Since their self-titled debut release in 2010, O Children have had a tricky couple of years, enduring difficult second album syndrome made more acute by singer Tobi O’Kandi’s struggles against deportation, after being caught minus a ticket on a train from Manchester to London.
Which tells us two things. One, they’re really cracking down on fare dodgers and two, if this is anything to go by, that long promised first record from Abu Qatada should be worth waiting for.
Because Apnea is rather fantastic. It’s epic, portentous and wracked with a sense of dread. But, it also pulsates with enough energy to ensure it never gets weighed down by the baggage. Of course, if you are travelling on a train without a ticket it is worth minimising baggage, as it can impede escape.
Apnea begins with Holy Wood. A distant rumbling of drums, followed by O’Kandi’s biblical voice casting down from upon the mount. It is a booming, grandiose instrument of doom, a scene setter for a record which isn’t the most summery. Unless your summer is filled with despair and pity and misery and rain… Ah.
So the scene is dark and gloomy, which, given the circumstances surrounding its creation, is not particularly surprising. But there’s also a deftness to the writing that ensures that Apnea doesn’t wallow in its own sense of impending destruction; at least not without having a party first. Apnea is aware of the delightful possibilities that social gatherings with extended groups of friends and acquiescences can offer. Therefore the key ingredients of O Children’s sound, the precise post-punk guitar lines that then burst into squalling clouds of spacious noise, the pounding drums and O’Kandi’s decisive baritone, are often accompanied by slightly unexpected asides.
There’s the funky, spring-heeled lope to the bassline to PT Cruiser. There’s the dismissive tone of I Know (You Love Me). There are the vintage synth lines, last seen assaulting Precinct 13, that propel Red Like Fire towards a position of one of the best singles of the year. There’s the fact that Oceanside occasionally sounds like it should be wearing a grass skirt and offering to drape your neck in leis.
Gloomy? They weren’t saying that in Honolulu. But really, Apnea is a lot keener to strut its stuff on the dancefloor than most of those miserable shut-ins dressing in black and writing godawful poetry. And for that reason it should be feted. Although Tobi, for your sake, next time purchase the proper fare.