Balham boys are Optimistic of success

Review by Jack Foley

THE band from Balham, in London, have created something of a storm since the release of their debut album, The Optimist, secured a coveted Mercury Music Prize nomination and attracted a considerable amount of critical acclaim.

Certainly, the first single to be taken from it - Underdog (Save Me) - was an acoustic gem, boasting strong vocals, a great background guitar loop and some mesmerising wordplay that could appeal to anyone who has ever felt like the underdog in life.

Sadly, the rest of the album fails to live up to the giddy heights of that first single, but there is still much to savour for anyone feeling like something a little melancholic and seeking a change from the obvious likes of Radiohead.

First track, Feeling Oblivion, with its haunting opening piano note, is a worthy start to proceedings, while second single, Mind Over Money, is another strong track and evidence of what to expect.

Most tracks start very slowly before building to an effective mixture of simple drum loops and even simpler guitar strings, backed by some effective lyrics and a promising vocal performance.

The only trouble is, you really have to be in the mood to listen to it. Far from its title, The Optimist can be rather depressing and will in no way appeal to the party-loving masses. Rather, it is the morning after album, or the one you come back to after a bad day at work.

It requires a certain amount of listening to really appreciate its message - but it remains compulsive nonetheless. Whether or not it wins the Mercury Music Prize (all bets were on Zero 7, which is reviewed elsewhere on this site, until PJ Harvey stole it), remains to be seen; but it is a worthy nominee and, more importantly, the first glimpse of a rapidly emerging talent.

These guys are definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Track listing:
1. Feeling Oblivion
2. Underdog (Save Me)
3. Emergency 72
4. Future Boy
5. The Door
6. State of Things
7. By TV Light
8. Slack
9. Starship
10.The Road
11. Mind Over Money
12. The Optimist