Four Day Hombre - Experiments in Living
I have a reasonably tolerant wife. On the whole, she'll let me go and buy a bunch of CD's and not be too annoyed. She'll occasionally roll her eyes when I come home with yet another album, but on the whole, I get away with it. However, I can't see her letting me give four grand or so to my favourite new band. When I think of some of the bands over the years I've thought were going to be the next best thing, this is probably for the best - twelve years ago I would have gladly handed over my life savings to Thousand Yard Stare, and in retrospect, lets face facts - they were rubbish.
However, Four Day Hombre have a very generous fan-base with very accepting wives, as a number of their followers have indeed donated large sums of money to enable them to set up their own record label and produce this, their debut album. Formed out of Lancaster University, the five piece came together a few years back, but suffered set back after set back attempting to follow the normal route - do gigs, get a manager, get signed, make a record. Instead, they took the DIY approach, asking their mailing list for money. Amazingly, the fans responded (the BBC website has more on this story) and the money came in, allowing the band to rent Black Box studios in France, with their chosen producer Dave Odlum. Odlum had previously worked with artists such as The Frames and in particular dEUS, a band to whom comparisons could be made. So was the investment worth it? Are these fans likely to see any money back?
There are ten songs here, running in at a refreshingly short 43 minutes. The influences are clear; a quieter dEUS, with shades of Radiohead, Elbow, and The Doves. However, the vocal is very much Chris Martin through and through, particularly on opening track "The First Word is the Hardest". It is pure Coldplay, setting the same agenda as "Don't Panic" from Parachutes. The songs are accomplished and well arranged, but there is a real sense here that you've heard it all before.
"Don't Go Gently" is better, and sounds much more individual. The guitar is powerful, with an excellent echoed vocal in the chorus. Again though, the quieter vocal really REALLY sounds like Chris Martin, far too much like Coldplay for my liking. "Flame" is a beautiful, relaxing song, with a country sound and full of sentiment. "Thirteenth of the Month" is also very special; simple piano arranged around a waltz, with loads of reverb and some wonderful guitar work.
"1000 Bulbs" ups the tempo a notch, a muscular song with an excellent chorus and some interesting keyboard flourishes. "Inertia" is also pretty good, starting smooth and gentle before the guitars snarl and grind at the end. Album close "Three Years" though takes the pace back down again, finishing procedings on a stately note.
This album, though accomplished, slick and professional, just doesn't have that edge to mark it above others. There isn't that "song", that one defining moment that is going to make it special. Coldplay did it with "Yellow", Snow Patrol did it with "Run", but I am just not hearing that stand-out song on this album that is going to take it into the interest of the general public. Any investment is for the longterm, and we could and should hear more of this band over the coming years, but if I'd sunk my savings into this, I wouldn't be holding out much hope of a return just yet.