Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Exit Calm debut album 2010 review

Exit Calm in the beautiful Skipton castle in Barnsley recording Hearts and Minds video clip

Here is an excellent review from me mate Sean McKernan:

It’s been a long time coming and lesser bands would have folded under the lack of recognition from a largely indifferent mainstream music industry, but Exit Calm’s debut album has finally arrived. The opening track, ‘You’ve got it all wrong’ is the sound of the mothership coming into land. A huge sonic rumble locks into a rock solid groove with blistering guitars twisting and turning in a way not heard since the days of Verve’s ‘Gravity Grave’.

Track two is the euphoric single ‘We‘re on our Own’. A cliché-free anthem that hits you between the eyes from the first snare drum crack.
‘When you realise’ starts with the delicate ethereal beauty of a Sigur Ros signature before the guitars muscle in and take it to another dimension. If ‘You’ve got it all Wrong’ is their ‘I Wanna be Adored’ (and yes, it really does deserve to be classed with debuts of such quality) then ‘Hearts and Minds’ is their ‘I am the Resurrection’. A colossal, exhilarating rock song with a simple killer hook and guitars at the end screaming like a 747 coming into land. It’s the first sign that something very special indeed is brewing, which grows as the opening hypnotic chimes of ‘Don’t look Down’ winds its way into the soul of the listener.

Forgiveness’ is simply stunning. Brooding, atmospheric lyrics locked down with another killer Lindley/Pemberton groove. A post-rock Sly and Robbie, their contribution to the album should not be underestimated.

‘Reference’ is a genuine hairs-on-the-back-of-the-neck-up beauty. Near orchestral guitars providing the perfect backdrop to the heartbreakingly poignant lyrics. Both in terms of style and quality

With Angels’ can be seen the sister track of ‘Forgiveness’. Complex and dynamic with moments of ferocious intensity.
‘Atone’ is another widescreen epic. Worked up from its original acoustic state into a song most other guitar bands in the world today would kill for.

‘Recovery’ starts with a military shuffling drum pattern and takes a while to find its groove before Rob Marshall takes control and hammers out a devastating psychedelic circular riff.
‘Serenity’ is the albums twilight track with Nicky Smith singing, as Tony Wilson once said about Joy Division, ‘like he has no fucking choice’. If Pemberton and Lindley are the post rock Sly and Robbie, then Rob Marshall is the post-rock Hendrix. Not in terms of flash virtuoso soloing and showmanship, but in terms of someone who has the ability to produce unworldly sounds from conventional instrumentation and an instinctive sixth-sense of how guitars fit together to produce a truly beautiful and epic sound. Massive waves and sheets of noise supplemented with elegant, subtle harmonic overlays without ever sounding overblown or bombastic.

Put simply, the guitars on this record make My Bloody Valentine sound like a bloke with a one stringed ukulele.

And then there is Nicky Smith. Renowned for his intense live performances, it is initially jolting to hear a genuine, ragged rock voice heading-up the type of guitar band traditionally fronted by a whispering, apologist whose vocals are just another sonic layer in the mix. Three of the tracks on the album (‘Atone’, ‘Serenity’ and ‘When you Realise’) have him singing more or less solo for the first half, revealing him to be a vocalist and lyricist of immense talent and power.
Recorded under conditions of almost unbearable financial and time-constrained pressure, Paddy Byrne and Ulrich Schnauss have created a widescreen masterpiece comparable with anything you’ll hear from a big budget studio. It’s a common trait for debut albums to sound neutered and over polite. The pair of have done a magnificent job in capturing the dynamic intensity of Exit Calm’s live performances.

This is not a classic shoegaze or post-rock record. It is a classic record full stop. One of the most accomplished debuts in recent (and even not so recent) history.

Totally devoid of filler tracks, it pulls you in instantly yet reveals more with every listen: two killer singles, an opening track as good as anything in living memory, power, complexity, intensity, beauty and passion with lyrics good enough to be published as poetry.

Top Manc scenester Clint Boon recently described Exit Calm as ‘One of greatest rock bands of all time. Simple as that’, which seems ridiculously overblown. Until you hear this album and it all makes perfect sense.
Has a debut album on a tiny independent label ever won the Mercury Music Prize? If there is any justice in the world, this album should.

Sean McKernan Monday 26th April 2010 11.15pm


Ps. Got me vinyl copies today and they are simply stunning!

Pedro Vila