REVIEW ROUND-UP: The Streets, Mike Shinoda, The Lawrence Arms

The Streets – None Of Us Are Getting Out Of This Life Alive

Why is Mike Skinner bringing The Streets back now? It’s certainly a project that has historical reverence behind it given how important both Original Pirate Material and A Grand Don’t Come For Free were within 2000s British music, but it’s also one that’s definitively of its time, where the bawdy lad-rock tones of The Libertines and early Arctic Monkeys could be transposed to UK hip-hop in a way that could actually work. That’s what The Streets are best known for, which subsequently led to their 2011 album Computers And Blues not nearly being remembered in the same way, and that brings up the follow-up question of whether Skinner actually wants to do this. The few scattered singles since their revival in 2017 notwithstanding, this is their first full release in nearly a decade, and the fact that it’s being marketed as a mixtape despite undergoing the usual album rollout and stacking itself with guest features (including turns from Tame Impala, Idles and Ms Banks) is kind of indicative of a lack of faith on Skinner’s part for it to do much, and presumably preserve the reputation of a ‘final album’ that Computers And Blues deigned to give itself even back upon its release. And thus, it’s no real surprise that None Of Us Are Getting Out Of This Life Alive is very reminiscent of Gorillaz’ Humanz, another release that was overstuffed with collaborators and used that as a crutch for not doing what it set out to do very well. This is another example of a shift to darker, sharper electronic tones to match the description of a bleak modern world, something that Skinner really doesn’t encapsulate all that well in a drawling vocal performance that sounds more limited and stunted than ever. At least on The Streets’ previous albums, there was an cheekiness and everyman wit to his very pronounced accent; here, where the whole thing demands a tighter artist the make the most of it, he’s stuck with galumphing vocal runs that to call them flows would be far too generous, and the occasional fragment of a pithy, off-key hook that almost always sounds ridiculous coming from him. It’s no wonder there’s so many guest artists crammed in here, but in the case of Jesse James Solomon on I Know What You Did and Jimothy Lacoste on Same Direction, both sound like they’re struggling to keep their eyes open, and Idles’ Joe Talbot has none of his usual wit or punch on the title track. It’s the sort of synergy with the overall mundanity that this album describes that has to be accidental, especially since a lot of Skinner’s lines really have no interesting factors to them when describing exactly what the modern world is like, and tracks like Eskimo Ice and Phone Is Always In My Hand see a return to the laddish tendencies of old that a 40-year-old man might’ve grown out of with a bit a more grace. There’s the occasional witty line or couplet here and there, but that’s ‘occasional’ with a giant asterisk pinned to it; this isn’t the sort of album that really goes anywhere despite how much it might believe it is.

The exact same thing can be said for the overall sound too, and how inert the UK garage and electronica stylings feel this time. It’s bad enough that Skinner as the driving force is burdened with those issues, but clunked-together thud of You Can’t Afford Me or the stuttering garage beats of The Poison I Take Hoping You Will Suffer only highly the plod and lack of energy on display here. This is a release that grinds at multiple junctures, and while not particularly long in runtime, it can be a chore to get through simply because of how little momentum it can have at times. Admittedly, some of the production is quite nice in how glassy and precise it can be, like the whirring synths and great bass licks on I Know Something You Did and – obviously – Kevin Parker’s dreamier, more lush backgrounds for Call My Phone Thinking I’m Doing Nothing Better, but the very blatant missteps do show up here too. Idles sound frankly terrible with their implacable bass rumbles that form the bulk of the title track, and Chris Lorenzo’s drum ‘n’ bass attempt for Take Me As I Am sounds really awkward and flaccid, almost like it’s unfinished. And yet, that might just be the best microcosm for this current version of The Streets, an awkward shell of itself that hasn’t taken to development as much as diving headfirst into modernity and hoping things might go their way. Except given that Skinner is an unfortunately banal and lifeless presence here, it leaves None Of Us… as an experiment that rarely even comes close to paying off what it’s apparently set out to do. Again, it’s a lot like the more modern incarnation of Gorillaz, where the name recognition and sheer overload comprises the spectacle, while everything else that should actually matter is relegated to window dressing. It’s hard to imagine that appealing to anyone, especially given that The Streets don’t seem to be the draw they once were, and for their first release in nearly a decade, it’s unfortunate that this was the form that courting relevance is perceived to take.

4/10

For fans of: Gorillaz, Plan B, Professor Green

‘None Of Us Are Getting Out Of This Life Alive’ by The Streets is out now on Island Records.


