Album Reviews

Calories – Basic Nature

(Tough Love) UK release date: 20 September 2010

Finding themselves on a label that’s released records by the likes of HEALTH and Male Bonding, Calories have quite a bit to live up to. The band don’t really have to worry too much though, as Basic Nature, Calories’ not-difficult-at-all second album, is more than capable of holding its own in such auspicious company.

Not so much a song as a clattering of lo-fi drums and bass tied up and hamstrung with barbed static, Basic Nature 1 starts things off. It is hardly a guide of what’s to come; in fact it’s an almost deliberate diversion as You Can be Honest suddenly jumps into life. Suddenly the production snaps back into place, clarity is restored and the band are off and running. The next two minutes cover so much ground that it feels as if the band have written an epic. Barbed wire melodic-hardcore riffing, smart time changes and heartfelt lyrics combine to provide an emo-tornado. Old school emo, obviously. The kind that is coiled tight like a razor sharp spring, ready to explode in a furious outpouring – Dischord had a bunch of bands that sounded like this back in the day.

The old days are something that FFWD seeks to celebrate; but it’s not the proto-emo DC scene that’s been mined for influences this time. The rumbling bass may remain, and there might be a fair bit of smart guitar work here and there (including some nicely fumbled parts left in to add authenticity), but it is far and away the closest Calories have come to writing a pop song. Chanted choruses pleading for a 20 year skip forward are infectious, as are the clever melodies in the bass runs.

A change of mood can be found in the shape of acoustic songs The Offer and Altitude Sickness, both of which showcase a band with a keen ear for melody. Altitude Sickness in particular is a little gem, sounding not unlike the more delicate moments of Foo Fighters.

Mortal Boys and Orchard Girls evoke early Idlewild, when that particular band retained a sense of urgency and fun whilst combining it with the need for explosive guitar parts and expansive drums. Mortal Boys in particular itches with a sense of purpose, lurching between the cautious verses and rampaging choruses. “We’re not incendiary, we are the mortal boys” the band chants, not exactly telling the truth – when they’re this good, they are incendiary.

Let’s Pretend We’re Older is possibly the highlight of the album, a slow burning introspective lament. It eventually kicks off like Biffy Clyro in their prime, with washes of fuzzed guitar and hook laden vocals courtesy of John Biggs, but its constant change of tone and mood make it utterly irresistible.

The multilayered ideas of The Brink signals something of a change for a band who until now have tended to write 2 minute songs. Stretching out to nearly seven minutes, this is certainly new territory for Calories, but it’s also probably the least inspiring song here. The midsection loses itself in feedback and discord and then fails to ignite as it reaches its climax. A disappointment perhaps, but it is at least an indication that the band are attempting to be adventurous.

Basic Nature as a whole is far from a disappointment however. Despite occasional forays into math rock territory and a penchant for noise It is one of the most accessible and exciting rock albums made by a British band in the last few years.

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Calories – Basic Nature