REVIEW ROUND-UP: Idles, Volumes, Maybeshewill

Idles

Crawler

It’s hard to know what to do with Idles nowadays. On one hand, their work ethic is clearly unparalleled in what’s now their fourth album in just five years (not including the two live releases in the same period), but especially after last year’s Ultra Mono, the notion of diminishing returns is all too real, more so than ever before. That album felt like Idles doing what they were supposed to rather than what they wanted, in slogan-driven, barrel-chested punk that chronically lacked the spark of what came before. The fact the band themselves have actively acknowledged that criticism, yet have already dropped its follow-up, feels more like an attempt to sweep a misstep under the rug than grow from it, though to its credit, Crawler is a much different animal. It leans into the heavied, heaving post-punk of which the scene they ultimately facilitated would morph into, meaning there’s definitely precedent for this sound working, but not necessarily for Idles themselves. If anything, Crawler comes as more like an over-correction from Ultra Mono, where the band lurch into a darkness that feels out of their wheelhouse but also out of the realms of believability for them. Hearing Joe Talbot actually sing is one thing (though it’s nice to see there’s still a hardscrabble element to it like on The Beachland Ballroom), but there isn’t the same sort of energy to this album overall. It’s not necessarily bad on its own—the likes of The Wheel and Car Crash are pretty solid attempts at that sound, and the alleyway into dance-punk with The New Sensation is the closest to a more ‘traditional’ Idles sound—but the lairy heft of old feels generally shorn away for a sound that could more or less slide into the crowd, something that they’ve been keen to generally avoid. At least the production holds firm in the coursing pulse of the bass and drums, and Talbot still acts as a commanding presence behind the microphone, something which ensures an unshakable degree of quality to Idles’ work regardless of what direction they take. It’s not like their old lyrical quirks have fully gone either; their leaning on sloganeering does thankfully seem to be eased back (though it’s not impossible to affix that quality to something like Crawl!’s declaration of “I’m feeling magni-fucking-fique”), and in terms of the politicking that’s become Idles’ bread and butter, there’s a keener balance of their trademark humour and reference points with a more oblique stylisation that’s more prevalent in the post-punk they’re leaning towards. It does decrease the number of obvious hooks though, in a way that might just seem to keep the notion of Idles’ decline ongoing. The creative strides and rock-solid intent behind them ensure Crawler doesn’t feel like a failure, but it’s also not enough to dissuade any notions of Idles pumping these albums out without honing in on their greatest strengths. It’s not a bad thing to take some time off to think and retool when needed, and the one-two punch of Ultra Mono and now this would imply that it’s direly necessary. Again, it’s not bad, but it’s hard to see anyone really clamouring for something like this from Idles either.

6/10

For fans of: Fontaines D.C., Shame, Viagra Boys

‘Crawler’ by Idles is out now on Partisan Records.


Volumes

Happier?

There’s a reason that Volumes have never truly excited in metalcore, and it’s not a hard one to deduce. Hell, it’s the exact same one that can be applied to so many other downtuned, djent-minded bands the scene vomits out—they’re often proficient, but the songs don’t stick when there’s so many others doing the same thing. Where a song like Pullin’ Shades from their last album went right in focusing on melody and crunch combined (and actually wound up rather great as a result), it’s an outlier in a catalogue that’s virtually interchangeable with countless others. What’s more, Volumes also serve as an example of a band too far gone to see any real improvements or adaptations set in, ergo they keep turning out more of the same that winds up just as underwhelming as the last helping. The point to really stress is that Happier? is no significant amount worse than so many others in its lane, but that isn’t a strength on Volumes’ part; it only serves to highlight their interchangeability, where the mechanical breakdowns and rote metalcore content feel fresh off the assembly line. At least the sprinklings of melody that existed last time do return, even if Bend and the title track aren’t as strong, but it’s still good that they’re here at all, if only to provide some decent reprieve. Beyond that though, Volumes leave incredibly little to say, and perhaps even less to actively praise. It’s rarely memorable or catchy, with even diminished presence from the more fluid clean vocals that made some of their past work solid. It feels very blocky and sterile as a result, as if the anchoring factor to the scene that Volumes have always had have been blown out to even greater proportions, and begun to really subsume everything in their wake. Even compared to how uneven and beholden to the sway of its scene Different Animals was in 2017, Happier? just seems to compound that; even for the crowd that might still have a fondness for music like this despite the glaring overexposure, it’s hard to see what this could really add to conversation, or where the larger appeal could be found. It’s almost like the sparks of promise Volumes provide aren’t indicative to what they’re capable of on a greater scale, and that’s probably the biggest disappointment of all.

