Monthly Archives: September 2013

SCHOONER – Neighborhood Veins

Album: Neighborhood Veins

Artist: Schooner

Label: Potluck

Release Date: September 24, 2013

Schooner 9-24

www.potluckfoundation.com

 BY FRED MILLS

 Though this Durham, NC, combo has undergone a veritable revolving-door lineup shuffle since surfacing on the Triangle (Chapel Hill/Durham/Raleigh) scene a few years ago, and the group’s new album Neighborhood Veins does boast sundry regional talents culled from the likes of the Rosebuds, Bowerbirds and Old Ceremony, there’s no question that it remains the steadfast musical vision of Mr. Reid Johnson. He’s a soaring/swooping-throated proselytizer capable of whipping up the congregation—as he did not long ago at the annual Hopscotch Musical Festival, knocking yours truly out with his natural charisma and pure rock ‘n’ roll panache—but also aiming to get under the skins of listeners with his deep-hook melodies.

 There’s a Spector-ish vibe fully in play on the album, as evidenced on such numbers as echo-chamber country-rock gem “Flames,” thrashy thumper “Trap,” waltz-time ballad “Floodlights and Ghosts” and ‘50s pop pastiche “Still In Love” (check the falsetto!). That widescreen, cinematic element becomes a signature over the course of the 12-song record, and it’s telling that right from the get-go, on opening track “It Won’t Matter” one receives sonic images ranging from Roy Orbison to the Righteous Brothers to the Velvet Underground. Choogle on, brother Reid.

 That said, Neighborhood Veins is hardly a straightforward or straitlaced pop platter. Subversion is key: how else to explain the jungle throb of “Feel Better” or the experimental noise collage that is the title track? In concert, the band purposefully mashes up all these elements, and in the final estimation, Schooner comes across as one of the most unclassifiable yet delightful outfits I’ve had the pleasure to experience both firsthand and from afar—via this album—since moving to the Triangle a year and a half ago.

 Incidentally: seek out the vinyl edition of the record. I’ve A-B’d it with the CD, and there’s no comparison, sonically. If you act quick, you might be able to score a blue wax platter, too.

 DOWNLOAD: “It Won’t Matter,” “Still In Love,” “Feel Better”

TONY JOE WHITE – Hoodoo

Album: Hoodoo

Artist: Tony Joe White

Label: Yep Roc

Release Date: September 17, 2013

Tony Joe White 9-17

www.yeproc.com

 

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

 

It’s the nature of the music biz that any artist that boasts only a handful of hits generally has a hard time sustaining a career for any more than a year or two, much less for four decades. So credit Tony Joe White for doing the unimaginable, maximizing the success he scored early on with songs like Polk Salad Annie, Rainy Night in Georgia and Steamy Windows (the latter two written for Brook Benton and Tina Turner, respectively), and using them to spur a trajectory that’s still going strong.

 

Not surprisingly then, “Hoodoo” maintains that same swampy m.o. through a series of dark, dense ruminations that find him in a solid groove. White balances his approach midway between a snaking boogie and tangled blues, with tracks like The Gift, Who You Gonna Hoodoo Now and The Flood conveying a sinewy, stealth-like mystique. In truth, some of these songs don’t always gain a lot of traction, although the facile instrumentation and White’s gritty vocals manage to mesmerize nevertheless. And for all the murky undercurrent, the agile arrangements and mood manipulation still manage to leave a lingering imprint.

Ultimately, it’s a credit to White’s ability to stay the course that 45 years after first making his mark he hasn’t abandoned his approach or conceded anything to more of a modern motif. His music still retains its roots in the Louisiana bayou, and the fact that “Hoodoo” finds him as devoted to his muse now as he was when he was tagged “The Swamp Fox” back in the day, demonstrates a decided singularity of purpose. From the heads down deliberation of Alligator, Mississippi to the teasing double entendre of Sweet Tooth, White’s music captures a particular time and place when pop and pretense weren’t necessarily intertwined.

As always, Tony Joe remains the real deal.

DOWNLOAD: “Sweet Tooth,” “The Gift,” “The Flood”

 

MAN MAN – On Oni Pond

Album: On Oni Pond

Artist: Man Man

Label: Anti-

Release Date: September 10, 2013

Man Man

www.anti.com

 BY JOHN B. MOORE

 Philly’s Man Man has never really been accused of making a stripped down record, but On Oni Pond, their fifth, is quite possibly the closest they will ever come to being considered de-cluttered.

