Slightly disappointingly, This Is Our Way Out isn’t some newly unearthed evidence of the current president of Nigeria’s hitherto unknown second career as a pop musician. This Goodluck Jonathan are five lads from Brighton rather than Lagos who claim they hadn’t even heard of the West African politician when they chose their band name, although they certainly have done now after their Twitter account was apparently inundated with queries about the state of the country’s economy from concerned citizens.
Formed just last year, Goodluck Jonathan’s energetic sound falls somewhere between the spiky art rock of Bloc Party and Young Knives and the quiet/loud dynamics of American acts such as The Mars Volta and At The Drive In. Their debut album is actually a compilation of EPs they’ve released to date, which have helped the group steadily build up a strong following and garnered praise from the NME among others.
Helpfully entitled This Is Our Way Out EPs 1, 2 and 3, Goodluck Jonathan always planned to release the three records separately at intervals to highlight the development of their ideas before bringing everything together as a full length collection at the end. Compared to the rarefied heights of diverse brilliance scaled by The Beta Band when they tried something similar, this is a relatively unexceptional sonic adventure, but there are moments when it’s nevertheless an interesting trip.
Opening track Bruises Disappear kicks things off confidently with a jagged guitar line ushering in singer Nick Brookes’s ominous, distorted vocals. But Stranded and Broken Heart are both disappointingly bland in comparison, the kind of unremarkable alternative rock by numbers that’s already being churned out by a host of second rate bands. Lights Burn My Eyes raises the bar a little, with an early example of their often surprisingly poetic lyrics – “The walls scream for what I lost/It came at such a cost, at such a cost” – but overall these first few tracks are the very much work of newcomers still finding their way, heavily indebted to the American post-punk scene of the late 1990s.
The second quartet is a similarly mixed bag. Fatman and Backs To The Wall are mediocre, over-shouty rockers, yet in contrast the wistful, ringing guitar lines of Away From Here see the band toning down the excitable histrionics that occasionally make them a little grating – a sign of things to come.
But it’s on the final trio of songs that Goodluck Jonathan really hit their stride. Mad Licks and Stop suggest a move towards a more British sound, with the jerky, catchy choruses and Brookes’s urgent vocals bringing to mind the criminally underrated Young Knives. Most of all, the closing title track shows a band growing in maturity and sophistication and may provide some important clues to where Goodluck Jonathan go next. It has a thoughtful, reflective pace, with mellow organ and a softly insistent rhythm to the fore initially before soaring post-rock guitar brings the song to an epic crescendo. Above it all, Brookes sweetly murmurs “I touched her she turned her eyes so proud and grasped my hand and whispered/This is our way out.”
An impressive end to a flawed yet promising debut album that certainly marks out Goodluck Jonathan as ones to watch going forward, what’s especially encouraging is the clear evolution in the band’s songwriting over the course of their three EPs. If their journey continues in the right direction then their next record could well be an absolute treat.