Monday, August 30, 2010

Pull In Emergency - Review of the Debut Album!

Well, the debut album is finally here -- as of 06 September, that is.

Yeah, I raved pretty hard about single "Everything Is The Same" back in June and I'm happy to report that the self-titled, debut full-length album from London's Pull In Emergency does not disappoint.

Well, it disappoints in one way: it's far too short! And I know some people who've been following the band for longer than I have will complain that "Follow" is not on here -- you guys in the UK can buy it as a download from Amazon.co.uk, though.

Here's something you're NEVER going to hear from me about Pull In Emergency: "They're pretty good considering how young they are."

No, when I heard "Everything Is The Same" -- the lead track on the debut full-length album -- on Lauren Laverne's BBC 6 Music radio show, I played it about 5 times in a row (I use the BBC's iPlayer due to the US-UK time difference) before I ever knew that no one in the band was 18 yet -- close though.

So, yeah, Pull In Emergency bristle on the album with the enthusiasm and freshness of a new band, but not a young one -- that's a big distinction.

One of the benefits of approaching a new band like this from the other side of the Atlantic is that stuff like this piece in The Guardian really has zero to do with what I am enjoying so much about this band.

Naturally, I gravitate to British bands but the rest of the nascent scene these 5 guys and gals may be a part of doesn't matter to me.

Okay, that's out of the way, here we go, on to the album.

The album is 31 largely upbeat minutes of British pop in a post-Libertines world -- the sound of American rock like The Strokes filtered through a specific London sensibility.


And while the first thing that grabbed me about the band was the Chrissie Hynde-like voice of lead singer Faith Barker, now I can say that each member of the band gets a chance to shine over the course of this record. Nothing flashy, mind, but there are consistently interesting bits happening in every song.

So, once you get past the already familiar and ace recent singles of "Everything Is The Same", "In Silence", and "15 Years", the immediate attention-getter for me is "Cold Hands".

"You stole the wind out of my sails...cold hands, I will not let you live this one down!" Faith sings as the guitars of Frankie Bowmaker and Alice Costelloe circle and sound like Stanley Jordan trying to play 1980s-era King Crimson lines, the rhythm section of Suneet Chohan on drums and Dylan Williams on bass lend a low rumble to the track and, a few minutes in, the vocals drop way back in the mix and the guitar lines now turn into "Monkey Gone To Heaven"-style, Pixies-aping attacks and the all-too-brief bridge carries the song into an entirely new space. Just a stunning mix of styles in one track!

On "What You Say", the fast beat marches the song along with the shouty background vocals echoing the title, as Faith insults an unnamed foe.

"You deserve to be alone!" Faith sings as the song, a London cousin to the Arctic Monkeys' "Still Take You Home", rattles forward with confidence.




My advance copy did not have liner notes but I know that the group worked on this album with producer Gordon Raphael who's worked with The Strokes. I think you can hear that influence here as the instruments are all distinctly present in the mix. Without any keyboards on this album -- none that I could make out -- guitar, bass, and drums are all given moments of prominence and the songs zip along with a live sound that I particularly liked and appreciated.

Faith's clear voice is mixed in front and there are a few minor vocal bits where backing vocals come in, or her voice is given some effect -- like in "Cold Hands" -- but the album sounds largely like Pull In Emergency is playing as a band all at once in the next room.

With a jaunty intro like something from The Smiths -- think "I Want The One I Can't Have", perhaps -- "Backfoot" echoes the feelings of being trapped in a city, racing "past dead-end jobs and hopeless people" into an uncertain future.

Near the album's end, we've got "Song 11" -- track 9 on the disc, for those keeping tabs. This one begins a tiny bit like New Order's "Ceremony" at the start but then the cymbals crash and Faith's voice sings:

"I could be the one to change your mind."

Faith sounds like a very hopeful Tracey Thorn here, if Tracey ever tried to "rock out", that is. The instruments quiet down and Suneet taps out another New Order-ish beat, and then the cymbals crash:

"I can't see things getting better...".

Album closer, "Hold Still" fittingly quiets things down a bit and asks somewhat knowingly: "Where do we go from here?"

Anywhere you guys want, really.



You know, I'm a jaded, snobbish music junkie. Given that I worked in a great college record store in 1989 -- the summer of the first import CD single from The Sundays reaching these shores; the summer of The Stone Roses' debut being excitedly mailed to me at the store from an RCA college rep in NYC after he taped the LP for me before its US release -- it's a bit understandable that it would take a lot to get me excited about a band nowadays.

Apart from Kenickie in 1997, Britpop entertained me but didn't excite me. I eased into the Arctic Monkeys and tried to ignore the hype as the first album dropped. I didn't get excited about the band until first album closer "A Certain Romance", and then I could see their moments of genius.

Well, I'm excited now about Pull In Emergency. Next time guys, please give us more than 31-minutes!

You can buy Pull In Emergency's debut on CD from Amazon.co.uk or HMV.com.

In the US, check Amazon.com and iTunes near the 06 September 2010 release date.

Also follow the band on their blog and on MySpace.