Album Reviews

iLiKETRAiNS – Progress – Reform

(Fierce Panda) UK release date: 26 June 2006

Gloominess is next to godliness. Alright, not next per-se, but it’s a damn sight closer than cleanliness, and besides we’ve just about had it with your relentless pedantism and insistence on applying the “rules” and the “laws” to every little thing that ever happens. Anyway, if you’re looking for a slice of reality to flavour the gazpacho of your review, glockenspiel is actually next to gloominess and that wouldn’t have made much sense at all.

Pah. Anyway, for Leeds-based fivesome iLiKETRAiNS, it’s a true enough statement. Which makes Progress – Reform far from the sunniest record you’ll ever come across, but after the fleeting burst of light that will pass for the Great British summer, the winter of our discontent will be long and dark.

And no doubt full of failed expeditions to the Antarctic and insane chess geniuses. So it’s helpful to have the soundtrack already in the bag. While it’s true that a lot of this ‘mini’ album treads the same path – intelligent slow builds to biblical endings – the fact that this pigeon hole isn’t so much uninhabited as unimagined for the majority of their peers means that it really isn’t a big deal.

That, and the sheer emotional impact the songs have. TERRA NOVA’s retelling of Captain Scott’s failure to reach the South Pole is all icy guitar sweeps and David Martin’s morbid baritone asking rhetorical questions about their downfall, while THE ACCiDENT is a spindly and breathy sigh of regret; Nick Cave covering Je t’aime by Serge Gainsbourg with blood-stained hands, a haze of depression and a distantly approaching orchestra.

Only better. It’s only really The Beeching Report that badly misses the mark. The morose elegance previously defined by the juxtaposition of Martin’s baroque whisper against the stark-yet-massive soundscapes comes undone with the unnecessary addition of the overtly operatic male voice choir. Compared to the minimalism that’s gone before it’s too fussy, too ornate, and too much like the final act at Gilbert & Sullivan’s funeral.

But overall, with its lofty subject matter and grandiose scale, Progress – Reform is an impressive success. And in STAiNLESS STEEL they have a proper centrepiece for their feast of melancholy, eight plus minutes of, frankly terrifying, yet utterly brilliant, swirling orchestral mass, marched onwards by the eerie shiversome timbre of that voice. Gloriously odd, fiercely intelligent, there’s absolutely no doubt these TRAiNS are on the right TRACK.

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