  And while you can already hear the cries of “I liked their earlier stuff better” there is still a lot to like about this new album. A tad more accessible (as accessible as a band with a sousaphone player can be), but still pretty unique, the songs are tighter and more melodic than even their last effort; Pop at the core, but with plenty of jazz, funk and experimental rock layered on top.

 For those quick to dismiss this effort as too mainstream, yes we applaud your sanctimonious indie cred. Now shut up and go away so the rest of us can listen to this record again.

 DOWNLOAD: “King Shiv” and “Deep Cover”

WILLY DEVILLE — Live in the Lowlands

Title: WILLY DEVILLE -- Live in the Lowlands

Director: n/a

Release Date: September 17, 2013

Will Deville

www.eaglerockent.com

 BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

 “I was never in it for the money. I was in it for the art,” Willy DeVille insists in a brief prologue prior to this concert getting underway. “When you’re a musician, you have a passion to play.”

 That’s a fine, if succinct, summation of DeVille’s career, one that took him from post punk notoriety with his band Mink DeVille and later towards a certain rarified status on his own. A street musician in spirit, if not always in practice, he offered a fervent blend of rock, folk and swamp-soaked blues, all underscored with a Latin accent and his own particular mix of skill and savvy. He purveyed a somewhat sinister presence on stage as well; seated at a stool, with his long ink-black hair swept back over his shoulders, the barest snippet of a mustache highlighting a pale complexion and a nose that angles decidedly to the right, he looks a pirate playing impresario as he holds court in Amsterdam’s Paradiso Club in 2005. “Do you realise how long I’ve been coming to this dump?” he snarls, without betraying any hint of irony. “Twenty seven years!”

 Nevertheless, if familiarity breeds contempt, there’s no hint of it here. With a superb band and two back-up singers in tow, DeVille runs down some 21 tunes, incorporating signature songs from Mink DeVile (“Cadillac Walk,” “Spanish Stroll,” “Savoir Faire”), his own individual efforts (“Crow Jane Alley,” the title track of his final album) and choice covers that effortlessly fit the format (“Low Rider,” “Come a Little Bit Closer,” “Hey Joe” and “Slave to Love”). The audience seems enthralled. Indeed, diverse origins aside, DeVille wraps his guttural vocals ably around each offering, adding gypsy like embellishment and his own take on the image of a tireless troubadour.

 Bonus interview segments add further insight, but DeVille, who died from cancer in 2009, says it best in his music, his stealth-like sobriety shielding the soul of man who pursued a seemingly limitless muse. Live in the Lowland is all the testimony it takes.


Bonus features: Interview with Willy DeVille

 

ROKY ERICKSON – The Evil One/Don’t Slander Me/Gremlins Have Pictures

Album: The Evil One/Don’t Slander Me/Gremlins Have Pictures

Artist: Roky Erickson

Label: Light In The Attic

Release Date: September 17, 2013

Roky Erickson The Evil One Sept. 3

www.lightintheattic.net

 BY MICHAEL TOLAND

 When Roky Erickson was released from the Rusk State Hospital for the Criminally Insane in the early ‘70s, Texan music fans rejoiced. Though little more than a forgotten psychedelic relic to most of the world, in his home state he and his ‘60s band the 13th Floor Elevators were revered. With new management, a new band (variously known as Bleib Alien and the Aliens and featuring electric autoharpist Bill Miller and lead guitarist Duane Aslaksen) and the patronage of Doug Sahm, among others, the singer/songwriter/guitarist shifted his new tunes and old demons back and forth between California and the Lone Star State, polishing his live prowess and building the repertoire for which he would become (in)famous. By the time he hit the studio with Creedence Clearwater Revival bassist Stu Cook as producer, Erickson was ready to put his Elevators days behind him and create his own legend.

 Originally released in 1981 and newly reissued by Light In The Attic on CD and as a 3-sided/etched LP (see product note at end), The Evil OneRoky Erickson and the Aliens, a/k/a Five Symbols, for the 1980 British release—sets the standard what was to come. Erickson conveys fanciful, disturbing visions of demons, monsters and aliens of uncertain intent to driving rock & roll, powered by his raging howl and frosted with Miller’s otherworldly autoharp noise. The album is riddled with Roky classics like “Bloody Hammer,” “I Walked With a Zombie,” “The Wind and More,” the Chuck Berry-on-Satan “Don’t Shake Me Lucifer” and the awesome “Two Headed Dog,” which would cause fallen angels to play air guitar and feature ferocious vocal performances. But in the rush to fistpump, don’t overlook this record’s hidden gems, like the melodic, folk-rocking “If You Have Ghosts,” the enigmatic “Click Your Fingers Applauding the Play” or the downright feral “Sputnik.” The Evil One is Roky Erickson in a nutshell.

