Desperate Journalist

Here's the bit that hurts: this ain't for the young 'uns. Dang. If only. But no: Desperate Journalist (oh, how much fun we'll have in 2015 watching the puffed up stiffs wrestle with that mouthful), so heavily equipped, so ineffably cool, ain't peddling the quick thrill. And your festival kidz, jacked up on a steady diet of hasty, ham-fisted re-invention (the fatty bray of Royal Blood; the cod collectivism of Kasabian; Sheeran the torpid troubadour), they sure won't want to chow down on anything as rich as this. No, Desperate Journalist take their cue from altogether sharper reference points. Sure, this accomplished debut's key constituents are de facto hand-me-downs but they're classic, vintage, and accessorised with sure-footed style.

Classic indie pop shapes collide with something altogether more shadowy. Desperate Journalist pitch their hefty dynamic (brooding bass, echoing snare, guitars everywhere) an inch ahead of an obvious scramble for the big hook. They're all expanse and sheen: sleek, crafted, a cool remove from twee or inward. Desperate Journalist is never less than animal. Singer Jo Bevan will knock you to the floor: her voice is a clean and muscly alto; an instrument you fall for hard. (Bevan would overpower drippy, reedy backing, thus the band go large.) Like Morrissey (and Desperate Journalist will for sure attract this kind of comparison but, you suspect, for all the wrong reasons), she has stories to tell and she tells them properly: at length. Songs play out as a series of pointed dialogues. Hooks fly, Bevan stretching vowels to breaking point. Words spill out into the distance across busy, trick-sy verses; squeezing a way in, and only just. For once, you sense a writer who retreats with a notebook and then presents this torrent of words to the band - as it should be. It will fit – it will have to fit. You can’t ever imagine Desperate Journalist jamming or exploring a groove in practice: all is precise, all is deliberate.

Killer songs throughout: the stinging 'Control' gets too many jabs in too early, you worry, as you buckle beneath its skyscraper chorus ("Open the vein!") but there are jewels in reserve. You'll sniff out Rob Hardy's influences in an instant but boy, the fucker can play: he launches 'O' with a volley of artful arpeggios and then keeps the whole thing afloat with half a dozen supporting riffs. What's this? A guitarist in an indie band in 2015, adventurous, (dutifully) attention-seeking, properly, you know, capable? Who knew? 'Christina' is lights-camera-action, lusty dazzle pop: one day all dizzying out-and-back middle eights will be made like this. It's not all smash-and-grab vigour - when they step it down, Desperate Journalist show a full hand. 'Distance' is downcast and brooding; as affecting as the finest, truest balladry. 'Remainder' is an aching howl: "I'm sorry I'm not kinder", offers Bevan amidst stark self-examination. Eleven tracks: every single one fights for its place.

Will it change your life? Probably not. Actually, it might. Dunno. Don’t care. It's coloured, enlivened, aided in wholly unexpected ways this one, so keep an open mind on that. Sure, it's not going to spark anything but you can’t help but wish more bands had this air of post-punk, dissident cool: the two-guys-two-girls set-up; Bevan's peroxide crop; eyeliner and DMs for all. There's a select crowd just waiting for a Desperate Journalist to turn up, surely? They offer a pointed reminder that when prevailing trends sweep through town, somewhere amidst the debris lies treasure. This lot will never dictate but they'll never date, either. One day, when we're all properly old, we'll find ourselves on this ridiculous merry-go-round again. Hey, you'll say, this lot remind me of… Seriously. Stick it in your diary. See you back here in, ooh, what – twenty years? It's a date. As smart a re-energising of left-field indie as you could reasonably hope for right now, Desperate Journalist are the real deal.

Overall

TDF SILVER

9

out of 10

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