PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

They Walk Among Us: Mathematics, Art in Progress

Mark Desrosiers

They Walk Among Us

Mathematics, Art in Progress

Label: Aeronaut
US Release Date: 2003-12-16
UK Release Date: Available as import

Ignore the title. This is not a math-rock album; it is an artless and regressive chump-counseling sandbox filled with majestic overproduced songs. They Walk Among Us are a quintet of Welsh boys led by one Richard Procter, and the fact that they've chosen to release this album in the U.S. before they promote it in the UK suggests that they're fishing for dollars, not compliments. So I must perform my critical duty and inform you that this album might (might) work as sonic therapy for unpopular teenage boys who have trouble getting dates. Otherwise, it's pretty bad.

What do they sound like? Imagine the warbling homo profundo vocals of Ian McCullough atop those majestic Mission UK soundscapes, and you'll get the idea. Or better yet, imagine Radiohead's The Bends recast as unintentional comedy. Really, every single tune on here is about how Richard Proctor's unrequited love is forcing him to write ghastly lyrics and sculpt tedious and plodding soundscapes (multitracked vocals, chimey-echoing guitars, fake cello sounds). Take, for example, the opening track, "Telescopes", which begins with Jetsons electro noises and then bursts forth into clean guitars and a reverberating dude at the mike. He sings about a window (with the curtains closed) and a telescope which he wants you to believe is "aimed at the stars" (but they "don't shine for" him). Then comes the bizarre chorus (which is repeated several times throughout the song): "I'm alive like anyone else / I give love like anyone else". Is Richard Proctor some sort of deformed freak of nature? Even if you are, Richard, that's no excuse for shoveling that sort of lyrical mulch onto our collective cochlea.

Things don't get much better after that dubious opening. Lots of slick angstscapes and silly lyrics, though the sped-up "melody" of the closing track ("Getting Us Nowhere") bears an eerie resemblance to Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire". (n.b. Proctor does reveal his motives in "Say My Name", when he croons "If we didn't write these songs we'd have nothing to promote.")

Two of the songs are not bad, though. "It Goes On" is the only song here where Proctor acknowledges humanoids other than himself and his love interest. He's apparently observing the characters around him in a juke joint of some sort, and repeatedly asks the question, "Will the jukebox play my favorite song?" (well, yeah, if you put in a quarter and select it!). Still, it survives on its poignant two-note hook and a very hilarious come-on, which proceeds as follows: "Did you just sneak a look at me? / If so pull up a chair and sit by me / We could talk about the news and weather".

Slightly better is "Girl on a Wire", which features a bouncy melody and an altogether lusty atmosphere. "Lifting me up, or bringing me down", shouts Proctor, and wait a minute, it seems this heart-on-sleeve poetaster is ready to hang out his stained sheets! If They Walk Among Us record another album, please let it be filled with girls on wires, rather than "aeroplanes" or "sitting ducks".

I don't recommend this album. It's a chore to listen through to the end, and the lyrics are just awful. Maybe when Proctor's love life gets sorted out, he'll turn to writing tunes about differential equations or singing in Welsh or something. Until then, buy some old Echo & the Bunnymen LPs and listen to some quality source materials for this genre.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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