on 2 July 2006
The word 'blistering' has perhaps been overused in music journalism, but it could have been invented for Forward Russia. Exploding onto dozens of stages over the last 2 years, they have proven to be one of the most exciting live bands around. Melding the frenetic guitar fury of At The Drive-In with the rough-edged disco indie of the Rapture, their sound is strange, unique, and instantly distinguishable.
This is easily exemplified on the album by Thirteen, the opening track - a keyboard arpeggio and picked guitar intro is beaten out by disco drums and off-kilter bass while Tom screeches about Van Gogh and Pharoahs over the top, to then suddenly rampage into a fantastic pop chorus. One of the things the Russians do well is switching from cavernous, murky depths to sudden moments of brilliant pop catchiness that give the songs instant memorability.
The next song, Twelve, brilliantly encapsulates the thrill of Forward Russia's live act, Tom's vocals frantically trying to keep pace with Whiskas' guitar, the guitar furiously racing Katie Nicholls' thrashing drums. Constantly varying in pace and texture, this song does more in a furious 2 minutes than some bands will do in a whole album.
Again recalling At The Drive-In, the lyrics are often oblique, yet carefully conceptual under their tangental images and apparently nonsensical structures. As with the music, there's meaning to the madness, sense in the chaos. This might even be a concept album (if it's ever possible to not make a record that someone will call a concept album).
Give Me A Wall's centrepiece and highlight is Sixteen, a surprisingly tender duet between Katie and Tom opening what builds, through a hammering metal bridge, into an epic disco rock masterpiece (if you can't imagine such a thing, you really must hear this track). The sheer soaring climax of this song is worth the album's price on its own.
Many of the songs oscillate between passages of dark, sweaty claustrophobia and sudden breaks into vast, prog-esque space. Forward Russia sometimes seem the kind of band who are in danger of letting the feedback drone on too long - but in actual fact they show great restraint here, especially for a new band. The songs are generally tight and focused - the exception being final track Eleven, which goes a tad overboard with its operatic death throes.
Having been familiar with much of the material through demos, the album's production quality was a tad disappointing to me at times. However, this will probably not trouble fresh listeners in the slightest. It also does not detract from the great achievement of this debut, or the fantastic future promise it shows. Forward Russia have an immensely complex sound, rich in detail, that has only improved with time - and is set to continue to do so.
on 17 May 2006
If nothing else, ¡Forward, Russia!'s debut album will go down in history as having possibly the most confusing tracklisting of all time. It starts with 'Thirteen', before moving onto track 2, 'Twelve', then 'Fifteen Pt. 1' at track three. With this numerical track naming, plus that upside down apostrophe, on the surface ¡Forward, Russia! look like they could be the archetypal pretentious art school band whose unlistenable noodling you've had to sit through at bad gigs in tiny rooms. In fact, they're by far the most exciting band in Britain. With overhyped, identical British indie sludge currently clogging up the charts, it's incredibly refreshing to find a band completely deserved of the rapid rise to fame they will very soon achieve.
That said, things are kicking off now: they're currently blowing said indie sludge off the stage at the NME new bands tour and the music press are beginning to sniff out their potential. Give them a couple of years and maybe Q will be onto them. With 'Give Me A Wall' getting a mass release on their own label dance_to_the_radio and guitarist Whiskas already a local hero for promoting and supporting Leeds bands, they personify the DIY ethos more than any other Internet-assisted buzz band, putting two triumphant fingers up to the major-label Man.
That would all mean nothing, though, if they didn't make an exciting and original racket, but boy they do. With the exception of the plodding and forgettable 'Sixteen', every track on 'Give Me A Wall' finds an almost perfect balance between accessible and challenging. They're instantly likebable thanks to their raw energy and memorable hooks, but it's the complexity and detail of the songs, plus Tom Woodhead's truly unique voice, that ensure repeated listenings. As the album fades out to the twisty ADD punk of 'Eleven' to the same riff that opener 'Thirteen' started with, you'll be reaching for the repeat button.
Most of the songs at first seem to consist of undecipherable yelps. It's a bit of a revelation to have the lyric booklet tucked away in the album's nice packaging, really.: previously, 'Twelve' existed to me only as "FU-GE-OO-AH-ANA-E-FAW-U-A FU-GE-OO-AH HE WAS AN EDUCATED MAN!!". It's actually about Einstein, apparently. But impenetrable lyrics really aren't a problem when you're faced with such a varied set of music, almost every track dense and memorable. There are, however, two tracks which are truly spectacular. Previous single 'Twelve' is just over two minutes long but packs an enormous post-punk punch thanks to the Woodhead's energetic shouting and Whiskas' lighting-fast guitar work.
At the other end of the scale is 'Nineteen', the closest they will probably ever come to a ballad. A catchy synth line hovers over this soaring song, and though the lyrics are still impossible to decipher, Woodhead still puts a huge amount of emotion into his voice. The stacatto drumming only tops it off. I'm guessing that since it's got the largest number, it's ¡Forward, Russia!'s most recent song, and if they continue this songwriting streak, my premature proclamation of them as one of Britain's current most exciting bands will be confirmed. Here's to 20 and beyond being equally brilliant.
on 28 August 2006
I was familiar with many of the demos that ¡Forward, Russia! had released prior to this album, so I knew what I was getting when I bought it, but the album did still come with a few surprises.
The offbeat drumming and dodgy time signatures are what make this band unique in so many ways, and are present in most of their tracks. Russia are not heavy, but they are loud and erratic, if you don't like music in that mould then you won't like this band, it's something of a tolerance or an acquired taste.
