This is a glorious collection of songs, wonderfully inventive and diverse and moodier than the first album, at times brighter and louder. However, this acts as both a strength and a weakness; with such a variety of songs it's hard to get bored as the album shifts through world/ bollywood style, to dub, and then the 'safer' straight pop-songs. Yet the album lacks cohesion, feeling like a compilation of several different bands rather than just one. It shows a very talented band, but one that doesn't want to be pigeon-holed, to the point where they shy away from the style at which they are best. At times it feels like quality gives way to experimentation, and that's a shame because with the right balance this album would be simply stunning. The better tracks on the album are the ones that are simple and free of too much experimenting.
This album will only sound better with repeated listens. 'Falling Out of Reach' and the funky 'Big Dog' catch straight away, as does 'Words', but the other songs have more depth. Yet it may not be an album that you will want to listen to straight through, instead skipping some of the tracks that aren't as accessible due to their style. If you're just discovering the Guillemots then begin with their first album and then look at this one. It's good, but not as breathtaking as the first nor as epic. 3.5 stars.
Guillemots are a very talented bunch, there's no question about that, but finding a direction for their creativity is evidently a problem, because this album is all over the place. While some people may revel in the diversity of this release, I can't help feeling that it lacks coherence as a result. Everything is thrown in here - rock, disco, funk, ballads, drum 'n' bass, obligatory plinky-plonky sounds... they're on their second album and, unfortunately, almost descending into self-made cliché. If I'd have been sequencing the album, I'd have probably left the immense, menacing 'Kriss Kross' until the very last track because, as the opening song, it is so brilliant, everything else on the album pales in comparison.
Although there are quite a few really good tracks on this album (specifically, the rather gorgeous 'Falling Out Of Reach', the infuriatingly catchy 'Get Over It' , the drifting, expansive 'Words' and the lovely last track 'Take Me Home') there are also some very ordinary and unremarkable songs which bring the overall feel of 'Red' down somewhat and, given the ability of the group, you can be forgiven for feeling disappointed that they haven't followed 'Through The Window Pane' with something a little better than this. Indeed, there are still some songs on this album which I'm not sure are good or not - 'Cockateels', for example - and some where the eclectic arrangement destroys the potentially great song, such as 'Don't Look Down', which merely descends into a barely-listenable mess. Fyfe and the group are obviously having fun and producing some fun music, but there were moments on their debut which really took you somewhere different, almost other-worldly, emotionally, and 'Red', as accomplished as it may be, just doesn't do that.
I'd say that it is just about worth buying for the handful of the better songs on this album and, especially, 'Kriss Kross'. That particular song has to be heard to be believed. I suppose that I just had higher expectations for this album and have had my hopes dashed a little. Don't worry, I'll get over it.
A generous four stars for the album's undeniable highlights.
on 24 April 2008
I hate to be cliched, but this is an album that really deserves the appellation 'a grower'. Its frankly baffling mixture of styles is downright difficult to deal with on first listen. It's like browsing through a plethora of radio stations - a meaningless collection of noise punctuated by the odd moment of greatness that leaps out at you.
But the more you listen to it, the more you start to notice the connections. One of the songs ("Don't Look Down") begins with a deep Johnny Cash-esque vocal intoning a pretty melody accompanied only by a guitar, then you hear what appears to be a fridge being dropped from a great height and the whole thing goes mad! But on repeated listens, all the weird effects only seem to add to what is, in reality, a sensibly constructed verse-chorus-verse-chorus song. It's now one of my favourites.
The album kicks off with 'Kriss Kross', a bombastic orchestra hit-laden number tempered by a hauntingly elated refrain imploring the listener not to cry, but to go out on the town and enjoy themselves - 'the moon is gonna dance for us tonight'. It's what Suede's 'Saturday Night' might have sounded like had it been produced by Wagner. Next up is the groovy 'Big Dog', a cheeky, tongue-in-cheek hip-hop number whose self-conscious coolness seems deliberately undermined by its refrain of 'big heart, big hug, big dog, that's what I want'. It's a great live favourite and transfers well to CD. 'Falling Out of Reach' is a more standard affair - a chilled out song about getting 'burned out'. Bouncy fun and anthemic choruses follow in the shape of the album's first single, 'Get Over It'. Next up are a trio of songs that it's quite difficult to describe. One is a bollywood number called 'Last Kiss'. It's my least favourite track on the album and the only one I don't really like - it's not bad, but it seems an experiment too far. Perhaps others will appreciate it more. This is sandwiched between the more pallatable, but no less interesting, 'Clarion' and 'Cockateels'. After this, we get a very typical (but no worse for that) Guillemots song in the slow, jazzy 'Words' - another of the album's high points.