Mike Shinoda – Dropped Frames, Vol. 1

If Mike Shinoda’s solo work has proven anything, it’s that he really needs someone to fall back on if he’s to succeed. The reason he’s such a powerful presence within Linkin Park’s music is that he’s just one part of a much bigger enterprise; compare that with his Fort Minor work that hasn’t held up well in either hip-hop or rock, or his solo album Post Traumatic that was never all that affecting as a tribute, and it reveals an artist with a lot of good ideas that he struggles to articulate on his own. What’s alarming is how that only seems to be getting unearthed now, and that can put into perspective exactly what a musician who’s been in the game for nearly 25 years is actually capable of. In a sense then, that positions Dropped Frames, Vol. 1 as something of a litmus test, an album created while in lockdown and entirely over Twitch that’s presumably being released as a showcase of a spurt of inspiration that Shinoda believes can stand up as its own thing. Though, for anyone with even mildly adequate cognitive skills who can glean that the title alone effectively confirms this as a collection of loose, cast-off beats with no greater purpose, it’s hard to believe that’s even slightly true. In almost every way possible, this feels like the first approximation of an album that’s been fast-tracked for release before even it’s been developed and properly constructed; song names like Cupcake Cake and Session McSessionface give the thudding impression of working titles that haven’t yet been removed, while the music itself roughly feels at the same stage given that barely any of these tracks are in a suitable state to be released as they are. Obviously instrumental electronic albums can work and have worked countless times, but Shinoda’s particular approach to that is so basic and sluggish that there’s nothing to really like about them in nearly the same way. The plodding, overly loud percussion on Super Galaxtica and Osiris really gets in the way of forming any sort of tangible groove or flow, and when tracks like Cupcake Cake and Babble Bobble barely sound like more than GarageBand live loops stitched together, they don’t even seem finished given the lack of distinct character that could mark them out as their own songs. That’s a big issue throughout Dropped Frames; apart from the predictable bites of Latin and Egyptian inspiration on El Rey Demonio and Osiris respectively, none of these tracks sound like they want to do anything or amount to more than the meagre pieces that they are, and it makes the whole thing seem like an incredibly pointless exercise where there’s no end goal in sight.

Even on the one complete song Open Door, the single track on this album with any sort of vocals or structure, it sounds incredibly flimsy, not only in a thrown-together sentiment about rising up and facing challenges that’s about as boilerplate as it gets, but it’s produced so thinly and cheaply, with a compressed percussion slap, rumbling bass and some horrendously oily guitar and vocal samples that might come together more as a complete whole than anything else on this album, but isn’t any better. What this all feels like is an attempt to coax the big-budget production style that Shinoda is used to through the formats of bedroom-pop or SoundCloud composition, almost as a way to give those styles a sense of scale that they wouldn’t normally have. But besides that entirely missing the point of what those genres aim to do, there’s no factoring in of the detail or the intricacy that’s so often imperative to acts in those lanes, and by Shinoda not even attempting to accommodate for that here, it makes for an album that has no worth outside the streams it was composed in. It’s still baffling why this was chosen to be released as a full-price album (and why that title hints that there’s more of this to come), given that there’s no satisfaction to be gained from listening to electronic music that feels as blocky and thrown-together as this, nor from arena-rock or electronic-rock that sounds blatantly unfinished throughout. This is the definition of wasted effort and the sort of thing that’s going to be forgotten in no time whatsoever, especially when interesting ideas are in such short supply and any replay value is basically nonexistent. In other words, there’s no reason that this should ever have existed outside of the medium it was created, and it’s more of a knock on Shinoda as an artist that he thought this was fit to be put out for public consumption at all.

3/10

For fans of: DJ Krush, Fort Minor, The Chainsmokers

‘Dropped Frames, Vol. 1’ by Mike Shinoda is out now on Kenji Kobayashi Productions.


