[8 March 2010]
Whether it’s the rain, the accents or the, well, violence, I couldn’t tell you, but one thing’s for sure: Scottish music has been lending itself to a fulfilling kind of unhappiness of late. Frightened Rabbit, Biffy Clyro, The Twilight Sad—all big names on the rise, all well renowned for their own brands of crafted musical miserablism. It’s been thus for a long time, mind. Mogwai and Arab Strap, perhaps two of the biggest forbearers for the glorious onslaught we’re seeing at the moment, have both been kicking for more than a decade at this stage. Perhaps it’s been a long time coming, and not as sudden as you’d think. Whatever the case, Glasgow-based four-piece the Cinematics look to add to the current surplus with their second long player, Love and Terror.
Except you wouldn’t know it at first.
So heavily does singer and frontman Scott Rinner borrow from just about every post-punk vocalist in the last ten years that I assumed I was listening to an American band. Call this critic ignorance if you will (and I confess to not having heard The Cinematic’s debut A Strange Education), but it’s still a fact that from the first few seconds of opener “All These Things”, the Cinematics evoke a rather noxious taste of Interpol and the Killers. Indeed, for much of Love and Terror‘s 40 minute duration, my primary train of thought consisted of “By god, Joy Division have a lot to answer for.”
Which is true, although it’s not all bad. The above comparisons suggest a vomit-worthy level of navel gazing, a la Brandon Flowers, and that’s just not the case. If you’re in your twenties and fancy a quick pogo in a crowd of like-minded gig goers, you could do worse than the Cinematic’s combo of crunchy, synthy guitars (I’m avoiding using the words “typical post-punk” here in an effort to stay positive), highly strung vocals and enigmatic drumming. Even at a festival, they might do in a pinch.
But youthful exuberance and a fair amount of zeal aside, there’s no getting away from the fact that Love and Terror is just not exciting enough. All the regulation post-punk boxes are ticked, but “ticked” is a whole different ball game from “expanded on”. Whether it’s the alcohol-fuelled one-night-stand story of “All These Things”, or the albeit menacing growl of of the title track, you’ll oft get the sense that you’ve heard this record before. Worst of the bunch is “Wish (When the Banks Collapse)”; it may be catchy, but what sensible soul wants to hear four indie musicians sing at length about the global recession? Any takers? No? Didn’t think so.
And it’s a shame, because Love and Terror really does have its moments, most notably “Hospital Bills”, a lovely slow-burner that evokes The Back Room-era Editors and Joy Division (this time a good thing). In the end though, the melodies aren’t spiky enough for such short songs, and the collection altogether has so few peaks and troughs it could be an aural map of Holland. Forgettable.