Album Reviews

Tiny Dancers – Free School Milk

(Parlophone) UK release date: 11 June 2007

Smart guitar pop hasn’t been seen round these parts for many a moon. Tiny Dancers arrive right on time with an album bursting with summery harmony-laden songs in a sea of ‘jolly gone gloomy’ bands failing to live up to expectations with their second albums and ’80s groups reforming being seen as wonderfully post-modern instead of cynical cash-guzzling. What’s not to like?

The Tiny Dancers (terrible name – nothing to do with the Elton John track of the same name) do share some common ground with their contemporaries such as those other unassuming types The Feeling in that oft-forgotten art of the ‘good’ song: well-crafted, chockfull of hooks, instantly hummable and utterly compelling to play again.

When they burst forth with the anthemic opener of 20 To 9 with its galloping drums, widescreen guitars, iconic vocals…it’s a case of ‘Hang on! Haven’t we been here before?’ Sharing that producer of legendary British guitar bands John Leckie (Stone Roses, Radiohead, Muse etc) the Dancers fit into the same scheme of being able to produce songs of a similarly timeless and uncannily familiar feel to them. These are not mere wisps of songs, they have the legs to go the distance.

Sounding along the way like (reformed ’80s group)James on opener 20 to 9 in the sky-scraping vocals and soaring guitar lines, they share a similar love of odd arrangements, epic choruses and a gloriously natural way with making certified wholesome pop nuggets. From the undeniably upbeat rush of I Will Wait For You, the irrepressibly daft glowing ember of Bonfire Of The Night which sparks into a weird little handclapping hoedown and the chorus of Hemsworth Hallway, (“We don’t know what goes through your little mind”) despite being wilfully obscure of the subject demands to be sung along with, out loud, with the windows open.

The sense of joie de vivre beaming from the shuffling harmonies of Baby Love and David Kay’s supple expressive vocals that turn possible angst into anthem are hard to resist. Sun Goes Down rolls along on a sprightly rhythm packed with stop-start dynamics, banjo and guitar melodies swoop across the track like buzzards and it even ends with a raucous round of applause. It sounds like fun because it is.

Even when they do ballads as on Ashes and Diamonds or I’ve Got To Go it could be Travis in its acoustically pretty intertwining melodies or Snow Patrol with its swelling build from a whisper to a scream they display such a sense of depth and grandeur they could well be mentioned in the same breath as those other groups produced by John Leckie. This could well be the start of something big, clever and damned enjoyable. Let’s just hope they don’t get all �grown up and grim’ on their second album.

So don’t gnaw your knuckles waiting for the next gloomy instalment of the �next �death-by-Radiohead‘album, give your lungs, ears and mouth a treat by soaking up the pop splendour that is Free School Milk and wallow in some chewy melodies, some hearty singing and some tunes that will rattle in your head like a crateful of ‘gold-tops’.

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Tiny Dancers – Free School Milk