The Lawrence Arms – Skeleton Coast

When punk bands are inducted into a significant standing or status within the genre, it’s usually easy to identify why; they’ll usually have some distinct feature to them, or have made important contributions to pushing the genre forward. With The Lawrence Arms though, it’s been difficult to identify what, if anything, that is with them, though that’s not a slight on them. They’ve always been a good band that’s anchored themselves in the Chicago sound as well as anyway, but aside from that, but they’ve never held the same amount of weight or import as similar bands like Alkaline Trio or even the Smoking Popes to an extent, and it doesn’t help when their new releases have become as sporadic as they have in recent years. As such, Skeleton Coast generally falls into the same classification as a lot of these albums do, namely a decent punk romp that’s still grizzled and energetic, but doesn’t offer a whole lot else, particularly in the way of longevity. Maybe it’s a result of late-period albums from punk bands from this particular era being so commonplace, but there isn’t much about Skeleton Coast that’s really shooting for the stars here. The Lawrence Arms are undoubtedly playing to their strengths by sounding rough and bracing, and there’s a nice dusty warmth to the production that captures all of that well, but the fact that only one of these fourteen tracks crosses over three minutes means that there’s definitely a chunk of it all that can feel inconsequential. As with all punk bands of their vintage, the capability to pluck out the odd hook that remains really potent is still here with Belly Of The Whale and Last Last Words, but The Lawrence Arms sticking so resolutely to their strengths without expansion or deviation isn’t impactful as it might’ve once been.

That said, it still sounds good, and for an album whose concept hops between impending doom and the hope to make it through, there’s just the right balance of rugged world-weariness that naturally comes age, and a dashing punk spirit that hasn’t dulled or faded away. Perhaps in the case of Brendan Kelly the former might’ve caught up with him a little too much, seeing as his rasp is so thick he can sound like he’s outright choking on PTA and Demon, but Chris McCaughan’s smoother, more equable voice more than make up as a foil, particularly when he dips into more pensive tones on tracks like Last Last Words and Coyote Crown, or serves as the basis for some excellent vocal layering between the two on Ghostwriter. It’s overall the sound of a band who really aren’t pushing themselves too far but are perfectly comfortable with what they’re doing, and are capable of leaning into the gruffness that over two decades of a career brings naturally without sounding old or tired. For as lacking in innovation or a standout core as Skeleton Coast is (both things that, to be completely honest, weren’t really expected to show up anyway), it’s still decent for what it is, even if that is just The Lawrence Arms clocking in on a semi-regular six- or seven-year basis to do what they’ve always done. It won’t be the most impressive thing to come out this year, almost entirely being a case of basically every note of this album being as predictable as it comes, but for punk with likability and any pretension turned way down, The Lawrence Arms aren’t a bad choice at all.

6/10

For fans of: Alkaline Trio, Off With Their Heads, The Loved Ones

‘Skeleton Coast’ by The Lawrence Arms is released on 17th July on Epitaph Records.


Strike Anywhere – Nightmares Of The West

Like Rise Against and Anti-Flag, Strike Anywhere are about as solid as it comes for hardline political yet unflinchingly melodic punk, but they don’t get nearly as much credit as the other two. Perhaps their particular highs mightn’t be quite as high as the other two, but in the vein of purer 21st Century punk, none of Strike Anywhere’s releases have slouched all that much, something that’s twice as important when they’re nowhere near as prolific as their peers. Nightmares Of The West is their first release in over a decade, and even then, as a seven-track EP at only around twenty minutes long, it’s not the most substantial showcase of a band who could certainly afford to get themselves out there a bit more. Though, when picking faults with Nightmares Of The West, that and the fact that it’s pretty standard Strike Anywhere fare is all that can really be identified, as this is pretty good across the board. It’s easy to fixate on the fact that the sharper skate-punk feel and Thomas Barnett’s throatier vocals aren’t reinventing the wheel in any capacity (because they’re not), but for a band whose third decade is now in front of them, there’s still impressive vigour and power here. They’re at their absolute best when fully leaning into the 2000s style with tracks like Documentary and The Bells, hitting with a lot of chunky guitar and bass work, and Eric Kane’s vicious drumming keeping the tempos nice and high, particularly in the shift over to more hardcore-borrowing tones on Frontier Glitch. It’s a sound that’s as good today as it always was, even with a lack of innovation, and Strike Anywhere’s fat-free approach gives it a key sense of speed when moving forward.

The writing, meanwhile, operates on a similarly recognisable political-punk bent, in that Strike Anywhere aren’t attempting to hide the broad, wide-ranging scope of their ire, but a lack of specificity isn’t to their detriment here. Barnett’s vocals do a lot to up the urgency on broadsides like Documentary and Dress The Wounds, as well as cultivate a more righteous sense of freedom and individuality in a world that seemingly wants to pave over that on We Make The Roads By Walking. It’s a common tactic for punk of this stripe that Strike Anywhere are clearly drilling deeply into, but it still works because it still feels powerful and relevant; The Bells might be a great song on its own as the sort of punk rollick that’s always easy to like, but the pertinence of a line like “No one remembers at all ‘till monuments fall” is increased so much in its current setting, and it’s a detailled flourish like that that keeps Strike Anywhere chugging along at such considerable speed. Yes, there’s been plenty of releases that might as well have been build on the exact same template, but that doesn’t stop Nightmares Of The West utilising what it has to its full advantage, and turning out remarkably well for it. Strike Anywhere’s command of both power and populism speaks for itself, and even if the slight confines of this release could be seen as a bit too short to a dissatisfying degree, keeping it as jam-packed as this is the ideal way to work around that. Hopefully that next full-length is on its way, because Strike Anywhere clearly haven’t fallen out of stride.