4/10

For fans of: Northlane, After The Burial, Thornhill

‘Happier?’ by Volumes is released on 19th November on Fearless Records.


Maybeshewill

No Feeling Is Final

It probably says more about post-rock’s lack of wider profile than anything that Maybeshewill’s return has felt so muted, as, for one of the most celebrated bands the scene has produced in recent memory, that shouldn’t be the case. They disbanded in 2016 and reunited for a one-off show in 2018, presumably now being back for good with a new album, but also beholden to the fact that they’re never going to be a huge band in the grand scheme of things. That said, if there’s one instance that could very much feel as though they’re towing the line, it would be No Feeling Is Final, a melding of colossal cinematic grandeur with a notable instability burbling through to subsequently have a greater command of dynamics than the vast majority of instrumental post-rock will. If nothing else, all the stops have clearly been pulled out to sound as lush and grandiose as possible, in the clarion strings and wide-open production that can sound absolutely stunning on tracks like Zarah and Invincible Summer when the light dapples and dances through, but also has the potential to come crashing back to reality when the guitars roar and the colour drains. Even Tide represents the dichotomy the best, spending its almost eight-minute runtime establishing the scope and light in the first half, only to bring it plummeting to the abyss in the second. Where post-rock can often feel like unrepentant naval-gazing, Maybeshewill deftly avoid anything of the sort; the omnipresent sense of focus truly is impressive, and it gives the album a weight and import that this genre regularly wants to have but seldom does. Even removed from the central idea that it scores, of the doomed futures in humanity’s wake and the last-ditch attempts made to pull back into something brighter, No Feeling Is Final clicks so much more readily and deeply on its own. As a comeback it’s hard to actively fault too much, and as an example of a genre that so routinely loses its way, Maybeshewill are so clearly in a higher class that that isn’t an issue to any degree. A real sleeper hit, this one, and one that probably won’t get nearly the attention it deserves.

8/10

For fans of: Explosions In The Sky, And So I Watch You From Afar, 65daysofstatic

‘No Feeling Is Final’ by Maybeshewill is released on 19th November on Robot Needs Home.


Bears In Trees

and everybody else smiled back

Bears In Trees feel like the ideal permutation of an alternative band for the modern era. There’s an online sensibility and TikTok readiness to them (as evidenced by some impressive groundswell across all platforms), as well as a very approachable, homespun air that always has a lot of appeal. The key difference comes from what’s beyond that, where those qualities can be endemic of a brief whiff of success and not much else, but that’s not what Bears In Trees are. In the realms of pop-rock and indie-pop, their debut and everybody else smiled back is a borderline peerless example of that musical mosaic falling effortlessly into place, coupled with boundless relatability and a song-crafting knack to die for. What could easily tip into over-polish or twee subsequently feels just right for these songs, as the likes of Heaven Sent Is A Coffee Cup and Sun Machine skip by with bright-eyed exuberance, and the sweet twinkles and rustles that characterise Baggy Hoodies and Little Cellist borrow from midwestern emo and tight-knit indie-folk in just the right capacities. Compositionally, Bears In Trees are so difficult to fault when their own earnestness bleeds through as rapidly as it does, in how gently the guitars, bass, keys and ukulele mesh and create a sound that’s unassuming but unfailingly charming. More than that though, there’s a heart to this album that might honestly be unmatched within the band’s field, in vignettes of mutual depression, loneliness, personal discovery and a feeling of life’s constant attrition, set to the backdrop of first-time independence in university that resonates on an even more bone-deep level. But there are moments of light among that though, of friends and new experiences that prove worthwhile among the turbulence, and along with Bears In Trees’ impeccable knack for detail and humour in their lyricism, and everybody else smiled back comes imbued with a wonderful honesty that makes it shine even more incandescently. It makes for a perfect example of specificity being more universally gripping and impactful than generalities, where Bears In Trees are supremely accessible throughout, but drill into a humanity that’s phenomenally potent in its ability to connect. Very few albums this year have had that effect to this extent, and even fewer are this rich in laser-focused earnestness and compassion. In the right mindset with the right circumstances, nothing else compares to what Bears In Trees deliver here.