There follows the best Guillemots song since 'Trains to Brazil'. 'Standing on the Last Star' is an amazingly melancholic evocation of the end of the world. The way in which it evokes a genuinely elegiac sense of despair only to countermand it with a self-deprecating refrain that asks 'Will nothing in the world ever make you happy?' reminds one of The Smiths - as does the Johnny Marr-style guitar riff. It's truly wonderful stuff. There follows the aforementioned 'Don't Look Down' and the blues-influenced 'Take Me Home'.
All in all, it's an acquired taste and newcomers might well be better off listening to the band's debut album. Nevertheless, it is immensely rewarding on repeated listening. Challenging it is, but well worth the effort.
Here's to the next album!
on 1 April 2008
The Guillemots operate in a world of their own. They can sound like Rufus Wainwright, Petshop Boys, Super Furry Animals and a dozen other bands. They effortlessly mix Arabic, Asian and Classical influences to produce music that is, at times, startling.
RED is their second album and has the potential to lift the band from well respected cult act into the mainstream. It is often over-reaching, self indulgent and in need of some serious editing. RED is also a massive breath of fresh air.
Lead single 'Get Over It' is a cracking song and already a big hit, 'Falling Out Of Reach' is a lovely slow buiding epic (and potential smash) and both 'Clarion' & 'Cockateels' are jaw dropping in execution and style. The rest is a mix of bonkers - 'Last Kiss', 'Kriss Cross' and intelligent retro pop/rock - 'Standing On The Last Star'.
It won't be to everyone's taste but the Guillemots have intelligence and ideas to burn.
This record hangs suspended somewhere between genius and nuts - surely no better recommendation.
I was flabbergasted by the barrage of poor reviews in the UK press. If they had produced Through The Windowpane part 2 they no doubt would have been slated for that. They have released something totally different - and have been slated!
This isnt that wildly different to the debut, think Annie Lets Not Wait as oppose to Little Bear. Its big, brash, poppy, funky and soulful. The R&B element has been greatly exaggerated, its there but doesnt dominate.
Not all the ideas on this album work...but thats the beauty of Guillemots. They are an explosion of noise and colour. Thats why we love them so much. They take risks and go where most bands fear to tread. They are not ashamed to be called pop.
I think its a great album...just dont expect them to recreate their debut. The next album will probably be a jazz opera. So what?
Guillemots are flying high.
I knew nothing about the Guillemots except for the excellent cover version of Black and Gold on one of the Live Lounge compilations, so I researched a bit and decided to start with Red.
I suspect that their earlier album is radically different, judging from the remarks of some and the short samples I listened to here.
I found Red a varied and refreshing album - In contrast to some others I really liked Big Dog and the female vocals on some of the tracks (especially Last Kiss) differentiates them further from the pleathora of other Indy style bands.
Someone said there's a 80's style production feel to them and it's true to a degree, but no bad thing with the current rediscovery of that era.
Last Kiss has a feel of 13 at Midnight's Shack Up somehow, which can only be good.
Cockateels has touches of 10CC even or some of the more melodically romantic 80s bands and I think there's an element of Prefab Sprout in Take Me Home, but I like it.
For the bargain basket price I paid, this is an absolute gem and, I would suggest, a good place to discover the Guillemots even if your taste turns out to favour their earlier work.
on 27 May 2009
The more that I listen to the Guillemots Red cd the more I like it as I found it to be a bit of a slow burner for me. The first track Kriss Kross is a great poppy rock song and, Get Over It is too which always makes me want to dance to it. Falling Out Of Reach and Words are both great mellow relaxing songs with excellent lyrics. The Guillemots Red album is so varied in it's music style I'm sure that most people who are into their music will find something that they will enjoy here.
on 29 April 2010
Picked this up at random based maybe on one listen to "Get Over It". Other reviewers' comments on the mix of songs being eclectic are spot on, and yes, maybe this lot are a little too clever and have too many ideas...but better too many than none at all (step forward, ooh a cast of thousands of bands, let's start with Oasis?)
Anyway, I love this to bits, there's something new with each listen. And does anyone else hear echoes of Ryan Adams and The Blue Nile in there?