Monday, 6 December 2010

REVIEW: Bad Books - Bad Books

'Supergroup' is a frequently employed term in music writing, yet one has to wonder how often it's truly required. In the case of  Bad Books, for example, who count among their number singer Andy Hull, the other chaps of Manchester Orchestra and the excellent but rarely high profile Brooklyn songsmith Kevin Devine, it's more a solid gathering of talent than a collection of celebrity musicians. With the frequent collaborations of the singers beforehand, however, this was always a project simply waiting to happen.

Regardless of terminal overuse, the real question in such cases is whether or not the group releases super music. To wit, Bad Books self-titled debut album...

On first listens it's a record not too far removed from the recent output of Manchester Orchestra. Andy Hull's high pitched vocal exudes the tender emotion that so balances the atmosphere on Everything To Everyone, setting the settled scenes that precede an eruption of guitars. Present right from the opener How This All Ends, it all sounds promising without pushing the creative boundaries of those involved.

Buy it at Insound!

The similarities aren't always so close though. Baby Shoes brings more groove to proceedings than might be expected, along with plenty of lyrical hooks that keep the song bouncing around the earlobes.

Just a couple of tracks later the same phenomenon pops up again to provide both the mid and high point of the album, Holding Down The Laughter. An upbeat, heady tune with all the hallmarks of a bar rock classic, it shows all the best of Bad Books potential in a manner that would make The Hold Steady proud. The joyous hook at 2.24 is worth the price of admission all by itself.

Although nothing remaining on the album quite reaches that same giddy high, there's plenty more to enjoy. You Wouldn't Have to Ask has a sharp urgency that continues to make these chaps a band all of their own, whilst Please Move creeps in ominously before roaring off at speed, leaving only a befuddled sense that it might have been Silversun Pickups after an adrenaline shot straight to the heart.

The quieter moments are perfectly pleasant on Bad Books, yet it's really the unleashed rockers that provide the real meat of the album. Though at times they stray too close to the familiar sounds of their established acts, there's certainly enough individual class on show here to make a second album very worthwhile. And for anyone particularly into the bands that these lads call home, this is a must buy that will undoubtedly qualify the super in the group.

Note: Amazon MP3 has the album up for $5 digital download during the month of December, which is rather bargainous to say the least.

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