Recorded in 1983 but released in 1986, Don’t Slander Me tweaks the musical formula a little and the lyrical stance a lot. Taking over as producer, Aslaksen pushes Miller’s autoharp to the side and his own flamboyant guitar to the front, practically engaging in call and response with the headliner, whose voice is still at the center of the sound. Erickson, who had grown more troubled in the years between this and The Evil One, mostly downplays his horror flick fixation for more straightforward concerns. Fans of his Hammer Films lyrical acumen may face disappointment (unfairly) with songs like “You Drive Me Crazy” and the bonus track “Realize You’re Mine,” but the tracks rock too hard to support much carping. The boogieing “Haunt,” the blastabilly “Crazy Crazy Mama,” the defiant “Can’t Be Brought Down,” the pissed-off “The Damn Thing” and the raging title track take no prisoners, even they’re missing ghouls and space aliens. Erickson also proves himself adept at pop tunes, as the startlingly melodic and accessible “Nothing in Return,” the bonus cut “Hasn’t Anyone Told You” and “Starry Eyes” (which reiterates the influence Buddy Holly had on pretty much every Texas rocker) demonstrate. Erickson hasn’t completely abandoned his haunted visions – the blazing “Bermuda” recommends a vacation in the Devil’s Triangle, while the descent into madness that is “Burn the Flames” goes abruptly goes from understatedly creepy to full-on disturbing once Erickson casually unleashes a ghastly, morbid laugh that would do Vincent Price proud. Often dismissed in relation to The Evil One, Don’t Slander Me is in reality just as strong as its more celebrated predecessor.

 Erickson began another downward spiral after that, which led to the release of Gremlins Have Pictures as a way to fill in what turned out to be a very wide gap. Collecting various singles, demos and live cuts from the ‘70s and early ‘80s, the record ranges all over the map. “I’m a Demon” (more a fragment than a full song), the menacing “The Beast” and the odd but classic “Cold Night For Alligators” display his nascent occult fetish, while “The Interpreter” (his first single), “Before in the Beginning” and the poppy “Sweet Honey Pie” don’t fall far from the Elevators’ tree. Dementia soaks the ethereal “I Am”, as Erickson strums an acoustic guitar and croons “Satan’s all perfect love” atop Jack Johnson’s psychedelic slide guitar. More acoustic cuts emphasize Erickson’s way with melody – both the wistful “I Have Always Been Here Before” and the dramatic “Anthem (I Promise)” are reminders that there’s much more to the troubled Texan than a tenuous grasp on reality. Perhaps the most surprising facet of this phase of Erickson’s talent is a turn toward sociopolitical commentary; while the rocking “John Lawman,” “Song to Abe Lincoln” and folky “Warning (Social & Political Injustices)” won’t win any Nobel Prizes, they definitely expand the horizons of what fans think Erickson capable. The LP also includes a few repeats from previous LPs (a live “Night of the Vampire,” an extra fuzzy “Bermuda,” a strangely plaintive “Burn the Flames”) and a faithful cover (!) of the Velvet Underground’s “Heroin.” Overall, Gremlins Have Pictures is a hodgepodge of sounds and experiences, but Erickson’s undiminished talent keeps the quality high. (The vinyl reissue includes a bonus 7” single.)

 Various official and semi-authorized odds ‘n’ sods collections kept Erickson’s name alive during what turned out to be his final deterioration. Fans already know he’s since made a near-full recovery from his mental illness, gigging regularly and even releasing a strong LP of new music (True Love Cast Out All Evil). But the songs on these records remain at the heart of his repertoire, and he still performs them with fire and ferocity.

 DOWNLOAD: “Two Headed Dog,” “If You Have Ghosts,” “The Wind and More,” “Don’t Slander Me,” “Nothing in Return,” “Starry Eyes,” “The Interpreter,” “Anthem (I Promise),” “I Have Always Been Here Before”

 

GRATEFUL DEAD – Sunshine Daydream: Veneta, Oregon, August 27, 1972

Album: Sunshine Daydream

Artist: Grateful Dead

Label: Rhino

Release Date: September 17, 2013

Grateful Dead 9-17

www.rhino.com

BY HAL BIENSTOCK

If you asked your average Deadhead to name the single best Dead show, the answer has remained unchanged since tape trading went semi-mainstream in the 1980s: the show at Cornell University on May 8, 1977. Over the last few years, as people have been able to stream just about any Dead performance on demand, that conventional wisdom has been questioned. Now, you’ll find just as many people making a case for the Fillmore East shows on Feb. 13-14, 1970 and a more unusual concert, the Springfield Creamery Benefit in Veneta, Oregon, in August 1972. The official release of this last show as Sunshine Daydream may shift the balance of power once and for all. For Deadheads and casual fans alike, this is as good as it gets.

