Album Reviews

Amplifier – Amplifier

(music for nations) UK release date: 10 May 2004


That Amplifier have been together five years works in their favour: they’ve developed a delicious dark rock that oh so calmly blasts your head off, and they’re not interested in being the hottest young things on the circuit.

This Manchester trio aren’t about fashion, but simply about making music. The art of “simply making music” is a hard one though. If you’re not consciously plugged into your generation’s zeitgeist then your musiceither sounds dated or fresh.

Amplifier combines elements of both in their debut self-titled album. Dated because their music is essentially a crunchy slab of classic rock, but fresh because it comes with a cool languid underbelly.

On the dated side, Amplifier’s music unleashes a barrage of cross-referencing – Smashing Pumpkins, Muse, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, the list goes on. However, they manage to keep things fresh because they add new qualities and their slow-tempo rock creates a dark yet chilled-out effect.

A love of the digital means the rock is robotically tight. Singer/guitarist Sel Belamir’s mammoth pedal effects board constantly morphs the guitar sound. A shimmering reverb effuses a sci-fi spaciness into some of the songs, notably Airborne, Panzer and UFOs. Also, the punctuated London accent of Belamir as he sings in clear baritone vocals marks the territory as distinctly English.

Making music for Amplifier means a symphonic exploration of rock using epic riffs, multi-track echoey vocals and strong clear lyrics. Motorhead is a stunning opening track with a buzzing arched back, spewing out loud guitars amid defined lyrics calmly sung by Sel.

Second track Airborne is another apocalyptic song using the guitar’s capacity for a melodic screech, and features the catchy echoey chorus “it’s time to fly”.

By the third track, Panzer, you are on a voyage into some apocalyptic world with Sel singing, “Here we go, here we go.” Debut single The Consultancy also has a brooding melodic chaos with highs and lows combined with darkness and light.

One failing of the album, I feel however, is the lyrics. They seem to be just full of purple prose in an attempt to be evocative. Old Movies is the biggest culprit with the opening lines: “Watching through the dust, trapped in a theatre of velvet and rust, with lonely shafts of light and other ghosts drinking refreshments served up by skeletons.”

Meanwhile, Panzer has “Mr executive man, think your way through the debris, lubricate your gun between the devil and the sea,” while UFOs contains the silly, “Have you heard the news from outer space, somewhere in the ancient dunes of silver moons…” There’s poetic, prog rock, Led Zep-style lyrics and there’s Spinal Tap lyrics.

That Amplifier band have been filtered out from the rock scene and noticed is no surprise. However, they still need that extra edge to make their sound truly stand out.


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