The Earlies’ debut album from 2004 straddled the netherworlds of indie, dance, pop and psychedelia, and achieved the trick so effortlessly, moving from celestial psychedelic pop to chilled electronica with a swoonsome way with melodies that defied categorisation, it seemed beamed in from another galaxy. Bringing with it critical plaudits and a lot of blissed-out smiles to music fans across the genre divide, the question hanging over this follow up is: Can repeat the trick without crossing over old territory or disappearing up their own cosmic black holes?
Opening with the potentially bleak-titled No Love In Your Heart string quartets dissolve into an acid backbeat bubblebath before close harmonies swoop in on magic carpets of industrial strength to indicate that all is still very much ‘starry-eyed and double-gazed’ (sic) in Earlies-world. Or as they put it: “Is there nothing that’s going to fill the holes you’ve been digging tonight?”
This half-Mancunian, half-Texan quartet seem to have set up camp under big skies full of wonder, doubt and longing but never too bleak to not save you with a blanket of harmony or the hearty embrace of a wholesome broth of wondrous instrumentation to tickle your frayed synapses back into touch.
Brandon Carr still woozes his vocal harmonies like some fifth extraordinarily-addled Beatle with pseudo-psychedelic ramblings and arrangements of German experimenters Faust or the blotter-acid spaced-doubt of The Flaming Lips / Mercury Rev axis. Burn The Liars combines all these influences as it goose-steps like a krautrocker over music-hall pianos and see-sawing harmonic trills to thrilling effect.
The pastoral coupling of Little Trooper and Ground We Walk On tread a gentler path of woodwind and organic loveliness providing some welcome acoustic relief from the denser passages herein.
Not as endearingly obviously pop or as chilled out as their debut, The Enemy Chorus takes some getting used to before it unfurls it pleasures. There is after all nothing like the coupling of a tongue in cheek and a flashing harmonic surprise, like the swirling panned effects that lift title track out of its minimal eastern-scented corkscrewing rhythm. Whereas previously they lay on their backs and pondered rather beautifully, here they stride on with bigger boots and more purpose with no less charm but a lot more charisma. Only the previous albums’ woozy Devil’s Country hinted at where their trail was headed.
Grooves and vibes lurk a little deeper, darker and denser with Gone For The Most Part and The Breaking Point highlighting their instrumental chops ranging from (respectively) jazzed-out celestial symphony to the glamrock Indian driven mantra that Kasabian can only dream of.
Contrasting this is the albums chipper Foundation and Earth which could be the spiritual little brother to The Beatles A Day In The Life with its treated horns and Sgt Pepper band dynamics adding weight to the ‘day after day’ refrain. Not many bands could aped the Fab’s work with such dignity and authenticity, but The Earlies are that band.
Bad Is As Bad Does does limp along on a lumpy dense undercarriage of gonging rhythm and squalling guitars, at odds with the scampering organs it does battle with. Seeming to sense this all is brought to a pause by the cry of ‘tell this hound to calm down!’ which it obediently does.
So, ‘difficult second album syndrome’ neatly over-stepped with a prog-space-rock-acoustic-gression that will have their peers disappearing over the horizon fast. For the rest of us it’s a less horizontal take on a beautiful sound, with much to offer.