You might get the impression that Aberdeen City is some soft-pop, orchestral band from some wee, gnome-riddled town in Scotland. However, the most British thing about the group is that they nabbed Steve Lillywhite (yes, that Steve Lillywhite) to produce some songs on this latest album. Oops, I forgot… that, and the large, bombastic, anthem-like rock that seems to fall somewhere on the bill between the Killers and the Doves. Aberdeen City wants to give you a sense of purpose or atmosphere around the opening track “Another Seven Years”, which winds itself around the guitar before the lead singer hits a falsetto that catapults it into another drum-fuelled realm altogether. And unlike so many other bands, the group seems to explore new territory with each verse, making for a fantastic, grandiose opener.
The vocals tend to lend themselves to those of the Killers’ Brandon Flowers, particularly on the elegant, emotional “Pretty Pet”, which is extremely, er, pretty. Think of Mercury Rev without the seas of sullenness and you’ve got the idea behind this track, featuring a soft-then-hard verse-chorus-verse arrangement. Some of U2’s latest darker but powerful tunes could also be a strong, worthy comparison. The first tune that seems to downshift is “God Is Going to Get Sick of Me”, which is a polished, mid-tempo track with some fine rat-a-tat-tat drumming. Aberdeen City, by this time, comes off more in line with the Killers, particularly with “Sixty Lives”, which is a somewhat distorted piece that has a funky bassline and a rather Strokes-ish vibe oozing from it. This is in addition to the large, arena-rock feeling that is at the heart of the ditty.
With songs like the opening four, it is often at this point that albums tend to find the fork in the road. Bands either take the low road for a breather track, or even worse a filler song, or they march on and keep soaring. “The Arrival”, unfortunately, falls off the low road—a moody, dark, and barren number that sounds like it should be on a Nick Cave or Thom Yorke album. They try to bring things up into some ethereal style, but it is all for naught. A clunker to be sure that, at five minutes, slowly becomes painful. The lyric “It won’t take very long” almost seems like an inside joke to the listener, because this one takes far too long to wrap up. Marginally better is “In Combat”, which seems to get out of the mire of the previous tune, but isn’t quite up to full steam. It rests at being a moody, meandering and evocative piece that never quite becomes massive.
Aberdeen City gets back on track in a large way with the gorgeous, uplifting, and, yes, massive “Stay Still”, which is dramatic in damn near every way, starting with the spiraling guitar riffs that kicks it off into the first verse of pretty, foot-stomping pop. And for the next six minutes it just brims and bubbles under the surface. By now you’ve pretty much got a lock on what Aberdeen City can deliver extremely well, and “Brighton” is another such an example, although the slow, hypnotic, melancholic, and noir-ish quality is what propels it along to impressive heights in the homestretch.
Following “Best Chances Are Gone”, which could be mistaken for an early Suede track or something Starsailor might pull off, Aberdeen City’s impressive and rather strong full-length debut closes with “Mercy”, a quirky, Beatlesque number that chugs along without much hesitation. Aberdeen City probably won’t become the next “It” band, lost in the shadow of other more prominent Fall releases, but hopefully they’ll keep churning out quality that composes so much of this record.
// Notes from the Road
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