7/10

For fans of: Rise Against, Anti-Flag, Good Riddance

‘Nightmares Of The West’ by Strike Anywhere is released on 17th July on Pure Noise Records.


Massive Wagons – House Of Noise

Ah, Massive Wagons – a band who have more charm than they by all rights should. Their breakthrough full-length Full Nelson should’ve been a write-off by all means, as a very old-fashioned pastiche of Slade and Status Quo that had absolutely no business in any modern rock scene, but it also had a glint that made it quite likable, even if its impact hasn’t really stood over the last two years. At least it yielded one feel-good story, with them being the first band from Lancaster to earn a UK Top 40 album, a fact that will likely overshadow every bit of output that Massive Wagons release from now on. Because, let’s be frank – this sort of rock is not built around what it can bring, and any charm that Massive Wagons did have can easily be pushed to the wayside if it intrudes too much on the stock formula. It’s the fact that they’ve not done that at all that makes House Of Noise almost frustratingly likable, even if Massive Wagons remain a band that wouldn’t have a prayer of thriving outside of their very particular niche. It’s reminiscent of a more toned-down version of The Darkness, and while that might appear as though it completely defeats the object, it works to the band’s effect here, through a tried-and-true combination of big, crowd-pleasing hooks and a knowingly corny sense of humour present on tracks like Freak City and Professional Creep. Obviously they have a penchant for extending more than they can reasonably manage (The Curry Song is exactly the sort of pub-friendly novelty song they really should be moving away from), but there’s a refreshing lack of overblown rockstar testosterone to Massive Wagons, and channelling those impulses on In It Together and the title track becomes more earnest and down-to-earth for it.

There’s clearly passion to Massive Wagons that should be appreciated, though factoring in a rather stale and uninspired instrumental canvas can make that slightly harder to do. It’s not bad, to be fair, nor is this egregiously worse than last time, but the predicted lack of evolution really begins bear down when it’s stretched across almost an hour of music, some moments of which can be overly self-indulgent. Hero and Hallescrewya really don’t have the creativity or momentum to go on for five to six minutes apiece, nor does the closer Matter Of Time – presumably placed as the soaring ballad to cap things off – do enough to justify its eight. Beyond that, the issues are fairly standard with albums like this, only Massive Wagons’ grottier production style almost feels designed to emulate a pub atmosphere which is a bold move for a band whose genre often presents that as a flaw rather than a stylistic choice. At least the overall playing isn’t bad, and Baz Mills has the hoary belting in his vocal delivery to sound enthused and driving, rather than just falling into the pit of throwback vocalists co-opting yet another blues cadence. It’s just unremarkable more than anything; Massive Wagons’ particular sound isn’t new or really all that exciting, and while they’re more adrenalised than some of their peers in this scene (a few blatant guitar lifts from AC/DC here and there help), putting them in the wider rock ecosystem sees the cracks widen substantially more. If anything, moving toward slicker, more modern tones on the title track and Sad, Sad Song make for more interesting material, if only to see how revival-rock doesn’t need to be so viciously tethered to one particular chunk of the past. Embracing that will only yield positive results going forward, and while the charm offensive approach is currently doing enough to lift Massive Wagons away from full-blown mediocrity, there’s no guarantee that’ll always be the case. At least for now, there’s enough to like on House Of Noise, at least in spots, but focusing on moving forward is something that Massive Wagons need to take into consideration, for their benefit over anyone else’s.

6/10

For fans of: The Answer, Black Star Riders, Status Quo

‘House Of Noise’ by Massive Wagons is released on 17th July on Earache Records.


