Guillemots: From the Cliffs EP

Michael Lomas

How did four ever so slightly geeky, hopelessly uncool birdwatchers from southern England (via Brazil) get around to making the pop record of the year so far?


From the Cliffs

Label: Universal
US Release Date: 2006-03-14
UK Release Date: 2006-03-27
iTunes affiliate

How did four ever so slightly geeky, hopelessly uncool birdwatchers from southern England (via Brazil) get around to making the pop record of the year so far? This isn't the album proper, but for someone living in the UK, whatever this is or wherever it came from doesn't really matter. There are songs here about shining dragons, sandcastles, and monsters that would sound completely at home on the soundtrack to a Disney cartoon. But it's brilliant -- unbelievable, grinning, swooning, brilliant pop music. Cut adrift entirely from the current mess of stylishly wasted, gobby rock and rollers, the songs on From the Cliffs seem to have been dreamed up in an alternative corner of England -- home to Brazilian street carnivals and epic stargazing ballads. A place that's permanently stuck in that moment when The Wizard of Oz bursts from black and white into colour.

From the Cliffs is an EP full of these moments of dazzling scope and effortless genre-hopping. At times it might well skirt with something a little bit twee, and it's probably sweet enough to rot your teeth just by listening, but almost every song here is bathed in a charm that's impossible to resist. It's in the moment halfway through "Go Away" when the song takes off into a ridiculous, brilliant stratosphere of wailing, jabbering vocals and giddy excitement, as the band's instruments seem to get caught up in a clattering gale sweeping through the studio -- or something like that anyway. It's the whole of the gorgeous Technicolor sweep of "Over the Stairs", and the moment during "Cats Eyes" when Fyfe Dangerfield sings the breathlessly touching refrain "Everyone leaves you behind", that you realise Guillemots are onto something very special indeed. Elsewhere, "Made Up Lovesong #43" is three fleeting minutes of sheer, dizzy pop music, while the runaway "Trains to Brazil" careers along in a flurry of tumbling melodies and carnival trumpets.

So far in 2006, the music coming out of the UK seems to have been defined by what has gone before. Bands have been hot on the tail of Franz and the Libertines and have taken their blueprint effortlessly onto the Radio One playlists and Top of the Pops. How refreshing, then, to find a chance being taken on a band like Guillemots. From the Cliffs is stuffed with long-stewed-over ideas and flourishes, and is sparkling with invention and promise. It might only be an EP, destined to be surpassed in a few months by the debut album, but it showcases a band desperate to shun the current musical vogue and strive for something more daring and timeless. It could also just be that this listener happened to hear From the Cliffs whilst staring out of the window on the first sunny day of spring. Either way, on this showing, Guillemots definitely have the tunes to add a bit of sunshine to your life.

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