The View: Hats Off to the Buskers

Hugely hyped debut from young Scottish four-piece is short on originality, but just about makes it on punky exuberance.

The View

Hats Off to the Buskers

Label: Columbia
US Release Date: 2007-05-08
UK Release Date: 2007-01-22

With their debut album barely in the shops, one feels that knives are being sharpened for the View. There are mutterings of a publicity and hype machine running out of control: a sense that the time lapse between a band forming, being discovered, and suddenly being lauded as the greatest thing since sliced bread has narrowed to a zero point. Even worse, the dread hand of perennial tabloid fixture Pete Doherty has anointed these Dundee urchins as inheritors of the Libertines flame: debauched, yet cherub-faced; urban poets, preaching a gospel of hedonism doused in beer and fag-ash, barely distinguishable from their fans in the mosh-pit. I would have thought that publicity leg-ups from such washed-up self-promoters would be best kept quiet; they can sometimes be the kiss of death.

Further "celebrity" endorsements come from fellow Scotsman and super-fan Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream whose last album -- Riot City Blues, a laughable set of derivative '70s pub-rock tunes -- was seemingly the product of a universe in which the only two bands that existed were the Faces and the Rolling Stones... not a very nice universe, at all. On the radio the other day, amongst the news headlines, was a story that the View had been banned from a certain hotel chain for comprehensively trashing their room. I wonder if they drove their Bentley into the swimming pool for an encore. It's all very rock 'n' roll, huh? No, not really, it's as tired and hackneyed as an unplugged set on MTV, which makes it even more surprising that the album is such a charming, melodic and mostly enjoyable debut. Guess those knives will have to be sheathed, for now. The hype, it would seem, is not entirely without foundation.

To be honest though, there is nothing wildly original on this album, nothing, in fact, remotely groundbreaking at all; but the View's impish take on anthemic guitar pop is done with such brio that most of the time it doesn't really matter. What is most vividly encapsulated is the pure wanton thrill of youth; the sense of your biggest worry being which party to crash next and how to drown the hangover afterwards. None of the band members have yet passed 21, and it sure sounds like it. The Arctic Monkeys cover some of the same ground, and are pretty much the same age, but lyrically they often sound older than their years, casting a dubious and cynical eye on the world around them. When it's good, this album feels like a glorious guilt-free bender; even the Stooges-esque garage snarl of "Comin' Down" sounds brashly unapologetic about the highs that proceeded its lows. Only "Skag Trendy" fully displays the arch "social realism" that dominated most of the Arctic Monkeys' debut. Musically, the obvious touchstones here are early Oasis -- Hats Off to the Buskers was produced by Owen Morris, who also helmed (What's the Story) Morning Glory -- and the Libertines. There are also strong echoes of the La's eponymous album in its moments of wide-eyed urban romanticism, as well as the tautly addictive pop hooks of the Strokes' Is This It?, while "Wasteland" references the frenzied ska of the Specials.

Mop haired singer Kyle Falconer's engaging Scottish-accented vocals are the band's strong point, even though it feels as though he has yet to really discover his true voice. "Comin' Down" is blasted out with the intention of blistering paint from the walls; "Same Jeans" is sung sweetly to a tune sounding uncannily like Cornershop's "Brimful of Asha"; and on "Skag Trendy" his bonkers off-key yelping is all over the place... in a good way. He is clearly a vocalist of energy and ability, capable of delicate yearning on the acoustic (and rather anaemic) "Face for the Radio", as well as Liam Gallagher levels of rasping confidence on the Beatles-y "Don't Tell Me". When the tunes sag, which they do in the later half, his voice has enough effortless buoyancy to just about keep them afloat. He even acknowledges that he isn't quite the finished article yet when he delivers the almost apologetic line, "My mind's not perfect but it's sincere / You'd be amazed at what you can achieve in a year".

On the downside, the album suffers from a "please all" mentality that sometimes dilutes the band's obvious energy, as they move from the fast-paced punk-pop they do so well to the Oasis-by-numbers dirge of "Streetlights" and the listless and folksy "Face for the Radio". The guitar fills too often seek out the obvious pastures grazed by Mr. N. Gallagher for well over a decade: obvious, earnest and dull. But hey, they're all very young and are still learning their trade. That they have talent is undeniable; what direction that ultimately takes them in is still up for grabs. The two songwriters (Falconer and bassist Kieren Webster) display an instinctive gift for melody that should carry them far: just when you think it's all becoming derivative a hook will arrive that genuinely surprises. It's nowhere near as definitive a piece of work as the Arctic Monkeys' debut -- to which it will inevitably be compared -- but neither is it an empty product fuelled by baseless industry hype. There is much to like here and, if they can rise above hoary rock and roll clichés and the white noise of media overkill, a bright future seems assured.






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