Music

Any Trouble: Present Tense

Critically acclaimed and commercially unsuccessful power poppers Any Trouble return with their first set of new material in nearly a decade, proving they’ve lost none of what made them so great the first time around.


Any Trouble

Present Tense

Label: Cherry Red
US Release Date: 2015-12-04
UK Release Date: 2015-11-27
Amazon
iTunes

Formed in the mid-‘70s in Manchester by lyricist and vocalist Clive Gregson, Any Trouble made their best attempt at breaking through to a wider audience with the release of their criminally ignored Stiff debut Where Are All the Nice Girls? in 1980. While critically revered then and now, it simply failed to catch on with the listening public. Given the success of their label mates and the rising tide of New Wave at the time, not to mention the overall quality of the album itself, theirs seemed all but a sure thing. Unfortunately, as is too often the case, the band failed to garner the support of an audience outside critics’ circles. By 1984, after releasing several more critically hailed albums that went nowhere, Any Trouble called it quits.

Fortunately, in the modern era it seems that any and all great “lost” album or group eventually finds itself back up for consideration. Finding their time having come, the original members of Any Trouble reunited in the mid-‘00s for a handful of live shows and, ultimately, an album of all new material in 2007’s Life in Reverse. Released on their former label, Life in Reverse showed the group to have lost nothing in the intervening decades, delivering a set of sharp pop hooks wrapped around Gregson’s impeccable lyrics.

Nearly a decade later, Any Trouble have returned yet again with Present Tense. Continuing in a vein similar to their previous release, Gregson and company deliver yet another set of quality power pop that somehow finds the band getting just that much better over time. Like many of their former Stiff label mates (Nick Lowe, Wreckless Eric, Elvis Costello, et. al.), Any Trouble have mellowed with age, settling nicely into a more refined, subtle take on their particular brand of pop. The gorgeous love ballad “Annalee” finds Gregson reassessing his priorities over a keening vocal melody and plaintive guitar line that lends just enough minor chord melancholy to cut through the otherwise joyous sentiments expressed.

Throughout, Gregson and company show they’ve lost none of their ability to craft some of the best understated pop hooks around. On “Anybody Else", they deliver a lovely singsong chorus that delves into Beatles-esque territory with its jangly melodicism and incessant vocal hook over a descending chord progression. Follow up track “Glen Campbell” not only evokes the legendary singer and guitarists’ back catalog in its lyrics, but also his iconic guitar sound. Opening with a heavily tremoloed guitar figure instantly reminiscent of Campbell’s solo and session work over the years, the band delivers a compelling chord progression that rises and falls with a delicate intricacy akin to the best of Jimmy Webb.

From there, Present Tense is filled with a remarkable number of hook-y power pop gems that, were there any justice, would find Any Trouble receiving the long overdue commercial success they so richly deserve. On “Learning How to Lose", Gregson sings, “you’ll get rave reviews/but now you’re learning how to lose” over a bright, insistent progression that finds the band powering through the seemingly autobiographical sentiments. It’s a bittersweet triumph that serves to highlight some of the band’s best attributes while remaining grounded in the harsh reality of the music business.

While the majority of the album sits tonally within that of mid-tempo, major key power pop, “Missed That Train” utilizes a Tennessee Three-style shuffle, harkening back to their folk origins. Not quite straight country, it wouldn’t sound out of place on a Dwight Yoakam album given its melodic strength and propulsive, snare drum-driven rhythm. Similarly stylistically diverse, “Shake a Leg” bears a striking resemblance to Harry Nilsson’s “Let the Good Times Roll” and features one of the few instances of vocal harmony on the album.

If one complaint can be leveled at the group, it would be the somewhat weak tonality of Gregson’s affected vocals. It’s a minor caveat, but with Present Tense running over an hour, it can begin to grate in its hesitancy and tentative approach to the upper reaches of his range. This limited vocal capacity leaves little in the way of overall variation and variety leaving some tracks sounding similar, though each bears just enough of its own identifiable hook to keep things interesting. Given the length of the album, there is a need for clear distinction between tracks.

But with so many years between albums and a renewed interest in the group’s earlier recordings, Any Trouble can’t be blamed for wanting to say as much as they can in the time they’ve been allotted and in any way they can. At 18 tracks, Present Tense offers much to love either in small doses or taken as a whole, serving as a reminder to the faithful and a fine introduction for those coming to the band for the first time.

7

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".

Music

GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".

Music

Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".

Music

Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.

Music

Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.

Music

The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".

Music

Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.

Books

Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.