Everything the Dead do well is here: the extended jams (“Playin’ in the Band” and a “Dark Star” that ventures into Miles Davis territory), laid-back country rock (“Deal,” “El Paso”) and straight-ahead Chuck Berry-influenced rock and roll (“Greatest Story Ever Told” “One More Saturday Night” and Berry’s own “The Promised Land”).

While it’s easy to roll your eyes when Deadheads talk about “magic” there is something about a Dead show that is hard to quantify. Some nights the band is locked in, some nights it’s not. Sometimes the jams are aimless, others they’re exploratory in the best possible way. The harmonies can be gorgeous or sloppy. Often you get some of each of these things at different points in a show. Here the band is clicking from start to finish. It’s that simple.

Rhino has done a great job commemorating the show. It sounds great and comes in a beautiful package (tie-dyed of course) complete with liner notes that tell the story of the day from several angles. Best of all, a long-lost professional film of the show is finally available. With this being 1972, you’ll need to have a high tolerance for cheesy “psychedelic” animation and naked hippies. But when the focus is on the band, the film is a joy to watch.

DOWNLOAD: “Dark Star,” “China Cat Sunflower,” “I Know You Rider”

 

 

 

Riot Fest 9/21-22/13, Denver CO

Dates: September 21 & 22, 2013

Location: Byers, CO

Riot Fest

BY TIM HINELY / PHOTOS BY GREG JACOBS

Riot Fest began in its home city of Chicago in 2005 and has grown ever since. Last year the festival expanded to Dallas, Brooklyn and Toronto; this year, in addition to Chicago, there was another one in Toronto with Denver having its virgin fest (actually Byers, Colorado, about 40 miles east of Denver).

The two day festival lineup was solid with heavy hitters like The Replacements headlining and other rock knockers like Iggy and the Stooges, Blink 182 and Rancid coming along as well (plenty more).

***

SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 21, 2013

Wanted to get there in time for BEST COAST but alas, the traffic getting out to this no-mans’ land was atrocious and it didn’t get any better once you entered the festival as it took another 30-45 minutes just to park. As we were walking in we heard the sounds of Best Coast’s “Girlfriend”, knowing darn well we missed the set (damn!).  We then meandered over and caught a few songs by rockers MINUS THE BEAR which didn’t really turn my crank, but SUPERCHUNK (below) did turn it. In this Laura-less lineup (Jason Narducy from the Bob Mould band, ably filled in, we heard crowd-favorites like “Skip Steps 1 and 3,” “Watery Hands” and “Detroit Has a Skyline.” A solid set by these longtime indie rock kings.

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On the other side of the field was Washington, DC’s THE DISMEMBERMENT PLAN who were more melodic than I remember them being. I liked it.  At 5:05 PM it was over to the Roots Stage for Guided by Voices. This is the classic line (that I caught on their first tour in 1994) with Tobin, Mitch, Kevin and Greg joining Robert Pollard. Got to hear some classics (“Smothered in Hugs,” “I am a Scientist,” “Wished I was a Giant,” “Shocker in Gloomtown”) but the sound wasn’t great and Uncle Bob was a bit pickled (you don’t say).  Not their best 60 minutes.

Over on the Rock Stage AGAINST ME! had a crowd captivated with their blasting, anthemic punk  while ALKALINE TRIO was doing the same  on the far left on the Riot Stage. Who stole the show at Riot Fest 2103? Why, it was San Diego’s own ROCKET FROM THE CRYPT. You know the deal, matching outfits, 2-piece horn section and vocalist/guitarist John “Speedo” Reis cranking out funnier one-liners than Neil Hamburger (Man, the scene here in Byers is crazy!”, “How’s the pit…who’s winnings?”).  They were tight, but obviously having a blast and seemed to be everyone’s favorite band of the fest.

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It was a good time to get some dinner after Rocket’s set (most of the punks were watching AFI) and then in the dark, IGGY & THE STOOGES took the stage at 9:25 PM sharp.

