posted on April 07, 2009 19:00
A review of the album Grammatics by Grammatics
Review Snapshot: Grammatics’ mishmash debut album can sometimes be embarrassing in its attempt to cover a lot of ground, leaving you thinking that too much of an influence is a bad thing. Anyone got a Solpadeine?
The Cluas Verdict? 5.5 out of 10
‘Bona fide genius.’ So said the NME of Grammatics’ debut album, entitled, er, Grammatics. Far from genius, this album is a muddle of sounds that never seemed to have been introduced to each other before the recording process. As a fan of experimentation, I thought this blend of violins, deep and dirty distortion, Foals-like harmonics and falsetto would leave me feeling full. Instead, the album gave a sense of never understanding its purpose, or truly feeling its sound. Lead singer Owen Brinley describes his participation in the band on MySpace as a ‘squeal,’ which I take to be an appropriate and not wholly ironic description of how Brinley sings. If you can make it to the end of the album in one go without gritting your teeth at his forced falsetto, I applaud your tolerance.
The NME might be guilty of abusing language with exaggeration, but they were correct when they called the Leeds band ‘ambitious musical shape-shifters.’ Post rock? Post Pop? Art rock? Gimmick rock? It’s hard to know where Grammatics slot into the current musical scene, but then, perhaps it’s insulting to try and make them fit. In any case, Grammatics is an album that leaves you scratching your head and wondering what happened to the somber and promising beginnings of opening track Shadow Committee.
We move from track to track in a jolting manner, with no release or sense of conclusion. Although technically quite musical, the tracks just don’t work. Second track D.I.L.E.M.M.A clearly spells gimmick, and sounds so much like Foals that I begin to wonder if the influences are too much for Grammatics to handle. There are little flashes of indie pop group Delays’ sound too with Murderer, a song vaguely reminding me of the early 90s big hair soaps that appeared on Sky One.
Begrudgingly, there are highlights. Grammatics’ high comes in at the midpoint of the album with a track called ‘Relentless Fours’. This song reveals that Brinley’s voice can lose control and sounds quite good in the process. Emilia Ergin joins in with a sweet voice that is refreshing and gives the band a much clearer sound. One begins to wonder why Ergin’s vocal talents have not been exploited on other tracks. The a capella harmony might be a bit repetitive in its lyrics but it shows that sometimes Brinley can sing naturally.
Signed to Dance to the Radio (Howling Bells, Sky Larkin, The Pigeon Detectives), and gearing up to support Bloc Party in the autumn, Grammatics might be trendy and loved by NME, but for me their sound is a try-hard attempt at being unique without making it.