The phrase “produced by Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand” is one that’s going to follow Here We Are, the debut album from Londoners Citizens!, around so I suppose it’s best to get it out in the open as soon as possible, especially as the band ply a similar angular indie-disco sound to Kapranos’ missing-in-action band. Being both “hotly tipped” and signed to ultra-cool French label Kitsuné means that Citizens! already have a lot to live up to, and that’s before we even get round to the two classy singles ‘True Romance’ and ‘Reptile’ that we’ve already heard and fallen in love with. In all honesty, the band don’t quite live up to those lofty beginnings on this album, but Here We Are nevertheless pulls off one mightily clever trick that makes it a fine debut record: in the words of Roxette, “don’t bore us, get to the chorus”.
First single, first track and stone-cold classic ‘True Romance’ sets the tone for the rest of the album by laying down the (unwritten) rule that Citizens! must get to the chorus within the first sixty seconds of the track. While some charming plinky-plonky keys do their thing in the background singer Tom Burke intones in his best Bowie-esque style “Oh my love, what are we doing here/This little heart is racing through the gears” before we hit a buzzing chorus that builds layers upon each further visitation, capped with dizzying synths. In some ways Citizens! [God, that exclamation mark is annoying] remind me of a bedsit Phoenix, with the Gallic charm replaced by an alluring grubbiness; this idea is furthered with the disco swing of ‘Reptile’ which tells a tale of an isolation that’s a million miles away from the French band’s glamorous world yet remains equally appealing. Upcoming third single ‘Caroline’ completes the set of belting tracks that most new bands would die to have in their repertoire: a blazing pop stomp with squelching synths, which – as with all great pop songs – is about an unattainable woman, as is the Franz-Ferdinand-with-the-horn (hang on, that’s just regular Franz isn’t it?) of ‘(I’m In Love With Your) Girlfriend’ that adds an appropriate electro, ahem, throb to Burke’s knowing croon of “I always want the things that I can’t have/I always want what I can’t have”.
It’s a shame that not everything lives up to the standard of the singles and the second half of the record fades slightly once we’re passed the loose and appealing funk of ‘Monster’, with ‘I Wouldn’t Want To’ failing in its attempt to mix a last dance waltz pace in the verses with a quicker chorus tempo, and final track ‘Know Yourself’ meandering, leaving the pace and quality that Citizens! brought earlier in danger of being forgotten.
Still, there’s something about those tracks that heralds promise; Tom Burke’s lyrics are acerbic yet welcoming and the music provided by band mates Martyn, Mike, Laurence and Thom, while approaching calculated at times, is often thrillingly Pop with a capital P. Here We Are represents a solid beginning for Citizens! and something of a mission statement: Here we are, this is what we do… care to join us?