Hmmm. it seems, following some basic investigation, that fewer of the albums in these lists are on Spotify than I had assumed. I had to wander halfway down the list until I found another pair that were both streaming on Spotify, and this was I Am Kloot’s ‘Sky at Night’, and The Fall’s ‘Your Future Our Clutter’. So they are up next.
Interestingly (considering the entirely random pairing up of albums), both of these bands are from Manchester. Both bands are also quite notably Mancunian; one of the songs on the Fall album refers to Bury (a town in Greater Manchester), which is also where Elbow (members of which are friends with I Am Kloot, and produced ‘Sky at Night’)hail from. Those crazy interconnected Mancunians! So this is the Manchester edition of Mercury vs Neptune – enjoy!
Firstly, I Am Kloot, up for the Mercury with ‘Sky at Night’. One presumes this is titled after Patrick Moore’s long running space based programme (further Manc-links; Guy Garvey has professed a love for said programme on his 6music radio show. I’m beginning to suspect some kind of Manchester conspiracy going on). The music fits the title I think; it is quite a quiet, contemplative album, similar to the activity of gazing at the heavens. It neither rocks nor rolls (no bad thing here), floating along gently on clearly plucked guitars and delicate strings. The vocals are prominent, but in a very different way to yesterday’s Biffy Clyro. There, the vocals felt artificially pushed to the front, boosted above the ‘rockin’ guitars, whereas here the music is quite and calm enough to sit quite comfortably alongside the voice. This is very good, as Mr Bramwell’s vocals have a weary, storyteller’s quality, and his lyrics give him interesting stories to tell. I liked one verse of ‘To the Brink’ in particular: “So you wear the disguise of your brilliant eyes drenched in flamboyance / and you sit by the bar much to everyone else’s annoyance.” Not that all this album’s songs are stories, but on initial listens I get the impression that these lyrics, and these songs, are ones you could grow to love.
On the other hand, this record does lack the dynamics and variety of the album it is being tipped to follow the path of, Elbow’s ‘Seldom Seen Kid’ (excepting perhaps the Kloot track ‘Radiation’, which has some damn fine brass and strings, and, you know, actually gets going a bit). ‘Radiation’ aside though, I Am Kloot appear to have perfected the kind of thing they do, but you may feel at some points in the album that it would be nice to hear some of a slightly different kind of thing too. Nevertheless, this is Good Stuff. I like it, and I would not be at all disappointed if I Am Kloot’s ‘Sky at Night’ wins the Mercury.
And now to The Fall. ‘Your Future Our Clutter’ gets going with some (I believe the phrase might be) ‘rollicking’ drums, and some Mark E. Smith mumbling. It’s a good start, an invigorating one, and not a bad first impression (this is the first time I’ve ever actually listened to The Fall, despite having heard plenty about them). After that, single ‘Bury Pts 1+3’ sounds like its being played in the house across the road for its first 1 minute 30, for… some reason, presumably. When it does come into focus, it starts to remind me somewhat of the previous track, although I think that is mainly because of the similardrums. This track is faster, and I can actually hear Mr Mark E’s lyrics!
Unfortunately though, this becomes quite a problem for this album; too much similarity, not enough difference. These songs are generally fairly simple and repetitive, and there is nothing wrong with that. But most tend to last for 6 or 7 minutes, which is pushing it. And when the songs are pretty similar to each other as well (lots of fuzzy bass, punky guitars, insistent drums, Mark E. Smith mutterings), this record can get old a bit quick. There are of course exceptions: ‘Chino’ has some excellent swagger to it, and ‘Cowboy George’ features some random and bizarre sampling of Daft Punk’s ‘Harder Better Faster Stronger’. And what the band are doing is pretty good, just not good enough to go on for this long. Maybe I need some background knowledge of the group’s previous 27 (yes, 27) albums to appreciate this one more, but I wasn’t really enticed to listen to more of them by my first few listens to ‘Your Future Our Clutter’.
So I hereby declare victory of this Mancunian battle to… I Am Kloot, with ‘Sky at Night’! That makes it level between Mercury and Neptune; it’s all to play for, other records. Exciting times…
Mercury: 1 / Neptune 1