Album Reviews

Sebastien Grainger – Sebastien Grainger & The Mountains

(Saddle Creek) UK release date: 23 February 2009

And yeigh, Death From Above 1979 were no more, their dance-punk blitzkrieg snuffed out in the wake of differences artistic, and Sirs Keeler and Grainger were never heard or seen again. Amen.

Except that’s not quite the case. Jesse Keeler, of course, ventured down the electronic path with MSTRKRFT, tackling the sort of dance elements DFA 1979 channelled into rock-based carnage. So what of drummer-vocalist Sebastien Grainger?

Moving swiftly on from his Rhythm Method electronica monicker, and Girl On Girl, a remix project, this is Grainger turning to face a slightly simpler alt-rock direction, and he makes no apologies for doing so.

The LP, however, gets off to a rather inauspicious start: while Love Can Be So Mean has its foot to the floor and is, by all accounts, a well written, well executed fist pumper, the impression it leaves more than anything else is just how much like it sounds like early The Killers material. It’s almost indistinguishable.

Happily, it’s a false dawn of sorts, and affairs soon take on a more idiosyncratic sound. Who Do We Care For? sounds like a filthy take on Super Furry Animals classic God! Show Me Magic, By Cover Of Night’s muted chugging provides the perfect foil for Sebastien’s wailing, and Love Is Not A Contest affords us a glimpse at a Grainger-penned piano ballad.

I Hate My Friends, meanwhile, betrays an affection for straightforward, unabashed anthemic rock, and manages to toe the line adroitly between Quo-style guilty pleasures and dirty, foot-stomping sing-alongs. It’s a real standout.

As a whole, the album reaches its zenith on the inspired (Are There) Ways To Come Home? A slow burning, surprisingly touching crescendo with a huge pay off, it’s evidence of Grainger’s hitherto-untapped knack for emotionally intuitive lyrics and a classic, timeless voice that’s rarely as reigned in as much as this.

(I Am Like A) River, though sadly not a cover of the Dr Karl Kennedy opus, rumbles along nicely on a fuzzy bass line and the odd guitar solo, and Meet New Friends is not too unlike a 21st Century The Jesus And Mary Chain effort. Neither, however, quite manage to scale the peaks set earlier.

Proceedings draw to a close with Renegade Silence, a re-working of one of Sebastien’s Rhythm Method tracks. As the quivering synth, falsetto vocals and plodding bass provide the album’s exclamation mark, the contrast is pronounced: this is the sound – that E4 ident fodder – that DFA 1979 made their own, and not until this point has it raised its head on Sebastien Grainger & The Mountains.

What does that mean, exactly? Has he lost the knack? The will? Not at all. He could have continued to trade on his former glories, and maybe we’d have lapped it up. This toned down, more organic effort may not be perfect – and may not have the addictive quality of a Romantic Rights – but it’s honest, it’s convincing, and it’s well worth a spin.

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Sebastien Grainger – Sebastien Grainger & The Mountains
Sebastien Grainger @ Lexington, London