It’s a shame, then, to report that their music doesn’t prove more distinctive. While never lacking in energy, commitment, feeling or flair, it seems to lack that extra piece of individuality required to set them apart.
The songs are emotively delivered by Stewart ‘Stoke’ Brock, who in doing so draws sharp parallels with Maximo Park singer Paul Smith. Meanwhile his accompaniment tends to be pitched half way between Foals and The Killers, with exciting bursts of energetic synth rock giving way to or in tandem with high pitched, intricate guitar workings.
A heady recipe, then, and one Drive By Argument apply liberally to their music, though their songs keep an economical approach, the lyrics and their sentiments free of excess baggage.
There are moments when the band break free from the reins of the names mentioned above, and Eye Fish Star Fish Eye comes straight from the heart, peeling back the layers so that we can see their core. The following How The Trees Sleep is better still, solemn keyboard chords and a heartbeat bass drum providing a weird backing for the restrained vocal from Brock.
However through much of this album it continues to prove difficult to tell whether Drive By Argument would rather be rocking out fully, as in the helter-skelter bluster of We Techno Prisoners, or quietly ruminating, as they do on the closing Cyclists Ron Red Lights. The former starts off up close to the speakers as they blast out fast house beats, while the latter repeats its mantra “you’re getting over it son” with interwoven vocals.
So while the earnest nature of this band should find some followers, it remains difficult to see a secure footing for them as someone’s new favourite band. For every delicate guitar line, powerhouse synth rocker or whirling drum pattern, there’s a band around who major in that field, and tend to hit the spot with greater accuracy.
“If we go down, we’ll go down together” is the resilient vocal that takes How The Trees Sleep on to a higher level. It’s perhaps this form of solidarity the band will want to bring to the fore if they’re to make a stronger, more individual bid for glory.