The Longcut - A Call And Response
The advent of music television has had its positives and negatives. Whilst, at one time, MTV was the purveyor of new and exciting music videos it now manages to show very little actual music and just programs on making bling cars and tours of artists homes. However the idea spread and, if you have satellite TV (which I don't), there's now plenty of channels vying for your attention. I remember the first time I saw The Longcut, it was on one of the more obscure music channels and I couldn't get enough of them. The video began as a house party the band playing in a tiny room - squeezed together - and they didn't seem to have a vocalist. Until half way through the song that is, when the drummer started the drum machine, squeezed his way to the front and began singing. It was such an extraordinary sight and sound, that I vowed to keep an eye out for them.
Nearly two years since their debut live performances and EP's, you can safely say these guys haven't had the same recognition or amazing curve of support like, say, the Arctic Monkeys. But they've toured relentlessly and having signed to Deltasonic, have now unleashed their debut album. And what an album it is.
One phrase that seems to be mentioned when describing these guys is "shoegazing". Now, if I remember correctly bands like Ride and Jesus & Mary Chain were described as shoegazing due to their ponderous nature and the shuffling "dance" fans could do whilst listening to them. I just can't see how this describes The Longcut's musical assault on your senses. Each song is like a sprawling beast twitching with guitar licks and frantic switches of drumming. In fact, the alternation between drum machine and live drumming whilst Stuart Ogilvie moves between the sticks and the microphone gives them the ability to shift gear nicely. Gentle beginnings to tracks or subdued middle passages give way to a free-for-all thrashes at either end.
This is also a band that has taken its surroundings and influences and skewed them into something a little bit different. There are hints of early New Order and Joy Division, the post-rock meanderings of Mogwai and, in places, the indie-dance influence of The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays all wrapped in the air of Manchester and the North.
If anything prepares you for what's to follow it's the opening track A Last Act of Desperate Men. It slowly builds through a trashy riff and drum machine whilst Ogilvie delivers the vocals in his forced manner, the bass line just bubbling under the service. It's once Ogilvie gets behind the sticks about half way through does it then begin its descent into a wall of noise, but not without first hinting at a delicacy, an ability to create something beautiful, before it ends in a mash of drumming and piercing guitar riff. Proving they're no one-trick-pony though, Gravity in Crisis has it's beginnings in jaunty indie pop before the vocals and rock licks kicks in when it comes across as something Sonic Youth might have done in their more song-orientated moods.
The only time they let their foot off the gas is the oddly titled Holy Funk, a much more sedate song with a gentle hue of strings behind a more traditional indie-by-numbers effort and perhaps the only disappointment on here. Lonesome No More is another ponderous moment as well, described by the band as a close to a love song as they'll get, it breaks up the second half of the album nicely. A Quiet Life is the highlight for me. Drawing on the indie-dance past of Manchester, the fuzzed up beats great you, the vocals delivered in a manner not too dissimilar to Ian Curtis, but it grabs your attention and it progresses into a sheer wall of guitars and noise with a riff that hasn't left my head for weeks.
This is an album that's quickly asserted itself as one of my favourites of the year. It's full of ideas that are delivered in such a way that you can't do anything but get sucked in and overwhelmed by the music. This is a record that deserves your undying attention, as the feedback and noise that closes the album with Spires echoes round your head, just be thankful that bands can still make and release music like this.