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South - Adventures In The Underground Journey To The Stars

South, Adventures In The Underground Journey To The Stars

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

SOUTH continue to be one of the most frustrating best kept secrets in the industry.

Comprised of Joel Cadbury (lead vocals, bass and guitar), Jamie McDonald (lead guitar, vocals and drums) and Brett Shaw (drums and guitars), they have been responsible for the excellent Mo Wax produced debut album From Here On In and its equally superb follow-up With The Tides, which was produced by Dave Eringa (Manic Street Preachers, Idlewild, Ash).

Eringa is also partially involved in the production of their third album, the oddly titled Adventures In The Underground Journey To The Stars and it’s hardly a surprise to report that it’s another gem.

More deliberately upbeat than some of their previous work and obviously taking a leaf out of the new trend for overlong album names (!), South have really gone for it this time and it would be a crime if the album got overlooked.

The album impresses from the outset with the feel-good Shallow. It may take a minute for the atmospheric sound effects to play out but once the vibrant drum beat kicks in and the breezy bassline begins, it’s a shimmering statement of intent that finds Cadbury’s vocals at their most laidback and softly-spoken.

When he pleads “give in to love, it’s the one thing we have” you’ll probably feel like embracing the loved one next to you.

As ever with South, the instrumentals are intricately inter-woven and genuinely emotive – flitting effortlessly between melodic melancholy and beautifully inspiring.

And the influences come thick and fast, without ever threatening to take over. The “wha ooh” vocal melodies on Shallow, for instance, recall early Fleetwood Mac, while the bass lines are pure vintage New Order. The overall effect is utterly intoxicating.

Thereafter, the highlights come thick and fast.

The meticulous guitar riffs of Habit Of A Lifetime expertly demonstrate the band’s ability to slow-build to some wonderful crescendos – this time including some wonderful xylophone.

The album then explodes into life with You Are One, a rocking guitar track that takes a leaf out of Kasabian’s latest songbook by changing tempo just when you think you have caught onto its direction.

The tender Know Yourself is another exquisite slow-builder, this time benefiting from the boy-girl melodies provided by the beautiful innocence of Pearl Lowe. It’s essentially a ballad but one that’s bittersweet without being overly sentimental.

A Place In Displacement is a skillfully produced blend of rocking guitars, electronics and beats that really does recall Regret-era New Order, whilst remaining quintessentially South.

While the electronic influence returns to equally compelling effect on Safety In Numbers, a slow-builder that just keeps getting better the more you hear it.

Former single Up Close And Personal, meanwhile, provides evidence of the band’s ability to continue growing and stretching itself.

A personal favourite of Cadbury’s, the track is, by their own admission, unlike anything they’ve done before but no less remarkable.

The song alternates rapidly between moments of sparse piano, joyous handclaps and xylophone before the rocking guitars take over. Indeed, it undergoes three tempo changes before the minute-mark! We defy you not to be excited by it!

In stark contrast is the confessional lullaby that is Flesh and Bone, a plaintive offering that drifts effortlessly from a late-night guitar strum of achingly fragile beauty into a beautiful sing-along album closer.

Of the bonus tracks, Speed Up/Slow Down wallows in a sort of late ‘80s/early ‘90s neo-disco groove that’s utterly invigorating, while the New Order influence comes full circle with South’s own take on Bizarre Love Triangle.

South may not be a name that’s on everyone’s lips at the moment but for anyone who has followed their career thus far, this third album is another essential step in their rich musical odyssey.

Newcomers, meanwhile, are in for a real treat – it’s another album highlight of the year.

Track listing:

  1. Shallow
  2. Habit Of A Lifetime
  3. You Are One
  4. Pieces Of A Dream
  5. Know Yourself
  6. A Place In Displacement
  7. Safety In Numbers
  8. What Holds Us
  9. Up Close And Personal
  10. Meant To Mean
  11. Flesh And Bone
    Bonus Tracks
  12. Speed Up/Slow Down
  13. Bizarre Love Triangle
  14. Up Close And Personal [Video]
  15. Up Close And Acoustic [Video]

  1. Bought this album after reading this review and have to say I agree wholeheartedly. I hadn’t heard of South before but I’m a convert now. Can’t wait to get hold of their earlier work. Why aren’t this band getting the radio play and chart positions their music deserves. They’re better than Arctic Monkeys, Razorlight and Franz Ferdinand combined!!!! I love you South

    Simone    Oct 12    #