Breaking up may well be hard to do, but it’s proved the salvation of a countless number of songwriters over the years. You can write mini-symphonies about politics, about wanting to be a rock star, or about sex but if the creative well runs dry, then you can’t go far wrong with songs about the breakdown of relationships.
The Research know this only too well, hence the title of their debut album and the 14 songs found within it. Every song is dripping in sadness, with lyrics addressing the working of the human heart, loneliness, being dumped and doing the dumping. They may not be the happiest group around, but they can be awfully effective when they want to be.
On paper, The Research really shouldn’t work. With each song produced on a cheap sounding keyboard (think the sort that you may have received for Christmas one year as a kid), nasally vocals and not a guitar to be heard anywhere, they don’t really fit into the much heralded ‘New Yorkshire’ scene as cosily as their regional contemporaries Arctic Monkeys, The Cribs and Kaiser Chiefs do.
Yet before you wander off in search of the next cheeky guitar anthem, I beg of you, don’t say goodbye. Breaking Up may sound tinny, it may grate occasionally, and vocalist Russell The Disaster’s voice may well get on your nerves after a while – yet you’ll be hard pressed to find another record this year with as much soul and honesty as this one.
The tone is set from the off by The Way You Used To Smile – kicking off the album with a cracking lyrical couplet of “I want you to know I cried/beneath my baseball cap”. Sarah Williams and Georgia Lashbrook provide some lovely backing vocals which contrast nicely with Russell’s rather reedy vocals. To criticise Russell for his singing voice is missing the point – it suits these fragile songs quite perfectly.
The Way You Used To Smile segues seamlessly into the album’s highlight, I Love You But. This could be one of the catchiest songs you’ll hear all year, and has the potential to be a massive radio hit (if they edited the chorus from “I love you, but I’m afraid I’ll fuck it up” of course). The same goes for C’mon Chameleon, despite its rather awful pun.
Despite the all-synth setting, the album never sounds remotely dated, and they’re certainly not jumping on the 80s bandwagon as a huge amount of groups did last year. The heart wrenching Love Me Tender (“I should have learned to walk away from love before I learnt to crawl”) is just beautiful, and the same goes for Lonely Hearts Still Beat The Same, a poignant single which sees Georgina take over lead vocals to beautiful effect.
Admittedly, it doesn’t always work. Songs such as Ba Ba Ba and We’ve Got Something are pretty unmemorable when compared to highpoints such as I Love You But, and sometimes the keyboard sound serves only to irritate – She’s Leaving Home for instance goes rather too heavy on the synth experimentation but is saved by some truly wonderful lyrics.
Yet ultimately the flaws here are minor, and understandable for a debut album. When a band can produce something as effortlessly melancholy as Apple Of My Eye, or as inventive as True Love Weighs A Tonne, then they’re obviously doing something right. So Breaking Up may be hard to do, but it’s very easy to listen to – let The Research be the proof of that.