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It was a bit chilly out (I had my jacket on) but do you think this stopped Iggy from having his shirt off for the whole set? Hell no! The Stooges out in a stellar set and kicked out classics like “1970,” “I Got a Right,” “Search and Destroy” and too many others. They delivered!

Finally, at 10:30 PM out came THE REPLACEMENTS in matching skirts, shirts and cowboy hats (pink and orange).  Paul and Tommy joined by drummer Josh Freese and The Neighborhood’s David Minehan on guitar. Calling it The Replacements might be a stretch with only two original members, but regardless, the band smoked. They opened with “Takin’ a Ride” and also played gems like “Androgynous,” “Swingin’ Party’ and “Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out.” Encores?  There were a few, like “Hootenanny” as well as a breakdown of “Detroit Rock City” into The Who’s “Substitute” before effin’ off the stage in supreme fashion. They did it.

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***

SUNDAY- SEPTEMBER 22, 2013

Yes, we came back for more fun and frivolity. The parking situation had improved a little. Got there in time to catch Japanese theatre punks PEELANDER Z (below) who had the crowd eating out of their hand with patented chants and pseudo-metal riffs.

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Then over to the rock stage to see hypno-rockers WOVENHAND who I didn’t even like a little bit.  Canada’s STARS did a terrific set of catchy jangle pop, a rarity this year, and the band thanked the crowd profusely for paying attention (crowd should have been thanking them…and they did, they were appreciative).

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It was back to the Riot Stage to catch Chicago legends NAKED RAYGUN (above) who still play occasionally. Like GBV, the sound was real rough during their set, but the band didn’t quite seem to be firing on all cylinders on this night, Still we got to hear some Raygun classics like “Home of the Brave,” “Vanilla Blue” and “Treason.” Another special treat was longtime bassist Pierre Kezdy coming out and playing a few songs at the end (he suffered a stroke last year).  It was then over to the other side to catch some of YO LA TENGO who played a lovely, subdued (mostly) set with lots of instrument switching. These guys could do this in their sleep.

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In the middle PUBLIC ENEMY (above) drew a huge crowd and had them all entranced (goin’ nuts, actually) but we had one thing in mind, back to the Riot Stage to catch the mighty FLAG! (below). They came on at 6 PM sharp and did not disappoint. Holy moly were these guys flat-out fierce! They opened with “Revenge” and from there went into “Fix It,” “Police Story,” “Depression,” “No Values” but right at about the midway point in their set the rain began coming down (big drops) and the wind whipped up (blew down some very large banners) and then….ta-dah…..lightning. The sets going on all got called (postponed). A voice came over the loudspeaker telling folks to go to their cars for shelter and that the concert will resume.

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I walked back to my car (only took me 25 minutes to find it and twice that long to get out of the parking lot). The weather did not look like it was going to improve and I assumed the festival would not continue so I headed home, missing Bad Religion (below, after text) and Rancid who were both playing later. (as were Blink 182, Matt & Kim and Devotchka).

Byers, Colorado loved Riot Fest and Riot Fest seemed to love Byers. Ya’ll come back now, ya’ hear?

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WESLEY STACE – Wesley Stace

Album: Wesley Stace

Artist: Wesley Stace

Label: Yep Roc

Release Date: September 17, 2013

Wesley Stace 9-17

www.yeproc.com

BY LEE ZIMMERMAN

Shedding his longtime pseudonym — John Wesley Harding — the man behind the music, Wesley Stace, reverts to his real name and, in a sense, revisits his past. An acknowledgment of what’s always been his “other” identity — that of author, radio host, and educator… in tandem with his day job as a singer/songwriter of eminent pop stature — Stace/Harding goes literate and literal with this generous sixteen song set, humbly titled Self-Titled. Yet, rather than flaunt his many skills, Stace generally maintains low-lit appeal, drifting subtly and softly with an exceedingly smooth croon.

Still, homilies and humility don’t necessarily allow for the most emphatic of impressions, and while Stace’s agile approach is both pleasant and personable, it doesn’t come close to the persuasive pop created under the guise of his earlier identity. Happily then, a closer listen yields treasures among the tender touches, most holding to a first person point of view. “We Will Always Have New York” provides a cinematic touch, a tale of two lovers intersecting with some of the city’s iconic landmarks. “Lydia” is intriguing and revealing, an homage to a former lover who played a crucial role in the singer’s personal and professional evolution. “I was once in my prime/Now I cry all the time/You were my Waterloo,” Stace laments over a soft bed of strings. “Stare at the Sun” more or less mirrors the same arrangements, pretty yet purposeful all at the same time.

