Album Reviews

Charlottefield – What Are Friends For

(Fat Cat) UK release date: 21 January 2008

Post-Hardcore. What on earth is that? Apparently it’s the genre where Charlottefield dwell. However one cursory listen to What Are Friends For will find you questioning this whole labelling system once again.

What is immediately clear from the opening barrage of Beatings is that Charlottefield are not happy young men. The riffs could be described as spidery, but only if the spider in question had legs like barrels and on the end of all eight of them was a heavily used hobnail boot. The bass is equally muscular, while Thomas House’s vocals are shrieked with the kind of urgency that usually requires a call to the emergency services.

In short, there is nothing remotely ‘post’ about the kind of hardcore Charlottefield deal in. If you take the likes of early Fugazi as hardcore, then Charlottefield fit right in.

Having said that, tunes are not always immediately obvious where Charlottefield are concerned. Put on Margin Walker and you know where you stand – the likes of Late Repeat require a lot of time and effort on the part of the listener in order to get to the heart of the songs. This is not a polite way of saying that What Are Friends For is merely a collection of noise and screaming, although to some ears it may well come across as that.

These are intricately written songs with guitars, vocals and drums weaving patterns around each other. Charlottefield are evidently not ones to take the easy route. Most of the songs have a linear structure, eschewing the simple verse/chorus template. Occasional motifs are dropped into the mix, but for the most part you’re caught up in the frantic swell of it all and dragged to each song’s conclusion. The fact that each song seems to be imbibed with a sense of dramatic tension make the whole experience as taught as a violin string.

Charlottefield are quite often compared to the likes of Shudder To Think (in particular the truly astounding Pony Express Record), but where those bands used a certain amount of melody to hide their angst behind, Charlottefield are far more brutal but no less clever. If they have a current contemporary, then they would find a suitable compatriot in the guise of The Paper Chase‘s John Congleton. His musical panic attacks are not at all dissimilar in structure or tone to much of What Are Friends For.

There are occasional concessions to melody, notably the brooding grind of Broken Bell, but even then, there is a malevolent undertone to proceedings. What makes this album such a thrilling listen however is the incessant, pulverising mood that permeates each and every song. Each one leads through dizzying sonic corridors, but ultimately ends with the same terrifying conclusion.

This is not an album that will put a smile on your face, but if it’s pure catharsis you’re after, you can’t go far wrong.

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Charlottefield – What Are Friends For