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Attic Lights - Friday Night Lights

Attic Lights - Friday Night Lights

Island Records

Review 1706 Views
Last Edited by: Chris MUG5 Maguire September 15th, 2008.

Attic Lights are the next big Scottish harmony-guitar band. They have already released a few impressive singles, been a huge hit on the festival circuit - making headlines for befriending David Gest, and enlisted the help of Teenage Fanclub drummer Francis MacDonald for production and Bjorn Yttling for strings. Vocals form the core of their songs with Kev Sherry and Colin McArdle sharing the duties, with backing and harmonies from the rest of the band. 'Friday Night Lights' is the band's debut album.

The album opens with its strongest trio of songs. A previous single 'Never Get Sick Of The Sea' kicks off with guitars and pounding drums before the vocals join in. It all works up to the chorus which sounds like there are some notes missing or the record is skipping. It is a very disjointed melody. Beyond the wash of guitars and vocals, a neat piano can be heard. The song only really comes alive at the end as the last minute shines with tuneful exuberance. A solid start. 'Bring You Down' is the band's big single, a startling atmospheric antithesis to the dark overtones of recent kinsmen Glasvegas. A strong chorus shows off the talented harmonies and the overall effect is like The Thrills if only they could write decent songs... and sing them. The big finale is introduced with a semi-talky section with Sherry declaring "I'm hopelessly devoted, I'm voting for the hopeless tonight...". The big guitars and strings crash in and there is a slightly rushed vocal ending. Completing the trilogy, 'Wendy' opens with a swathe of strings and guitars. It takes no time to get to another simple poppy chorus. Rhyming 'over' with 'October' and then 'told her' will not win any awards but it works. The song has a brief instrumental section of strings, heavy guitars and then more strings. A gorgeous vocal performance from the band, coupled with more huge strings (they really get the most from Bjorn Yttling here) form the fading outro. Wonderful stuff.

So after a strong start, what is left is a more eclectic mix of styles and sounds. 'Dark Eyes' is a delicate piano-led ballad with gravely vocals. Over half way through a short two minutes and forty four seconds, the band appear to provide a lift but only serve to transform the song into the safe and predictable. When it settles down again, the gruff vocals return with: "I walk around Glasgow streets silently tonight" accompanied by piano. Pleasant enough but like most of the album, way too short.

The album's other big single 'God' is a much needed high point in the middle of the album - a vibrant guitar-led pseudo-emo ditty about a frustrating relationship. Some great lyrics show off the band's quirky side: "So long, I have to get my jacket. This queue, feels like I'm caught in traffic. The doubt starts to hit me like rain, I'll never see her again". All this and a great guitar sound accompany the very Teenage Fanclub sounding vocal production. The stuttering end makes Sherry and crew sound like a bunch of stalkers as they repeat "I waited outside for her, she never waited for me...".

At worse the album gets desperately dull. 'Nothing But Love' does very little with a tired sound, staying well within the band's comfort zone. Annoyingly the song grinds to a halt on two occasions, the second time making way for an agonisingly slow outro which just prolongs the experience. It picks up at the end but then runs out of steam. 'Walkie Talkie' is equally empty and just glides through the motions. The songs also fail to impress when it gets too clever. 'The Dirty Thirst' is a spurious take on a Fountains Of Wayne tribute/parody with some funny yet strange lyrics. 'Late Night Sunshine' uses the same trick, this time in cheesy ballad mode but without a decent chorus.

The closing song 'Winter On', the album's longest song at just over four minutes, is another mid-temp crawl. The lead vocal sounds like Tim Wheeler on a bad day. What should be a passionate and heart-felt moment turns into some awfully whiny vocals, emotional piano and dig drums. The second half turns into Embrace (remember them?) with the whole band singing and swaying to "Hey baby, do you ever think of me? Hey baby, when the rain is pouring down your street. Hold on to the things you wanted me to keep. Hey baby, you're the cause of me...". It is an earnest and brave attempt to finish the album in style.

It is unusual, but as a 'vocal' group Attic Lights are a little rough around the edges. With MacDonald on production duties, the band find an acceptable compromise between precise choral harmonies and a late night drink-fuelled sing-a-long. Vocally, in part due to the shared resources of Sherry and McArdle, the songs shimmer with variety. But there is a tendency to simply fill the empty spaces with lots of wordless backing vocals ('Walkie Talkie' being the worst culprit) only contributing to the overall upbeat feel. 'Friday Night Lights' is also stacked too high with the best songs, highlighting the band's typical sound. From there it is a confusion of influences and ideas that lead to a severe lack of consistency and identity.

A promising start but Attic Lights need to do a lot more than just be David Gest's favourite festival band.

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