With British music currently in its healthiest state for many years, a young band releasing their debut album needs something special in order to stand out from the pack. The emergence of gimmick-free talent like the Arctic Monkeys and, more recently, The Fratellis, suggests that a clutch of great songs is enough to endear you to the masses.
For groups like Reading five-piece The Race, this can be a poisoned chalice. Sure, people are likely to be more receptive to their music than ever before, but if the songs aren’t as immediate as When The Sun Goes Down or Chelsea Dagger, then they may give up listening. Those aforementioned favourites are, in their own way, just as radio-friendly as Girls Aloud, and if like The Race, a band’s ‘thing’ isn’t writing a ditty that the suits at Radio One will salivate over, standing out from the pack may just become more difficult.
Be Your Alibi isn’t an immediate album, but it rewards perseverance. The songs are rich in texture and sound like little else around at the moment, managing to take the best bits of their influences and turn them into something fresh and exciting. The simultaneously angular and anthemic sound is clearly influenced by Bloc Party‘s debut and the squalling, ferocious guitar work has Jonny Greenwood written all over it. On no occasion, however, does any of this sound cribbed.
If perhaps not destined to take daytime radio by storm, there are some big choruses on here, nevertheless. The lads certainly know their way around at tune, and widescreen anthems such as Go Figure and Find Out display an ambition of being so much more than also-rans. Whereas many indie debuts are determinedly low-fi and stripped down, this is the opposite. It’s almost as if they’re trying to make it sound expensive, and producer Ian Davenport does a job that Brian Eno and Steve Lillywhite would be proud of, creating a Joshua Tree-esque multi-layered wall of sound.
If the songs weren’t up to the job, then this would be a case of style over substance. Raising Children’s spine-tingling “why do you stay home?” refrain alone proves that there’s more to this band than a few flashy production techniques, just one of many impressive moments.
While hardly reinventing the wheel, The Race offer something a bit different, and deserve to be noticed by the masses. To say that there’s plenty of promise here would do them a disservice, as this is a fully-formed, intelligent and – crucially – excellent record.