The best tracks are Thirteen, Twelve, Nine, both parts of Fifteen and the closer, Eleven. All are distinguishable and different in their own way, and you have to give them the credit they deserve for making this the case with what is so often an exhausted and saturated genre. Their live performances are also excellent and usually intimate.
The faults are that firstly, my favourite track, Fourteen, isn't on the album. More of a personal complaint I know, but then also there's the fact that the demos sounded much better for some reason. Evidence for this is that if you download the demo of Thirteen and compare it to the album version, the album version seems a bit lifeless in parts, the drums are muffled a bit and there just seems to be less bite in quite a few other tracks too. You get used to this, but it might be worth investigating the demos too to see what I mean.
Minor faults aside, this is a solid debut album from one of the most interesting bands in Britain. Of course, if you're a fan you already knew this, if you're not.. try before you buy because this is not an average British Indie band, and is one that has polarised opinions in many ways.
Finally, I'd like to point out that ¡Forward, Russia! is pronounced Forward Russia. The ¡ is an upside-down ! and not an i as some people have been thinking...
on 15 May 2006
This album from leeds band ¡Forward Russia! is a masterpiece of new wave/indie/metal. That might sound a strange combination of genres but this band has nailed it with brilliant screaming lyrics, and spiky guitars and drums like hailstones hitting glass. OK that sounds awful but you really have to listen to some of their stuff the really appreciate it. Singles like Nine, Twelve and Thirteen are all present and improved upon vastly, and new songs like Fifteen (which is in two parts) are brilliant and are definitely single material (although not being very catchy).
A bit of advice, If you liked interesting, 'experimental' bands such as bloc party and field music, you should seriously give these a listen and I'm sure you'll agree they are brilliant!
I hope they do well in the future!!
on 4 October 2006
Some days it's great, some days it's not. There are some great tunes on this but there are some stinkers too. The song titles are nothing but a gimmic and a pain in the ar5e gimmic at that. However, that said you can't but admit the tunes do grab you by the neck, shake you about, whack you on the table and then lay you down nice and gently. Go see them live, I saw them at Leeds and JerseyLive this summer and they were superb at both. Basically I can't make up my mind, this album's good, not brilliant but there are moments when you think they could be onto something. Wait for next album, that'll truly define it this is a stinker or a stonker. Can't believe I've used a phrase like that...
on 16 May 2006
How this ¡Forward Russia! did not get signed by a record label I still do not know. This album, their debut, just shows how foolish those labels were. I am glad that they put the record out through their own record label because it is something that needs to be heard. The tracks, all numbered rather than titled is a unique, and good idea. No overly long titles that seems to be the new 'thing' to do, with Fall Out Boy and Panic! At The Disco leading the way.
¡Forward Russia! have only put 11 tracks on this album but that notches up 49:15 of unadulterated musical goodness. Latest single 'Nine', which is track 3, is one of the highlights, but in my opinion the track you need to hear is 'Fifteen pt. 1' as that is a cracker of a song. I don't usually discuss the cases of CD's in these reviews...but I feel I have to here, the lyrics booklet, is not a booklet, it is a strip of paper twice the length of A4 but half the width with the lyrics written out on both sides, as one long text. I like that. But the one gripe I have with this album is the CD case itself. Firstly, like the Mystery Jets album, it is VERY thin and not as long as a regular CD case so looks rather out of place in an ordinary CD rack. My other issue is that the case is TOO wide for an ordiary CD rack as well (to go in horizontally)! They are minor problems of course and have NOTHING to do with the rating, which has been given a five purely because this is a FABULOUS album.
Well, these guys don't go out of their way to make themselves easy to like. You have to listen repeatedly before the layers of their songs yield the underlying structure and skill. You have to work with that deliberately strained voice. You have to try to remember which track is which, when each has a number as a name.
However, you have to admire the constancy of their style, the quality of the playing, the song crafting and, most of all, the energy, the energy.
Saw them live, and the talent was evident, the energy was frazzled. Stragely, Tom calms down totally between songs, and instantly becomes frenzied at the start of the next. (Incidentally, I could swear that some of the new songs were announced with proper, real, word names!)
So, on balance, a quality CD. My tip is never, never try listening to the whole thing at once. Give yourself a burst of energy every now and then with a track or two, and it's life enhancing.
on 15 May 2009
The debut album from the Leeds math rockers is a spiky, energetic affair, it's full of stop start drums and explosive guitar riffs.
The singer's voice is definitely an acquired taste, the lyrics are abstract, and the music is loud, aggresive, abrasive, and full of energy.
The guitars are fantastic sounding, with some brilliant riffs, especially on tracks like "Twelve" & "Fifteen Part 1". "Nineteen" is the only song on the album that isn't full on overdrive, it's a synth driven track and is wonderful 5 minutes of respite, that also shows this band are no one trick ponies.
Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys energetic innovative rock music.
on 2 September 2006
Having travelled across water to see this band and chosen them over franz ferdinand, i think its fair to say i rather like them... that should be pretty obvious by rating alone. I've followed this band ever since hearing an early version of 'Thirteen' on an NME new bands cd and i must admit when this album first surfaced at the record shop i work at, i was overjoyed.
This is truely 50 minutes of sheer genius, making them an instant force to be reckoned with and a serious contender for show stealer at the MTV2 Spanking New Music tour in November.
Buy this cd now!
on 27 July 2014
Love this album so much. Couldn't find my old one do bought it again at s bargain price. Very pleased customer here :)