This is going to be a really difficult record for me to review sensibly. This is not for the usual reasons – that I happen to consider the band to be good friends, although I do – but for a more mundane one: I actually know this music and these songs so well that sitting down to try and actually review the album with any sense of detachment or perspective will be tricky.
Songs like Anti-climb Paint, Vincent Gallo and Johnny I Can’t Walk the Line have been staples of the FOUND live set for so long now I actually find it difficult to mentally attribute them to a new album.
Secondly, I’ve had a copy of this album on my hard drive for not much less than a year, when the band were first entering into negotiations with Chemikal, so I am almost too familiar with it to accurately describe what you might feel on first hearing it.
I do just about remember what I though when first hearing it, though, just about. When FOUND divested themselves of their drummer and keyboard player last year I have to confess I allowed myself to unthinkingly assume that the electronic jiggery-pokery of Kev Sim and Tommy Perman would come to the fore, presumably accentuated by the gorgeous acoustic contribution Ziggy made to the band’s Toad Session two years ago. It may sound silly, but I am not sure, given the musicians left in the band, that it was an entirely stupid assumption.
It says something about FOUND, though, that I can hardly have ever been more shocked to hear a band make an album which is not, on the face of it, all that shocking. Hardly shocking at all, in fact I would superficially call this a pretty conventional indie rock album, and that really did surprise me on the first few listens.
I will confess that there are a couple of songs I am not so keen on. Lowlandless doesn’t really do it for me, and the shouted “we’re not getting on” from Every Hour That Passes sits a bit uncomfortably as well, in my view. And er… well, that’s about it, because I think I love everything else about this album, pretty much without reservation.
FOUND’s habitual double-take moments, where a perfectly inoffensive song is suddenly distorted with something incredibly strange and incredibly excellent, are few and far between (the wonky breakdown on Machine Age Dancing being a brilliant exception) and instead they have a hook-heavy record full of exuberant pop moments and, as their live shows for the last year have shown, many, many opportunities to wave your hands in the air and leap up and down like a fool.
It’s not, lest you get that impression, an album lacking any musical invention. It’s more that instead of the ideas leading the songs all over the place, as they perhaps used to, now the songs are calling the tune and the stranger ideas seem to have been called into service to enhance the song, rather than being allowed to roam free and see what emerged. The lead single Machine Age Dancing, for example, whilst indisputably one of the best songs on the album, and perhaps also one of the most characteristic, is definitely not the most hummable pop tune. So there’s not a careless play for the mainstream being made here, by any means.
So, minor caveats aside, this is a great record, and if Anti-climb Paint and Vincent Gallo can’t break FOUND to a wider audience then it will simply be because people are fucking idiots.
FOUND – You’re No Vincent Gallo (Toad Session)
Visit Song, by Toad for more from Matthew.