Any band who sing bold empathetic songs about Captain Scott's doomed 1911/12 expedition for the South Pole (I have a long standing fascination with Polar exploration) are more than alright by me. This album opens with "Terra Nova" (So named after the ship that took Scott and his men to the South Pole) which is centred on appropriately glacial fronds of guitar and singer David Martins portentous baritone posing rhetorical questions about the polar party's fate. This song packs a hugely impressive emotional wallop, but is by no means the only track on the album to do so.
"A Rook House For Bobby", written about the descent into madness and reclusiveness of former chess grandmaster Bobby Fischer is an empathic tour de force with punch in the guts percussion and the guitars crashing against your emotional resolve in a poignant avalanche of six string clatter. This is a band with an appreciation of history and the way events resonates through time and provide a template for the way we all should purport to live our life's. Final track "The Beeching Report" is sung from the first person point of view of aggrieved railway workers, pleading yet angry at the closure of the small regional railway lines. It's a protest song that needs sending back in a time machine , but it's wonderful ,with an operatic yet affecting choir bleeding into the songs last third.
They can do epic and tender as well , the former in "Stainless Steel ", eight minutes of eddying orchestral accumulation and Martins grandiose voice percolating around the mix, eerie , tremulous , yet once again stricken with emotion . The latter is provided by "The Accident", all spindly guitars and on the horizon brooding atmospherics. "Citizen" recalls various nineties purveyors of sonic dalliance like Ride, Submarine and Whipping Boy which is no bad thing done this well.
.Along with the Guillemots this band has got me very excited indeed. Nearly as excited as in the early eighties when I discovered The Blue Nile and R.E.M for the first time. I thought I was beyond all that, but this mini album showcases that intelligent presupposing expressively charged music can still get the blood flowing faster than the Tokyo bullet train. Surely we all want to jump on board for some of that?
With three limited 7"s to their name and a live show that is already the stuff of legend, Leeds-based enemies of Caps Lock, iLiKETRAiNS are all but redefining the phrase `hotly-tipped'.
Progress Reform - the band's first mini-album - features two of the band's previous releases, Terra Nova and A Rook House For Bobby, as well as five other tracks of intellectual, darkly uplifting sonic exploration.
Those dismissing the band's decision to wear British Rail uniforms during their live performances as a blithe gimmick would do well to re-think. In fact, it'd be taxing to find a band that take their craft as seriously as iLiKETRAiNS. Terra Nova tells of Captain Scott's doomed 1912 Antarctic expedition, while A Rook House For Bobby depicts the life of Bobby Fischer, the troubled chess grandmaster who ended up joining an apocalyptic cult and had the fillings removed from his teeth in case they influenced his behaviour, before being arrested, imprisoned and arriving in Iceland as a reclusive exile. In four-and-a-half minutes, Simon Fogel's drums punch the stomach, while David Martin's lyrics tear at the heart.
Elsewhere, Citizen is a jangling mess of distorted guitars and thumping drums and Martin's threatening lyrics on Stainless Steel ("Don't go in the kitchen, that's where all the knives are kept and I won't be held responsible") are masked by gentle, affecting guitars. At the close of Progress Reform lies The Beeching Report, a track which features iForwardRussia!, Napoleon III and This Et Al on backing vocals as some sort of iniquitous choir.
Leeds can claim ownership to perhaps the most exciting music scene in the country at the moment, and with Progress Reform, iLiKETRAiNS can probably claim to be the city's most exciting band.
Having bought the previous 3 super-limited sevens from the band, I was already familiar with the band and their inventive approach to sounds, song structure and lyrics. For those who are not though, this 7 track mini-album is a must and is the best release on Fierce Panda since last years Art Brut album.
Although the band are no doubt subject of a major label bidding war at the moment, the control that the band exercise over their music, art direction and thematic content is likely to make them a difficult proposition to 'market' (and something that perfect pop supremos The Long Blondes have long complained about). However, their creative control is entirely justified on this record and it has been a long time since i have listened to a record that feels so measured and complete with, dare i say it, a relatively small budget. DJ Shadow's 'Entroducing' comes to mind for some reason.
