Guillemots are something refreshingly different. They throw so many different genres into the melting pot it’s hard to keep track of, they have wonderfully exotic names like Fyfe Dangerfield and MC Lord Magrão and onstage they’ve been known to make use of items such as typewriters. Beat that, The Enemy.
Their debut album Through The Windowpane was deservedly nominated for a Mercury Music Prize, but the suspicion remained that that particular album didn’t quite replicate the band’s manic energy onstage. That omission is more than made up for on Red: as Dangerfield sings on opening track Kriss Kross, “let’s shake things up a bit tonight”.
And shake things up they do. Kriss Kross alone manages to meld Middle Eastern rhythms, the wail of a siren and a pounding glam rock beat in the first minute alone, before exploding into one of those surging choruses that make you feel glad about life itself. “We’re going out tonight” sings Fyfe, and you can almost picture the mirrorball spinning above him.
The single Get Over It is another gem – big, shiny and epic, it’s ‘proper’ pop music: slightly odd, inventive and as catchy as hell. The lyrics spin the tortured notion of unrequited love on its head – “I want you, want you like I’m 18, but I’m tied to my baby”, before another truly great chorus bursts out of the speakers, even throwing in stuttering and ‘woo-woo’s for good measure. It’s a song you’ll never grow sick of hearing.
They’ve not lost their touch for a swooning love song either, as Falling Out Of Reach proves – a plaintive acoustic number that may be the very dictionary definition of ‘dreamy’ and the poignant Words could well become of the great break-up songs of the year, describing a deteriorating relationship felled by miscommunication (“I think life would be so much easier if I was half-drunk and mad”).
Yet it’s the moments where Guillemots go all disco-tastic on us that are the abiding memory of Red. Big Dog crawls seductively and funkily around the dancefloor, and the pounding Last Kiss is so vibrant, exhilarating and original it could quite easily sit on a Girls Aloud or Sugababes album. You may be forgiven for checking the credits to see if it’s a Xenomania production at one point.
The production throughout is excellent in fact. Don’t Look Down throws all kinds of strange noises into the mix (if you listen carefully at the end you can hear a typewriter being tapped upon), and maintains an uplifting, optimistic air that pervades through the whole album. Dangerfield is also in fine voice throughout – his vocals do appear to divide people, but Standing On The Last Star should show people like Mika how to do a falsetto properly.
It’s also an album that feels like one – unusual in these days of random tracks and downloads. The exciting burst of Kriss Kross is perfect for an opener, while the wistful, valedictory tones of Take Me Home close the album on a perfect note. While there are many potential singles here, Red is an album to lose yourself in for its entirety.
There’s not one duff moment during the album’s 50 minutes – it’s pop music to be treasured, loved and listened to for years to come. A second album seems rather early to produce a masterpiece, but Guillemots may well have done just that.