Sunday, December 23, 2007

On the Balcony Next Door

Before going on with my end-of-year list, I have to say some things about the new Pants Yell! record. Because Alison Statton (named after the Young Marble Giants singer, of course) is their BIG album. I knew it soon as I opened the parcel from Soft Abuse and saw the jewelcase. Because only a classic album would be released in a jewelcase in these days of digipacks, 3"s, transparent vinyl, mp3s and cdrs. Listening to the songs, it's hard not to think of The Boy With the Arab Strap and other records that made their creators huge.

The last time that happened to an indiepop group seems to be with Camera Obscura's Underachievers Please Try Harder, and even though only a mere four years ago, it's hard to see that as a possibility these days. If AS had come out in 1998 I think Pants Yell! would be Everywhere now. Even though there isn't a huge development in Andrew's songwriting skills (last year's Recent Drama was already a work of genius) there's a clear line of development from their first release Songs For Siblings: fuller, more intricate arrangements, crisper sound and the quirky song-structures have been bent into one immaculate pop hook. And obviously Carly's distinct drumming is gone, but Casey brings new textures to the songs that create yet more variation.

From the perfect opening track "More Purple" with its brass-driven sound, followed by the more old-school Pants Yell! sound of "Reject, Reject" that was a live favourite last year already, then "Tried to Be Good" which is the first of two big POP! songs on the record, Andrew's own favourite (and maybe mine too) "Evan's Way" follows in mellow and more autobiographical tone and is perhaps the best example of how this time they've got the guitar sounds Just Right, "A New City Life" is the songs that sticks out in the middle with it's unprecedented use of distortion, "Magenta and Green" is the other irresistible pop rush and suddenly you glimpse an influence from the British indiepop of the 80s that I know Andrew loves but that hasn't been tangible on their previous efforts, "Shoreham Kent" is AS's "Simple Things" and over in just over a minute, "Alison Statton" then is its "Boy With the Arab Strap" (or why not "Too Much Love"?) with a bouncy piano that won't let you leave the dance floor, and it's tempting to see "The Royal We" as a mirror image of Belle & Sebastian's mention of another contemporary Glasgow group but it actually isn't, the acoustic "For Dee" is almost prettier than "Pony Tales", and through to the end with "Two French Sisters" that must be one of the best closing tracks on a pop album ever (though I admit being slightly biased in that evaluation!), this is one of the most important coherent recordings of the decade.

CLOUD 30 Pants Yell! - Evan's Way

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