Now 10 years old, Dundee quartet The View may still only be in their twenties but did they peak too early? As teenage post-punk pretenders, their first album, the Mercury Prize-nominated, chart-topping Hats Off To The Buskers, was chock-full of ear-grabbing hooks, rollicking tunes and sing-along choruses shot through with hyperactive energy. After a messy, undercooked follow-up, the next two albums were not bad efforts but lacked the creative fizz of their debut. Now, after three years – the band’s longest gap between albums – their fifth offering, Ropewalk, tries a different tack.
In the mid-noughties The View were touted as the Scottish Libertines (whatever happened to those likely lads?), who in their turn had been called England’s answer to The Strokes. And with Ropewalk being produced by the New York band’s guitarist/keyboardist Albert Hammond Jr and engineer/producer Gus Oberg the wheel seems to be coming full circle. Would this be a backward step or an inspired collaboration? In fact, it turns out to be neither. The album is no attempted revisiting of past glories but shows The View exploring a more varied sound with a mellower vibe.
It opens with second single Under The Rug, written by Pete Reilly, whose driving bass powers the song. Though starting in dour mode – “Like being trapped in the darkness / Without a light or a flame” – it turns upbeat with a chorus of hope as Kyle Falconer hits the high notes on “Just keep letting the sun spread the pavement / Don’t let the clouds cover you”. And lead single Marriage is very different from the typical rowdy rocker from The View with its steady groove and high-pitched, chilled-out vocal about “the only girl that understands” as the singer self-discovers “And I’m on something new”.
The affirmative feeling continues in Living – “We’re learning just to be alive” – with some bubbly guitar work from Kieran Webster, while Talk About Two evokes a dreamily romantic mood. In contrast, with a stomping drum beat from Steven Morrison, Psychotic explores mental illness as does the urban blues Cracks. Tenement Light has a more punky sound – with a brief late-Beatles-like psychedelic interval – as the singer declares “You tell me everything that’s on your mind / I’ll tell you everything’s gonna be fine”.
House Of Queues aches with the frustrations of playing the waiting game: “I don’t want to live in this fairytale you give.” Penny alternates between gentle and raucous, with a folksy conclusion. And Voodoo Doll closes the album on a positive note as the singer pledges to carry on singing his song. It looks like The View are in it for the long haul.