The Blinders – Fantasies Of A Stay At Home Psychopath

It’s very little wonder that The Blinders underwent a very defined boom-and-bust process on the cycle for their debut album. 2018’s Columbia wasn’t bad at all and had a certain amount of legs to it in terms of success, but garage-punk of their particular stripe isn’t something that sticks around for too long, and their consciousness of aesthetic and writing that often manifested as surface-level edginess could see them hang around far too close to Palaye Royale territory, a band that themselves aren’t wanted around at the best of times. Thus, it’s not all that surprising that Fantasies Of A Stay At Home Psychopath has crept into view without so much as a warning sign; with rare exception, bands like The Blinders just don’t have sustainable or consistent amounts of traction, and a lack of any hype has made it evident that all of theirs burned itself out last time. And that’s kind of a shame, because Fantasies… is definitely a more appealing product than its predecessor, giving the ideas laid down on there a new coat of paint to become darker and broodier, and subsequently more potent. For one, the big advancement in sound has done a lot for The Blinders going forward, where the largely scrappier sound has been pushed aside for something darker and sleazier, reminiscent of post-punk in its thumping basslines and atmosphere that shudders under the pressure and tension that it creates itself. It works the most when the band fully dive in grottier classic rock of Circle Song or the echo of the deliberate blues shudder of I Want Gold, but it’s an approach that’s been plugged in elsewhere to really elevate some otherwise ordinary musical turns, like lending a reverberating scale to more standard dalliances with garage-rock on Something Wicked This Way Comes and Rage At The Dying Of The Light. Thomas Haywood unfortunately still isn’t the greatest vocalist in the world, but if nothing else, leaning into it helps, and with the stark black production that coats a lot of this album, it does a better job at covering any natural shortcomings than being soaked in fuzz did on Columbia.

Even the writing has been improved this time around, even if The Blinders’ reference points for a lot of their frustration still stem from a very broad cross-section of modern society and politics that isn’t exactly blossoming with inspiration at this stage. As pointed as criticisms of the political systems on both sides of the Atlantic are on Something Wicked This Way Comes and Lunatic (With A Loaded Gun), they’re still grounds that have been trodden on before, though it’s clear that the band are certainly exercising some greater lyrical muscle when it comes to how they’re approaching them. That simmering darkness that’s fed into this album is once again a key component with a sort of anger that represents the same sordid, rotting-over execution as the music itself, and that’s far more compelling just on principle alone. That’s not to say clangers don’t slip through the net (“I want gold, I want money / I wanna feel just like Bugs Bunny” should never have made it past drafting, let alone feature in I Want Gold twice), but The Blinders are generally a lot better at working with the canvas they have this time, both in a representation of the discord they find themselves engulfed in, and in the sense of fracturing loneliness and isolation that it can create on Circle Song and Mule Track. It’s much more robust as a package than its predecessor even got close to being, and deviating from a pretty ephemeral style has done The Blinders a world of good in almost every regard. It’s easily the closest they’ve come to showing that there is the possibility for greatness in there, and though Fantasies… doesn’t quite make it on its own, continuing on down this route could lead them there pretty soon. And for now, an album like this that’s so indicative of a band that wants to be more and are willing to really embrace those impulses to get there is still a more-than-worthwhile listen.

7/10

For fans of: Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, Sports Team, Puppy

‘Fantasies Of A Stay At Home Psychopath’ by The Blinders is released on 17th July on Modern Sky.


Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard – The Non-Stop EP

By and large, indie-rock has established something of a community for itself among its newer acts, being fully comfortable at sloughing off the limitations that previous iterations of the genre had, and following a more fertile, individualistically creative path that’s more reminiscent of the Wild West of the ‘90s than anything else, only steeped with the snark and ennui that’s so quintessentially 21st Century. Just look at the title of Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard’s new release for a perfect example of that, which markets itself as an EP despite being ten tracks and regular album length, as if to immediately wear opinions about musically ‘normality’ as a construct to be tossed-off whenever possible prominently on its sleeve. It’s that cavalier nature that informs so many of the musical directions on The Non-Stop EP, and for the better too, as Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard lean back into ‘60s and ‘70s rock before scagging it up with a positive drenched sense of garage-rock snark and reflexiveness that might as well be the closest representation of the archetypal rockstar in 2020. A song like Hollywood Actors might welcome it more than most, as a pseudo-inspirational anthem on the surface that ultimately welcomes its sneering undertones, but even in the absolute most basic and played-out templates in rock music history – the driving song on Late Night City; the celebration of rock ‘n’ roll itself on John Lennon Is My Jesus Christ; even the almost stupidly simple dance song that barely left the ‘50s on Double Denim Hop – Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard bring them forward and buoy them with pure sarcasm and bravado to stand on their own.

