It’s not all Foals and angular guitar runs coming out of Oxford, you know. Despite what recent interviews might have suggested, there really aren’t that many drone bands hanging about either. Alright, the shoegaze of Ride, and the outsider introspection of Radiohead emanated from Oxford, but then there was also the nice clean teeth of Supergrass and their bouncy tunes too.
You Are The Family Machine opens up with Ko Tao, a tune that reeks of T-Rex and brings to mind the bouncy pop of Supergrass more than any of their other more famous neighbours. Those who know the area well would tell you that it’s actually closer to Britpop glam wannabes Thurman, but that’s just a little bit of local knowledge for ya.
As the album progresses, it becomes clear that Family Machine are not a band that sticks to one simple style. Once done with the glam rock of Ko Tao, we head for acoustic introspection with Did You Leave. A pretty little heartbreaking number that can’t help but breakout into a peculiar toy shop stomp midway through before developing into a delicate countrified slice of melancholy.
The Do Song does exactly what it says on the tin, repeating “do” endlessly to a soundtrack that should accompany a film of a young French woman riding an old bicycle through a field filled with those dandelion clock things. It also manages to incorporate the guitar line from Wheat’s Don’t I Hold You, which is something of a positive in anyone’s book.
Got It Made continues in the cinematic vein, creeping along like incidental music in a spy movie narrated by Mark E Smith. It really is as great as it sounds.
If Family Machine have a strength it’s that they use their considerable songwriting skill to confound your expectations. You could be mistaken for thinking that Flowers By The Roadside is a jaunty little number that should enjoy enthusiastic singalongs whenever you pop it on in the car. Despite its apparent happy disposition, it is in fact a musing upon the practice of leaving flowers on verges where people have perished in fatal car accidents. Any band who can find room for an inspired whistling solo in such a tune deserves some credit for sheer gall at least.
If such a subject could be described as glib, then it hardly compares to the simply awful Lethal Drugs Cocktail which is so clumsy that it sounds as if it were written after a drugs cocktail that sadly wasn’t quite lethal enough. Even though it’s only a minute and a half long it still manages to outstay its welcome.
When Family Machine are good (which is frequently), they can break your heart and make you laugh within the space of a couple of songs. Occasionally they lose their focus and sound a little dated (see Unhealthy Infatuation for more details) but basically this is a promising album from yet another exciting prospect from Oxford.