steve Lamos and Steve Holmes have unparalleled instrumental chemistry, perfectly weaving in and out of one another to create some multi-layered and evoking songs that show that despite Kinsella professing he never intended American Football “to be popular , or even a band”, it’s clear that they still have the makings of a well-functioning machine.
One gripe with LP2 that could make or break it for certain listeners is the sincere lack of evolution. Play this directly after listening to their debut and the similarities become very apparent which could come down purely to homage, such as songs on LP1 had their track names as their finishing lyrics whilst on LP2 it’s the complete opposite , or an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” kind of approach. With all things considered, however, LP2 is a worthy successor to LP1 and regardless of the fact that it may not reach the same heights, though who really thought it would, American Football still sound as unique and important as they did decades ago.
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