9/10

For fans of: NOAHFINNCE, Cavetown, Rob Lynch

‘and everybody else smiled back’ by Bears In Trees is released on 19th November on Counter Intuitive Records.


Breichiau Hir

Hir Oes i’r Cof

In the annuls of Welsh post-hardcore, Breichiau Hir feel more—for lack of a better word—authentic. Whereas the most immediate names that come to mind are more inextricably tied to previous waves of Britrock, Breichiau Hir feel like their own beast, both in concept and execution. The fact that their lyrics are entirely in Welsh is a dead giveaway, but they’ve also got a more layered sound, more akin to the indie-rock at the edges of that scene in the 2000s. On top of that, there is a more almost intangible beauty to this album, be that in tones that are more tactile like on 07-04-17 and Dal Lan Gydan Hun, or in the surge that complements immediacy with the open sonic vistas behind it across a majority of the album. It’s easy to restrain that in as synonymous with the standard Britrock sound—indeed, in terms of production leaning towards that slightly older era, it’s not out of the question—but there’s definitely a feel of something more pervasive on the whole. That’s fitting given how nostalgia shapes this album, and the idealisation of the past can often exacerbate the cracks in the now (sometimes to an obsessive degree), and the melancholy of Steffan Dafydd’s vocals paired with the natural shape of the Welsh language fits it with such an airtight aesthetic, even beyond the sound and content. It feels more substantial overall, where if this was an English-language release it mightn’t have the same impact through repetition, but the infusions of heritage and locality even just though osmosis really give Hir Oes i’r Cof a big boost. That said, it can also be a fair barrier to entry, maybe more so than other non-English albums, though that does add to the appeal somewhat, if only through intrigue alone. There’s definitely more to dig into here than a more ‘traditional’ Britrock album in the same or adjacent lane, and the indication that Breichiau Hir know that and are playing into it is impressively well done. This is well worth the time to take a look at; the catch-all blanket of ‘Welsh post-hardcore’ doesn’t do it any favours on first impression, but Breichiau Hir have considerably more to offer.

7/10

For fans of: Yourcodenameis:milo, Tubelord, Tellison

‘Hir Oes i’r Cof’ by Breichiau Hir is released on 19th November on Libertino Records.


NYT LIV

Den døde sol

It doesn’t feel like a coincidence that NYT LIV have so much in common with Kvelertak. The latter have regularly been touted (though more so in their earlier days) as one of the most exciting forces in punk-leaning heavy music, so co-opting the same barrelling, spit-drenched hardcore feels like a no-brainer overall. Solidified by NYT LIV singing in their native Danish, the similarities can almost seem too close, though to be fair, it’s not like there’s a particular saturation in this sound, nor a case where it couldn’t benefit from the greater representation that NYT LIV are giving it. Perhaps the lack of Kvelertak’s metallic edge does set them back slightly, but it’s hardly that noticeable when Michael Aageson is at the helm with a suitably hoary shout, complementing a brand of hardcore that consistently revels in its own burly rumbling. A track like Mens livet forsvinder places a fantastic onus on gnarled bass quakes that give the overall sound its hardest edges, coupled with guitars and a production style that have an almost Turnstile-esque quality to them. It gives NYT LIV a real leanness in what they’re doing, and it keeps the momentum rolling at a pretty constant clip. This is a pretty short album on the whole, but there’s enough meat on it to never feel slight or truncated, or as though there isn’t a lot going on here. Translating the lyrics mightn’t reveal too much else—there’s tortured nihilism and destructiveness that fits this sort of music but has been outclassed by more vibrant subject matter elsewhere—but there’s still enough to get swept up in the ensuing landslide that is this album. Any shortcomings are vastly made up for by the energy on display, a calling card of hardcore like this and one that NYT LIV are already incredibly proficient at making use of. If nothing else, it’s exactly the rip-roaring good time that one would expect from this sound, with NYT LIV staking a convincing claim as a true hot property in the making.

7/10

For fans of: Kvelertak, Turnstile, Gallows

‘Den døde sol’ by NYT LIV is released on 19th November on Indisciplinarian Records.


Words by Luke Nuttall

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s