The claims that guitar music is dead resurface every year, and no doubt we’ll be hearing the same death knells again before long, but there’s no denying that it was given a major shot in the arm last year when The Black Keys broke into mainstream consciousness with Lonely Boy. The infectious lead single from El Camino soon propelled them toward better things, and it is this success story that one would do well to keep in mind when listening to the debut album by Manchester band Folks. Though they peddle a more expansive sound, taking in such things as psychedelia, acoustic pop and expansive balladry along the way, it would be wise for their label to capitalise on the renewed popularity of gritty guitar rock. Therefore, the searing opener to I See Cathedrals, My Mother, needs to be released as a single ASAP. Its swaggering riff is absolutely irresistible, and it gets the sextet’s debut off to a flyer. Next, they immediately change things up with the woozy psych-pop of Avalanche; the song coasts along on some swoon-worthy harmonies before revealing a harder edge. Folks are tough to pin down, and sometimes even harder to keep up with.
The band then transport us back to the ’60s with the laid-back pop stylings of People I’ve Known, one of the moments on the album that indicates that the band wear their influences on their collective sleeve. Despite this, it reveals a tender and beautiful side to the band that rears its head in other places on I See Cathedrals, such as on Where Does The White Go, not to mention on the waltzing, downbeat closer The Ship, the latter of which reaches levels of grandeur that some of Folks’ contemporaries have tried and failed to reach. Their more immediate side is represented just as well, with the dazzling power-pop of Skull & Bones and the absolutely brilliant recent single Say Something providing a quick fix for listeners who may not be so enamoured with the likes of Ink. It’s the most beautiful moment on the album, but there will be some who don’t come to this album for beauty. On one side, there are pop thrills; and on the other is the work of a band who are considerably more ambitious.
Fans of Radiohead will be pleased with the album’s penultimate track Four and Twenty Blackbirds, which is cut from similar cloth as Jigsaw Falling into Place from 2007′s In Rainbows; it strikes a nice balance between their more accessible material and their darker stuff. It’s another moment where the band seem a little too in thrall to their influences, which range across a number of different genres, but there’s no doubt that the band do a good job of trying to mix these things in with their own touches. Their debut album isn’t quite the finished article – for all its diversity, there are some songs in its middle section that fall a little short of the mark, namely Do the Right Thing, which certainly means well but comes across as a little bland – but when it’s good, it’s very good indeed. There’s a tour with Band of Skulls lined up toward the end of the year, and that, combined with this fine (and sometimes quite impressive) introduction, should help Folks gain some wider exposure, because it would be a shame if they didn’t.