Album Art design by Alex Vissaridis
So, the new This Town Needs Guns album…
Where do I start? Well first thing’s first;
The first thing that you will notice upon listening is that the vocalist has changed. Stuart Smith from the previous releases has disappeared from the math rock realm, only to be replaced by none other than Henry Tremain, arguably a perfect suit for the new incarnation of the band, but on the announcement that he would be joining in 2011, many fans were speculating as to if he could properly fill the position that Stu left behind.
I think this review would be impossible to do without drawing some comparisons between different lineups of the band. At no point am I saying or suggesting that TTNG with Stu were better or worse than TTNG with Henry.
When listening to 22.214.171.124.0 you have to see them as two different bands. It’s still evidently This Town Needs Guns running the show; it’s just a new chapter of the bands life.
So now you know the backstory, the first song of the album, Cat Fantastic:
Right from the get-go that renowned and well-loved tight knit vibe of twinkly guitars weaving in, out and around Chris Collis’ syncopated drum beats is still there. The instrumentation of this band hasn’t changed since the early days. It’s just progressed and this album opener shows that the things you’ve most loved about TTNG are still evident and that it’s done it well.
Cat Fantastic’s lyrical content centres around the differences of the lifestyles between people of different socio-economic status which, whilst it is not a theme, definitely gives listeners a heads up as to what to expect. This breaks off from the lyrical themes of relationships and nostalgia that we have seen in previous work of the band, but as always, with new members come new ideas.
Slowly creeping in after a momentary break of silence, Havoc In The Forum, a song so perfectly titled, takes you on a journey of incredibly well synchronised guitar work with some of the most creative drumming I’ve heard in years. Chris Collis’ almost trademark start/stop style with quick-witted time signatures flying left and right, is accompanied by Henry Tremain’s light falsetto and dark thematic undertones which really help kick this album off at an expeditious pace.
The opening salvo continues with Left Aligned, a beautifully crafted tale about the aftermath of the death of Henry Tremain’s friend and bass player of his old band Saleontomorrow.
The song opens up with a flurry of sporadically placed drums, bass and tight guitar work with a little more linear structure than other songs on the album. I think this is a prime example of how well this band has progressed over the years. A lot of people may have expected the new album to be a lot crazier than it actually is regarding the arrangement of instrumentation. Whilst it is most definitely very technical, I think TTNG have cracked it.
You don’t necessarily need to make a song full of insane amounts of twists and turns (I’m not saying that’s a bad thing…) to get across what you’re trying to achieve. Left Aligned has a simple structure, yet doesn’t sound like its pop-rock counterparts. Simple yet highly effective.
Next up: In the Branches of Yggdrasil, a song title with a reference to Norse mythology. Yggdrasil was a tree on which the nine worlds existed. This song is a short two minute instrumental interlude featuring a driving five-note bassline that accompanies you throughout most of the song.
This interlude has actually been one of my most-played songs of this album so far, because it’s just so rich and textured. The guitars are creating this deep wall of reverb-ridden noise that creates this super sweet soundscape that is just perfect to listen to whilst sitting on a bus in a city whilst being completely oblivious to everyone around you. All the while, this rush of static noise that is ever-present throughout the track finally overwhelms your speakers/headphones/listening device until you are left only with that bassline in solitude to reflect on all the layers you just had dancing around your mind.
Photo by Zarif Miah (Hey, that’s me!)
I’ll Take The Minute, Snake is the longest track on the album, clocking in at just under 6 minutes long (5:54).
The lyrical themes of loss due to death is recurrent here in this song (as seen before in Left Aligned) and Henry’s crooning between verses, atop of salsa-infused guitars panned left and right really makes this track stand out. A long outro of intertwined guitars slowly leads into the only acoustic track of the album.
2 Birds, 1 Stone And An Empty Stomach is the middle track, reminiscent of the song that Henry put out under the band’s name called Ron Jeremy Beadle in 2011. This track is followed by a short interlude featuring the sound of the seashore, accompanied by what I believe is drummer Chris Collis’ side project (The Otter Years) sneaking its way into the present day TTNG.
Glitch beats dashing in and out over the top of well-placed harmonic notes really sets the tone for the next song.
Triptych is a song that I think fans of more the traditional side of TTNG will really enjoy. Tim’s noodly guitar work is really on point here. He blitzes up and down the fret board in a very baboon-esque (the song, not the animal. As far as I’m aware, Baboons aren’t into math rock.) way. Fans of his guitar-work on ‘Animals’ will probably get the same vibe from this song more so than the others. Henry’s vocals range from soars with some really sharp falsetto to low melodic tones that will generally please all who listen.
Yet again, I’m getting the feeling that the lyrical content of this album is generally pretty downbeat, but that doesn’t detract anything from the music whatsoever.
After Pygmy Polygamy, which serves as a final African-influenced interlude before the album comes to a close, we are presented with the final few tracks known as A Different Kind Of Tall (Small) & +3 Awesomeness Repels Water. This is where bassist Jamie Cooper’s skills have really shined on the new material.
Having only had his own basslines recorded on the previous 7” and this album, it’s actually quite unfortunate for the band that he hasn’t really had the opportunity to play any of his own material live (except Cat Fantastic a few times) on recent tours due to amicably leaving the band shortly after recording the album.
Songs like these two really show how he has progressed as a bass player, particularly +3 Awesomeness Repels where his bassline essentially drives the song and his parts are really memorable. Bass tapping always sounds awesome as well.
I’m pretty sure this song was just made to highlight how skilled everyone in the band is at playing their own respective instruments. Of course, the drums may sound a bit basic to the untrained ear, but the technicality is still there.
With guitar techniques ranging from fingerpicking, to tapping, to alternating chords at the blink of an eye, this is really the one song that the album builds up to. I’ve played it 46 times today and I still haven’t gotten bored of it. The thing I most love about this track is that, you can hear the complexity of it as a whole, or if you so wish, you can just focus on one layer and note the intricacy of that one instrument and how it affects the bigger picture.
Finally, 126.96.36.199.1 closes the album with a delicate soundscape of glockenspiels, harmonious vocals, acoustic guitars and pianos.
The progression that This Town Needs Guns have made in, not only the past 2 years, but since I first started listening to them has been superb and I’m really happy with how this album has turned out and was even pleasantly surprised at the elements of other areas of progressive rock that are working their way into the band.
I’ll be wondering in what ways exactly they can progress even further for their next release! (If they choose to do one! They better…)
1. Cat Fantastic
2. Havoc in the Forum
3. Left Aligned
4. In The Branches of Yggdrasil
5. I’ll Take the Minute Snake
6. 2 Birds, 1 Stone And An Empty Stomach
7. Nice Riff, Clichard
9. Pygmy Polygamy
10. A Different Kind of Tall (small)
11. +3 Awesomeness Repels Water
Edition one of Your Cart Is Empty Zine (An online version) is now available for purchase for the price of £1!
Featuring bands such as Tall Ships, Reno Dakota, Invalids, Wot Gorilla?, Tangled Hair any many more!
We’ve also got bits of things like poems, rants and arts! Check it out and tell your friends!
You may have noticed a lack of posts lately on this math rock blog (with only a few here and there).
This is because me and a friend have been hard at work on putting together a (digital) zine!
It centres around lots of Math Rock and Emo bands so please check it out! :)
Normal math rock blog posts will resume!
In order to keep our blog more consistent and active, we want 2 or 3 writers to write us reviews and pieces for EPs, Albums and demo’s of Math Rock bands the world over.
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