The sound is probably not to everyones taste. Those familar with labels such as Constellation and Monotreme will find much to love here. The sonic tapestry is often a spartan one with menacing guitars and dark, gothic drums that can be genuinely terrifying at points. Comparisons to the glacial Sigur Ros have been plentiful, but iLiKETRAiNS are a more compelling proposition due to the the lyrical content. Biographical accounts of Captain Scott and Bobby Fischer are intruiging while the murderous Stainless Steel is something that Nick Cave would be proud of. The engaging political musings on No Military Parade and The Beeching Report suggest an intellectual depth that someone seems unfamiliar and rewarding without the usual pretentious baggage often associated. I could go on and on about the underlying 'intellectual' feel to the record...but i'm far to laissez faire to care about all that gubbins.
As i listen to it now, the apocalyptic climax to Stainless Steel is simultaneously droning and punching through my speakers. It sounds like it has been recorded in a gigantic B&Q Superstore without anything in it. This is in no wayintended as a criticism though. The effect is mesmeric. The sound bounces and reverbarates around as if the band are running about in a huge aluminium container with the feedback turned right up. Absolutely stunning it is...
In closing then, here is a band with a very bright future ahead. They should remain the creators of their own destiny though as the work will remain the better for it. Someone donate them a large record company advance so that they can produce even more stunning music though...
This dark masterpiece is going to be the sound of my summer. Perfect for a barbecue!!
This 2006 debut album (or probably more appropriately EP since it runs to around 32 minutes) from Leeds' finest i Like Trains still makes for, by turns, mesmerising and invigorating listening 7 years on and constitutes a most assured debut. Although their sound is undoubtedly reminiscent of other bands (at various points The Editors, Interpol, even British Sea Power and Joy Division spring to mind) I still feel that the combination of David Martin's studied and melancholic vocals and the band's trademark unleashing wall of sound (which is almost unparalleled amongst current bands), makes them something of a unique proposition. Of course, the other facet that sets them apart (although BSP do have a similar trait) is their penchant for writing songs about (often) obscure real-life historical events.
Such is the case here as they open with Terra Nova, a truly astonishing musical account of Robert Falcon Scott's failed mission to the South Pole. From the sublimely subtle instrumental opening and the moment Martin's unmistakeable vocal intones, 'How could I have led these men to their demise and they just follow?`, we know we are in for something special as the song transforms itself into a towering emotional powerhouse (we're talking The Great Skua-type quality). For me, the band have probably never quite (thus far, at least) regained such a peak of composition and Terra Nova's greatness, of course, provides the dilemma of, 'how do you follow that?'. The answer is 'very respectably', actually. The polar expeditionary theme continues with the beautifully restrained No Military Parade, whilst A Rook House For Bobby is another novel take on an historical event, this time chess grand master Bobby Fischer's match against Boris Spassky in Yugoslavia in 1992 (from which Fischer never returned to his native USA) and typically features more grandiose and sweeping melodies.
Whilst both Citizen and The Accident are beautifully poignant and subtle, Progress Reform's other major work (alongside Terra Nova) is the extended Stainless Steel. This is another magnum opus, mixing sparse restrained playing and building to a dramatic climax (this time on the subject of brooding domestic violence), featuring some stunning string playing from Lucy Deakin and Helen Clarke (to whom the band pay tribute on the album's sleeve. '...for providing strings above and beyond the call of duty'). The album then closes with the band's take on another important historical event, The Beeching Report, a scathing condemnation of the effects of the 1960s railway investigation ('Is this the price we pay for progress?') all delivered in a curiously effective near-Gregorian chant style, with minimal (and acoustic) band accompaniment.
A cut above the rest. Marrying the grandeur of todays post rock with yesterdays intelligent goth, (think of the criminally under rated And Also the Trees, or early Tindersticks/Crime & the City Solution), iLIKETRAINS Progress*Reform is excellent, epic and personal, drowning in pathos and a kitchen sink drama at the same time. Highly recommended, try and see them live if you get the chance.
I have just watched I like trains perform this their first album at the jazz cafe in London, and I have to say this has stood the test of time well. It's amazing to think that ILT have now made some history themselves- who would have believed it's been 10 years now! A great record of unique historical rock. It also makes me wish Hope of the States were still about! Get this and 'elegies' for something unique and rewarding!
This is probably the best release from iLIKETRAiNS. The "tunes" are all rather similar, and you do get tired of the Ian Curtis impersonation every now and then, but the mood is right - it is doom and gloom, and I do like it. It lacks substance in the lyrics - they appear to having been put together very quickly - but again, it is the mood I am looking for, and it works for me.