That autobiographical streak remains consistent throughout, with songs such as “A Canterbury Kiss” and “Pieces of the Past” namedropping early musical heroes and sharing in their discovery. What ultimately emerges is an intimate portrait of an artist flush with inspiration, looking through a rearview mirror and gazing in amazement as the distance falls away.

DOWNLOAD: “We Will Always Have New York,” “Lydia,” “Stare at the Sun”

 

TRENTEMOLLER – Lost

Album: Lost

Artist: Trentemoller

Label: HFN Music

Release Date: September 24, 2013

Trentemoller_Lost

 BY APRIL S. ENGRAM

 Danish producer Anders Trentemoller creates ambient electronic music like no other as he sends his listeners on an emotional sonic journey. For his third LP, Trentemoller does not stray from his chilled, ambient staple and constructs an album that weaves a moody, dark undertone to light and airy vocals. Trentemoller has pulled together a wide array of sounds; if these songs were not on the same album one may think each track was crafted by different artists; this proves to be equally an impressive feat and frustrating factor for #Lost# as the shift in ambiance is sometimes jarring.

 Seven guest vocalists, each appearing on their own song, aid in the range of sounds on the 12 track album. Second single, “Candy Tongue,” ft. Marie Fisker is genteel, ethereal and has a sense of whimsical doom while “Deceive,” and its darkly sensual music, is enhanced by The Raveonettes’ Sune Wagner’s reserved vocals. In fact, Trentemoller has amassed vocalists who are known for their subtle vocal styles, Blonde Redhead’s Kazu Makino and Lower Dens’ Jana Hunter. Tracks that do not bear vocals could easily be the soundtrack for a cool Western, “Trails” or an enigmatic, futuristic sci-fi, “Light on Fire.” The mixtape of emotions Trentemoller has produced on Lost is proof of his virtuosity.

 DOWNLOAD: “Deceive,” “Gravity”

CHVRCHES – The Bones Of What You Believe

Album: The Bones Of What You Believe

Artist: Chvrches

Label: Glassnote

Release Date: September 24, 2013

Chvrches

www.glassnotemusic.com

 BY MISCHA PEARLMAN

 Chvrches are blowing up all across America. The Glaswegian electro-pop trio are selling out huge venues in the country left, right and center – not bad for a band who have only been together since 2011, and whose only releases prior to this album are a few EPs and singles. Back home in Scotland (and the rest of the UK), their success has so far been more tempered, even though the bands that Iain Cook and Martin Doherty were in over there—the now-defunct Aereogramme and The Twilight Sad, respectively, though Doherty was only a touring member of the latter—are both well-known in indie circles and critically acclaimed. It’s probably worth pointing out that both bands are also better—more real, more intense, more heartfelt, more visceral—than Chvrches.

 That’s not to say Chvrches are bad. The trio—completed by Lauren Mayberry and her sickly sweet, electronified vocals—have fallen upon a formula that works on The Bones Of What You Believe. Over glossy, synthetic beats full of color and light and the occasional flash of darkness, Mayberry croons with disaffected non-committal, the emotions of her words at odds with either the lack of emotion in her voice, or, alternately, the chirpiness of it. “We Sink” suffers because of the former, “Gun” the latter. “Lies” is a Madonna-esque ’80s anthem given a dark, existential makeover for the modern day, but one that’s not wholly believable, while “Recover”’s glossy sheen, catchy as it is, just becomes that little bit too trite, too saccharine, too sweet, too insincere.

 There are, however, some affecting moments here, but they’re mainly on the tracks where Chvrches deviate from that formula that dominates these twelve songs. Opener “The Mother We Share” doesn’t stray too far from that path, but there’s enough distance to make it stand it out, to let a little bit of real, rather than affected, emotion shine through. That, though, pales into insignificance next to the forlorn, slow-motion lament of closer “You Caught The Light”. For the whole album, it sounds like the band are either striving too hard for emotion or trying to push it away, but never quite succeed at either. These five and half sublime minutes, however, are pure feeling and heart. Sure, it’s half Joy Division, half The Cure, but it works better than everything that precedes it, a hint of just how extraordinary this album could have been had Chvrches just let themselves feel more.

 Instead, it’s merely average, one likely to fade into memory once the buzz dies down and the fire goes out.

  DOWNLOAD: “You Caught The Light”, “The Mother We Share”, “Recover”