Album: The Shallows
Release Date: 7/5/2012
The Leeds post - rockers' stunning third full- length is a startleing reality check
In a world where the general consensus of being an adaptable human being is having your pulse on the times and being able to handle any given situation, information and advancement are two absolutely pivotal ingredients to what is percieved to be the mentality of a well- rounded, world- wearing human being. Information, whether it's via the internet, mainstream papers, television or radio, is delivered at a terrifyingly fast pace, and the utopian dream of easy living is fast disappearing out of the window. This isn't a new thing either. Ever since technological advancement was deemed essential (and industrialism before it) in the 1960s, people have had to move with the times desperately for the sake of not becoming reclusive or out of touch. In particular, the internet's abusive nature in terms of human patience and essence is what inspired Nicolas Carr's Pulitzer Prize nominated tome "The Shallows" last year, and thus equally so, what inspired Leeds Post- Rock five piece I Like Trains to strike up in conceptual unison again.
Despite I Like Trains' ever- precent eccentric narrative tendencies, which do come to life frequently here, "The Shallows" is an album that is very much a modern record. It's a record that deals solidly with the problems caused by the vast outflow of information and increasingly easy access to it, which has lead probably the majority of society to forget everything that they might stand for otherwise and probably did before. In the increasingly modern environment there is much less room and time for heritage and history, as this world's mind is bent on progression. On "The Shallows", I Like Trains don't suggest a complete reformation of society and state. They don't suggest that a Stone Roses reunion is a staple item of nostalgia, nor do they suggest a re- analysis and build of society. They are purely reminiscing with sincerety and, at the deepest sects of the record, remorse.
As we've come to expect from the band lyrically, indirect narration and metaphorical literacy propels "The Shallows" along. "Mnesomyne" for example, named after the ancient Greek goddess of memory, is full of lines which sound absolutely lovelorn, as David Martin dutifully intones in the recognisable deadpan, "I am nothing without you", before tackling the subject matter head on at the end, as he begs society to slow down and encompass those who are supposedly struggling to keep up on the closing line "Just promise you won't leave me here alone with my thoughts." On "Water/Sand" Martin reaches for those long lost and rather extreme recesses of medieval feudalism as he sings "We made hay while the sun shone/ Slept through the night with our clothes on." Dreaming of such things is thought- provoking and actually rather beautiful, a trait which Martin's songwriting has always incorporated.
Sonically, I Like Trains have gone under somewhat of a transformation. They've taken the sprawling, cascading Post- Rock tendencies of old and turned them into something more fervent, more immediate and encouragingly diverse (those seeking more concise referencing, "The Shallows" would fit comfortably between Wild Beasts' "Two Dancers" and Mogwai's "Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will" in a record collection). Opener "Beacons" starts off with a pulsating, dark synth line which is intertwined with increasingly intricate guitar noodling as the song progresses, before a shimmering and anthemic keyboard melody takes precedence in the chorus, Martin's vocals battling for air and space in the intoxicating psycho- technoligical subject matter of which he sings.
"Mnesomyne" is a "Two Dancers"- era esque banger. Resonant but distant chords reverberate around in the background as patient tribal drumming builds up into percussive motorik. Three layers of guitar carry the main melody, and they work astoundingly well in conjunction with each other, one playing a high- speed palm- muted cascade, the other intricate picking and the other those resounding, echoing chords. "The Turning of the Bones" is almost krautrock in essence, reminiscent of the electronic strand of Wire at their absolute softest.
"We Used To Talk" is the real talking point here though, and not necessarily because it's the most original, but just because of it's momentum and impact. The first few seconds are like the intro of the darkest, deepest floor- fillers, a softly pounding kick- drum and repetatively dark synth beat forming the main part of the melody as a sinister low- end buzz intervenes. As the song marches forward it endorses in the tricks the precede it on the album- the soft tremolo picking, gorgeous melodies and impressively rigid and percussive drumming, and is the most profound musical moment here.
"The Shallows" presents itself like a distant dream that you once had, that was beautiful but is now almost lost from your memory completely, but it's so much more than that. In deliberately ignoring ambition and acknowledging the current happenings and full voltage advancement of these electronically orientated times,
it's not so much idiosyncratic as it is extremely comforting. It's comforting to know that you're not the only one struggling to keep up the expansion and mentality of human existence. At the same time however, it's a stark reality check. It's a recosgnisation of how far and fast things have come and are going, how much the world is dispensing with the old form, and in doing so, it raises the startleing question- How much longer can it go on for until, to make another literary link, "1984" style functioning is upon us? "The Shallows" can proudly count itself as one of the most thought- provoking releases so far this year.
Download: 1) We Used To Talk, 2) Mnesomyne, 3) The Hive, 4) Reykjavik
For Fans Of: Wild Beasts, The Maccabees, Mogwai