It’s rare that something like that doesn’t get infuriating or outstay its welcome either; perhaps it’s because Tom Rees’ vocals aren’t drowned in impenetrable fuzz like so many others would do, but the very rampant throwbacks to sounds gone by have more of a tolerance to hold something like that. The likes of Stockholm City Rock and Hollywood Actors stock up on the mountainous hard rock riffs and volume to get by, while the honking, T. Rex-esque lilt of What Is Hate? and the bass-and-acoustic swing of John Lennon Is My Jesus Christ dig into more left-of-centre sources than what a throwback-rock band might typically explore. It’s all typically good stuff, seeing as Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard are given the right production job to split the difference between classic fuzz and crackle and more intrinsically modern distortion. Still, they aren’t totally immune to roadblocks even despite that, as the rather forgettable acoustic track Long Day / Free Day establishes, as well as crystallising the notion that Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard don’t really know what they want to be. That in itself comes across as both a feature and a flaw in equal measure, presenting itself as a throwback to the past delivered with a modern attitude, but also one that doesn’t leave that much room for expansion or moving forward. That’s going to be the biggest hurdle for Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard to conquer, even if The Non-Stop EP is actually really enjoyable for what it is and places them among the standouts of this current indie wave. They’re a band for whom ideas materialise more regularly than solutions, and compiling them all has paid off here, but it might still be worth looking ahead and finding a way to get a better balance between the two, just to make sure that level of quality sticks.

7/10

For fans of: Sports Team, The Mysterines, The Blinders

‘The Non-Stop EP’ by Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard is out now on Communion Records.


Figures – Operating In Unsafe Mode

It’s understandable why anyone would look at the details surrounding Figures and just resign right then and there. Oh look, another prog band with a dense, heavily produced sound and concept generally revolving around political and dystopian subject matter, as if there wasn’t a literal metric ton of them already. Then there’s the fact that the bulk of them fall into abject monotony or completely unearned pretentiousness pretty much from the jump, and it makes the prospect of having to sit through yet another one feel less and less attractive with each bit of thought given to it. Thankfully, Figures’ debut full-length Operating In Unsafe Mode does feel as though it’s striving for its own thing more often than many of its contemporaries, though how often it actually hits that is another thing entirely. There’s still the tech-metal template in place that tends to move into the spotlight more often than it should, especially in the second half, and when it does, it just becomes difficult to care or pay all that much attention. Tracks like Inside You’re Alone and Force Feeding are so rigid as they conform to a chromed-up, atmospheric formula to the letter, even sucking out much of the personality in Mark Tronson’s voice that, admittedly across much of the album, is built up as a differentiating factor. It’s not a tactic that paints Figures in all that positive of a light, instead making them out as a band more than happy to slink back to the rudimentary roots of their genre if need be, and that’s severely downplaying what they’re actually. Granted, their willingness to show that can fluctuate, particularly in the lyrical arc that takes the exact roads that one would expect with track titles lime Underpaid Machinery and Matrix Love, but it’s not like they have to explicitly draw attention to it as much as they do.

Indeed, there’s actually a good amount of flexibility to Figures that works to their advantage, stemming from a technique of stacking and reinforcing their tech-metal side with varying other sounds to make it feel at least a bit more diverse. It doesn’t always work, as the nu-metal rapping and turntable scratches of Syntax prove, but in Failure To React which is a more expansive concentration of individual threads set by their fellow Australians Northlane and Hands Like Houses, or the more aggressive, borderline hardcore pivots of Someone Uninvited and Pedestals (the former easily being the album’s standout moments), there’s a freshness there that comes appreciated, especially for how well its pulled off. The production gloss and steely finish is also brought over wholesale from more standard tech-metal, though that’s a far more effective tool for reinforcement here; it keeps the overall sound grand and metallic, remaining heavy and clinically sharp in the way that albums like this tend to want, but not with overbearing sterility that can often be a problem. On a technical level, Operating In Unsafe Mode is as resoundingly solid as tech-metal tends to be, and the small but sure steps that Figures are taking out of that small, cramped catchment area do seem to be pointing towards auspicious places for them. The issue is that the tentativeness they’ve gone into this album with just isn’t enough, and it leaves it as a decent taster of what’s to come bolted onto a fairly standard example of what they should be aiming above. That’s still more than most will bring, but Figures could be a lot better if they’d just take the leap and move away from bland, safe formula.

6/10

For fans of: Northlane, Nothing More, Periphery

‘Operating In Unsafe Mode’ by Figures is released on 17th July.


Words by Luke Nuttall

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