They appear to have become good, or at least competent, musicians since their debut album in 2008. Sadly this seems to have come at the expense of their identity. They created such distinctive music (borderline unique) on In Our Space Hero Suits, so it's rather disappointing for them to deliver a competent but rather bland 38 minute second album.
The better musicianship I assume has sanded down a lot of the interesting rough edges and two of their most distinctive features have changed - no more cheap organ and the lead singer's girlie voice has changed, although that's probably a natural thing that she has no control over.
1. Reaching Forward (5 out of 10 stars) Synths instead of the cheesy Hammond organ - shame as it was such a large part of their sound and identity. Competent modern pop but a bit bland and faceless. This could be by anyone. Also the lead singer's voice has matured, which again robs them of much of their unique identity. The lyrics, aimed at a vague mid-distance, reminds me of U2 without the pomp.
2. I'll Be Yours (6 out of 10 stars) Nothing great and it's again rather faceless. It does have a very nice one finger plinky keyboard part in it from time to time (which if done on her old Hammond organ would have made it sound even more like the ping from Pink Floyd's Echoes).
3. Dream About Me (6 out of 10 stars) Another competent pop song of no great distinction.
4. Help Me Close My Eyes (6 out of 10 stars) Slightly more sparse sounding song. Decent.
5. Can't Find Entrance (8 out of 10 stars) Rocks out a bit and the simple repeated lyrics are effective. The song works very well. For me it's the highlight of the album.
6. F*ckarias (7 out of 10 stars) Good track. Sonically it's quite crowded with a lots of loud instruments fighting for space.
7. Forest Of Love (4 out of 10 stars) A weak song. The pace has slackened, there's not much melody and the lyrics aren't up to much.
8. When We Fade Away (4 out of 10 stars) Very similar to the previous track and just as indifferent, even if it is slightly better.
9. Keep Me In Your Pocket (7 out of 10 stars) Quite a strong song - at least it feels substantial and holds my attention better than some of the previous songs.
10. I Know Where You Live (Part 2) (7 out of 10 stars) Nice use of gang vocals, which adds a hint of AC/DC to this rockier track.
11. One Day Forever (6 out of 10 stars) Surprising duet with a man (Orlando Weeks). The plinky keyboard sound from track two (I'll Be Yours) makes a welcome return. This track stands out more for sounding different because of the male vocal than it does for being a well written song. It's okay, just nothing astounding and it seems too short to make any big impact. I can't escape the feeling the song would have benefitted from a singer who could impart a sense of humourless, severely judgmental authority like Johnny Cash or Nick Cave.
I like to make EP playlists out of some albums on my iPod. Tracks 5, 6, 9 and 10 made the cut.
I don't expect these songs to particularly jump out at me when they come up on shuffle, but they will certainly be very enjoyable when they do turn up.
It's a decent, fairly good album. It only has a few weak spots, but also unfortunately only a few high points.
In my opinion it's not a patch on their debut, which remains one of my all time favourite albums. It's no disgrace, but then again it's no massive triumph. I assume it will be commercially much sturdier (ie. less quirky) with signs of staying power so I'm sure it will do what they want it to do for their career.
On a side note I have to say that the album cover isn't very good. They should have used the drummer's hand drawn artwork (which is all over the booklet) as again it was a distinctive part of their identity. It's almost like they're trying to wipe their own fingerprints off the album.
6 out of 10 stars overall for it as an ALBUM of songs to listen to in a particular order. 8 out of 10 for it as a set of songs to randomly come up on shuffle.
If you like this, and especial their ramshackle debut, then I also highly recommend a French group called The Plastiscines who are also struggling with basic competence, and are all the better for it.
NOTE 16/3/11: I played their two albums together on shuffle. I'm talking nonsense about the singer's voice changing, as she sounds exactly the same on both albums.
NOTE 28/7/11: I'm still listening to it on fairly heavy rotation. Not a masterpiece but very enjoyable as an actual album, or as a set of tracks to come up on shuffle. I would now up the overall star rating to 4 out of 5.