Album Reviews

Grand Theft Bus – Made Upwards

(Forward) UK release date: 13 April 2009

With so many bands around it’s refreshing to hear of one with genuine talent that eschews indie-schmindie trends and faux bravado in favour of concentrating on making honest music that follows no regime other than its own.

Grand Theft Bus are a four-piece from Canada, and Made Upwards is their third album. Their sound spans the gamut from pop to proggy math-rock, from soaring melodies and crashing drums to gentle strums and delicate percussion, and is sensitive to dynamics and variations in structure which imbue Made Upwards with a tangible individuality and creativity.

Their musical landscape is neatly summarised by the opening track, Do I Have To Dance, where a sizeable verse bows to a beautifully elegant pre-chorus before the song loses itself on a wayward tangent before being reigned back in to its original elements. It’s all very neat, and very well thought out.

But regardless of how well the initial songs illustrate Grand Theft Bus’s awesome musicianship, especially on Automatic, the album starts slowly, sounding thin and flaccid. It’s not until Stretch, with its sordid guitars and passionate vocals, that Made Upwards begins to find its place.

But it’s album’s midpoint, Roses, that is Made Upwards’ centrepiece and highlight. Built around an unrelenting, pounding rhythm and charming, subtle guitar melodies its seven minutes never feel lengthy as Tim Walker’s gentle vocal meanders its way through the irresistible rhythms.

And this is undoubtedly where Grand Theft Bus are at their most enticing – when they construct such formidable rhythm sections, as with other album highlights, I Guess Not I Guess, and OMA. So precise and well performed, not to mention well produced, are these rhythms that when utilised, Grand Theft Bus walk as tall as the skyline.

But too often Made Upwards gets a little bit stuck. If you’re going to make leftfield, creative music of this nature, which readily digresses at most junctures, it needs not to compromise on accessibility. That’s not to say it needs to be radio-friendly – but it just needs to be made up of parts that add to the sound of the whole, that sound good rather than contrived.

But on the basis of three factors: their patent musical talent; Roses; and the fact that when they get the mix right Grand Theft Bus are a thrilling listen, Made Upwards definitely deserves attention. A solid album.

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Grand Theft Bus – Made Upwards