Guillemots - Red
Review by Jack Foley
“WE didn’t want to make Through The Windowpane 2,” insists Guillemots lead singer Fyfe Dangerfield. “That was a softer record. This time around we just wanted to make a bunch of pop songs that punched, instantly.
“To make pop songs that demand your attention, that make you stop in your tracks when they come on the radio, that’s our ultimate ambition.”
Well, they certainly succeed in stopping you in your tracks. From the opening disco-glam of Kriss Kross, you pretty much know this is a marked change of direction from the band behind past sweet faves such as Made Up Lovesong #43 and Trains To Brazil.
Kriss Kross sounds like a mutant hybrid of The Manic Street Preachers and Scissor Sisters and while it certainly grabs the attention, it also strikes a slightly worrying note. Perhaps it’s a mis-step.
Fortunately, Big Dog arrives with a bark that’s big enough to blow away any such suspicions. Dropping the type of funky R’n‘B beat that both Happy Mondays and OutKast would be proud of, it then delivers an effortless album highlight with Dangerfield somehow managing to sound like a cross between George Michael and Prince. It sounds an odd mix, for sure, but just give it a listen and you’ll understand why it works so well.
There’s a real acoustic splendour surrounding the beautiful Falling Out Of Reach, which thrives on its simplicity and lyrics like “slow down before you get burned out” (a sentiment that will surely resonate with many in these fast, crazy times), while punchy lead single Get Over It picks up the pace once more and continues to demonstrate why this is clearly a band that’s not about taking things easy. Rather, they want to explore and exhilarate – and first song aside, they mostly do.
Thereafter, the highlights keep coming. Clarion weaves its magic around an interesting, sitar-like loop and displays yet more songwriting verve, especially in the way it gradually layers on the back beats and supporting melodies, while Arista and Magrao provide vocals for another of the album’s disco friendly offerings, Last Kiss.
Like Kriss Kross before it, though, Last Kiss fails to generate as much excitement as some of the tracks around it, but it does ensure that Guillemots are cleverly poised to avoid easy genre stereotypes, whilst being capable of appeal to indie-pop fans as well as disco party groovers. And you can’t help but admire them for doing that.
Words, meanwhile, ensures they’ll appeal to yet another demographic: the romantically inclined; it’s stark simplicity proving hauntingly effective thanks to its fine fusion of a lone harmonica, some beautiful piano and some very understated backbeats. Dangerfield’s vocal delivery (“words are never easy, words are seldom true”), meanwhile, helps to deliver an instant heartbreak classic.
Look out, too, for the hopeful optimism of Standing On The Last Star, which combines some fine melodies with a ridiculously falsetto chorus from Dangerfield, and the brooding Don’t Look Down, which captivates with its chiming melodic structure and U2-style scope.
Final track Take Me Home, mwanwhile, is not, fortunately, a cover of the old Phil Collins number, but rather a moody, late-night crowd-pleaser that’s underpinned by a terrific background pulse.
Red was written by all four members of the band – Dangerfield, Magrao, Aristazabal Hawkes and Greig Stewart – and co-produced with their long-standing engineer Adam Noble (George Michael, U2 and Paul McCartney). But while in most walks of life Red means stop; we’d urge you to throw caution to the breeze and rush out and buy this album.
Download picks: Big Dog, Falling Out Of Reach, Words, Clarion,