Wednesday 22 January 2014

Latimer House - All The Rage

Album review by

Our detective skills served us well. It's common for bands from counties that don't have English as their first language to write songs this way so as to broaden their audience to the UK, North America, Australia and so on, but Czech band Latimer House had the accent, as well as the idiosyncrasies of British life, down to a tee. Debut single 'This Is Pop' sounded very much like product of the British indie scene in vocals and in lyrics. We later found out that they have a frontman from England, as well as members from Azerbaijan, Canada and the USA. So it turns out that The Czech Republic is the adoptive home where they all met. The single was a classic piece of British guitar-pop with some wry lyrical observations ("the bankers in the counting house are lending borrowed time"), they seemed to be a switched on group, and one that, despite not having a major chance of enjoying chart success, totally fit in with the cult bands of the past thirty years. It all came across as being rather timeless.

Debut album 'All The Rage' is the reinforcement that was needed to ensure this was the case. Vocally you can hear the faint echo of Ian Dury, and musically you need only pick a John Peel favourite from the late '70s onwards and you're fairly close to the musical space that Latimer House call home. There are some intricacies and thought put into the songs on 'All The Rage' that others might not think of. For example, 'Burn' begins with the sound of a match being lit, and then instead of heading down a semi-acoustic guitar route, they bring in some near classical strings for a baroque sound that provides the perfect foil for the half-spoken vocal delivery. It's as though each track has been thoroughly thought out and planned for perfect optimisation, and that doesn't mean getting Mr Muscle in to produce the thing (non-UK folk might wish to Google that reference). It's difficult to listen to songs like 'Eye Can See', which has more great lyrics ("all the cross words, never a clue"), without thinking of Syd Barrett, and that's a definite compliment.

It's Ian Dury whose name enters your head again on 'Open Your Heart', not just the delivery, but the slightly pub-rock intro, although then the song swerves off in different directions with strings, brass and strange sound effects all coming and going; Latimer House don't really want to do "normal". 'Red Heart Sequin Blues' takes Dury, adds Chas and Dave and still works, and that's no mean feat. The jangle of indiepop is given a look in on the breezy 'Birdcage Walk' and provides a more simple pop song, but one that doesn't sacrifice quality or suggest at possible filler in the slightest. The delicate, slightly reverby 'Your Love' arrives at just the right moment, following the upbeat, fun and witty indie tunes, and injects a little well-handled soppiness into proceedings; it's a nice, dreamy song, but might put off those who are just here for the good time rock n' roll. This different side to the band is wonderful to see though. The funky 'Love's Undermined' lifts the tempo again with an organ-driven groove and a depth and complexity to the instrumentation that you might not notice at first, and its these subtleties and attention to detail that gives Latimer House that extra inch to stand taller than many groups in this field. With an intro that could be nicked from a lost Smiths track and a sunny optimism we then arrive at potential single 'Splash! ("on good days a dolphin smiles") before closing out with 'Bubblegum', a grittier affair and a song whose dynamic switches on more than one occasion. Cult status could await this band, and we're hoping the UK and US press spread their catchment area and give them some deserved attention.

Latimer House's website

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