Top positive review
6 people found this helpful
A State Of Incomprehension
on 15 January 2007
I'I've waited almost four years for this album, with increasing desperation. Dropped by BMG and finally picked out of label-less limbo by Sanctuary, it was looking increasingly bleak for Reading's finest. They were also rocked by the departure of one of the nation's coolest bassists, Didz Hammond. With this aurora of looming disaster, I suppose I should be thankful that the creators of my favourite (`See This Through And Leave') and sixth-favourite (`Kick Up The Fire, And Let The Flames Break Loose') albums of all time actually got round to releasing `Make This Your Own' at all.
The album has been preceded by two fine singles; `Damage', a gig and download only promo, and `Homo Sapiens'. These two open the album, and they are straight-out rockers, with a slight more FM-friendly sound than efforts such as `Panzer Attack', `A.I.M' and `Been Training Dogs'. They are in fact similar to the singles pairing off the last album, `Blind Pilots' and `Promises, Promises'. They open the album well enough, but really can't compare to previous openers.
Next up is `Head', a recent live favourite. It opens with brooding menace, and continues with a repeated refrain of `You want to leave, but you can't forget about it' above a glorious synth-riff. This is The Coopers of old, twisting simple melodies into electronic balls of sonic force.
`Connect', which follows, carries on in the same vein. Upon my first listens to the album, I think this is a standout. It rollicks along on a baseline oddly similar to Donna Summer's `I Feel Loved'... and then breaks down into a cracking harmonised chorus. One problem I have with this, and `Head' is that they seem weedily produced. One criticism of previous efforts is that they are over-produced, but these just lack the mid-range and low thump that TCTC used to feature as de rigueur.
`Waiting Game', the third single to be lifted and a narrow Top-40 miss in its first week, is a strange beast. To my ears it sounds like Placebo, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but they shouldn't have to revert to such indie-lite tracks like this, especially with the terribly clichéd guitar solo at the end. Yet despite this, I can't help liking it, in that really catchy, soaring way!!
The next track, `Once More With Feeling' opens with standard practice Coopers bleeps and swipes, and proceeds into a metallic drone. Unfortunately, for all its great sonics, the track just doesn't go anywhere. The problems continue with the next track `What Have You Gone And Done?', again with the vocals sounding like Placebo. The lyrics to this are boring, the music flat, and without this track the album would be so much stronger.
`Take Comfort' is rubbish. It starts with off-kilter drums and acoustic strumming and it doesn't get any better from then. It sounds like the Coral, and again this would be fine if it was from them. But it isn't. It just isn't the Coopers.
Thankfully, `All I See Is You' is them in their full aural assault mode. Again starting slow, with scratchy static noise and bass fades. It builds slowly with a real haunting piano riff, and then in a crescendo of heavy guitar descends into noisy heaven complete with Gautrey trademark wail. Along with `Connect' this is a standout, and would have sat brilliantly on either of the previous efforts.
`Isn't It Strange' starts with a similar burbling synth to `Head', and again is a builder. It also has one of the best vocals on the record, with a strong backing riff.
`House of Cards' opens with church bells ringing in the background, and more vocal harmonising. It is a strong closer, but compared to `Written Apology' it just doesn't compare.
My overall thoughts on this album are mixed. It contains two of TCTC's weakest ever efforts in `What Have You Gone And Done?' and `Take Comfort', yet tracks like `Homo Sapiens', `Head', `Connect' and `All I See Is You' show that beneath the poppy mainstream sheen, the old experimental noisy beast still lurks. It is reckoned that the band wanted to set out to make a more mainstream album, and in that respect they have succeeded.
What irks me the most however, is that for a band renowned for pushing sonic boundaries, they pull back from the brink and step into a comfort zone. I have always felt TCTC are at their best when you are at your most uncomfortable, tracks like `Panzer Attack', `The Lake' and `A.I.M.'. This is a comfortable album, which is strange given the circumstances it was conceived under.
Yet after all this, I still can't help liking this album. For a start, they're still here, live and kicking. It is also an optimistic album; in places it's almost a love album. Its lurch into the mainstream may also buy them security to put another album out. Hopefully, they can make a return to pushing the envelope, and making music that challenges the listener.
Worth the wait? Just. They remain my favourite band, and I shall champion their cause as I have for almost six years now. If it were any other band, I'd give it three stars. But they aren't, so it's four.