Monday 30 September 2013

Soft Arrows - Overlapping Lives

Album review by

It's difficult (unless we got researching instead of reviewing) to remember how many drums/guitar/vocal duos there were in the past, but on the surface it would seem that there are a heck of a lot more now. Oh, and this is the bit where we mention The White Stripes and The Black Keys, so that's that out of the way. Many of these duos have a sound that's comparable to a full band and almost certainly utilised other players, or band members adding additional instrumentation during the recording process. Brighton duo Sort Arrows don't do that, and their second album, 'Overlapping Lives' sticks to what it says on the tin. These two want to create a whole load of noise, and they want to do that without bypassing the tunes. This is easier said than done with two instruments (one of which can't really help much in the melody department) and vocals.

Russell Eke and Tom Denney have had plenty of practice though, with 'Overlapping Lives' being their second full-length, so they probably know what they want to do and will have successfully worked out how to do it. So that's fine for them, but what about listeners; the people who will be likely to play to this album with a view to buying it? Firstly, take those two obvious comparisons from the first paragraph, put them through a paper-shredder and burn them. They're not needed here. The rawness of some of that material remains, but the polished, festival-headlining sounds are nowhere to be seen. This is not to say that Soft Arrows lack either ambition or the ability to produce material of that nature, it's simply not in their game plan. We'll say it again: they want raw, noisy tunes. So much so that they've filled this album with virtually nothing else.

There's an occasional mild hint of blues, particularly on 'Figure 8', an early highlight about serpents eating themselves. Nice. But as the drums clatter wildly and the guitars screech and groan with contortion when they break from knocking out a primal riff, really they're closer to grunge and noise-rock with a twist of shoegaze. Immediately this is contrasted by the more melodic and almost jangly 'Undercard', so you know this won't be a one-dimensional record; 'Divining Rod' also tones down the racket and switches it for something with more emotion, and this crops up again on the lovely 'Dry Heaves', because every record needs a song about a broken heart, right? If you take into account that these are followed by 'Boss and Coffee', 'Bat Signal' and 'Skin Cycle', it amounts to a mid-album lull, but not in quality, merely in ferocity, especially compared to the punky thrash of 'Scavenger Birds' that preceded them (with melody safely intact). Towards the end, 'Skin Cycle' gently introduces the flailing again. There's time for a bit more tenderness on 'Lost In Space' before 'Flightless Bird' wraps the album up by combining everything together. This is not always an easy listen, but it's a rewarding one to those with more alternative tastes.

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Soft Arrows' website

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