Saturday, April 01, 2017
Album Review :: Blaenavon - That's Your Lot
That’s Your Lot
April 7 2017 (Canvasback Music/Atlantic)
Words: Richard O’Hagan
Blaenavon are Ben Gregory, Harris McMillan and Frank Wright (no, not that one), three twentysomethings from Liss in Hampshire who like not talking about themselves, occasional Starsailor impressions and shooting themselves in the foot. Or, at least, that is the overwhelming feeling that this album, a debut which the band first started talking about four years ago, leaves.
That delay is, in part, the root of what is wrong with this record. It lacks the excitement and momentum of a first album, meaning that, frankly, far too many of the twelve tracks purr when they should growl. Recent single ‘Let’s Pray’ repeats the line "Let’s pray for death" so often that you start to empathise. Current single ‘Orthodox Man’ is so spectacularly undistinguished that you wonder if its release ahead of about at least half a dozen more worthy songs is some sort of record company prank. Most egregiously of all, ‘Swans’ is, without doubt, the most pointless eight minutes of wibbling I have heard since the last Prime Minister’s Questions.
That reference to them shooting themselves in the foot? That’s because it happens a lot here. There are tracks which start off very well (‘My Bark Is Your Bite’, for example) but then just go nowhere. Or you get something like the frenetic, buzzing, ‘Alice Come Home’ (why is the girl in these songs always called Alice?), which is excellent for about five minutes and then descends into two minutes of artwanking that takes the song absolutely nowhere and kills the enjoyment of listening to it.
What’s so enormously bloody frustrating about this is that, when Blaenavon get it right, they really do get it right. ‘Let Me See What Happens Next’ is two minutes of Gregory and a piano, his voice cracking with emotion. ‘Lonely Side’ is the single that they should’ve released, with its radio-friendly melody and refrain of "Baby won’t you take me to the place dreams come true". And I’m not sure that even the band know what the hell is going on on ‘Prague ‘99’, which is both brilliant and daft at the same time.
Best of all, though, are ‘Ode to Joe’ and ‘I Will Be The World’. Although the former clocks in at well over six minutes long, it has a sort of loping, Pentangle-ish feel to it that makes the seconds fly by. ‘I Will Be The World’, on the other hand, is spacier than Dylan from The Magic Roundabout and the moment where you really see Blaenavon at their best.
Sadly, this record has too many lacklustre moments, but at the same time the good ones show that Blaenavon remain an act well worth watching.