When you’re working as a reviewer you have to accept that alongside all the good music you get to hear, there will be some terrible records that you have to listen to. That’s fine, I can accept that, but what bothers me more is when you’re left simply disappointed by a release. And this is the position I find myself in after listening to Sideways, Sometimes, the new EP from London-based CYMBALS. It’s probably my own fault for wanting last year’s Unlearn album to have had 10 other tracks as brilliant as the song ‘Jane’, but instead of more songs in the vein of that track (think the angular slackness of Pavement) we were left with a record influenced by the sort of dance-pop plied by the bafflingly popular Metronomy. So I approached this EP hoping for something to click for me and that I’d finally get CYMBALS but, sadly, it didn’t happen.
Eight tracks long (although there are three short untitled tracks) and recorded by James Yuill on a boat in the Thames, Sideways, Sometimes begins with the punk-funk of ‘No Bad Decisions’, a song that could have been bearable if it weren’t for the yelped and mildly irritating vocals, and the way it seemed to last forever despite only being about 5 minutes long. ‘It Makes Me Seriously’ is a slower, bass-heavy track that tones down the vocals and, much like the previous number, has lyrics that touch on the everyday and mundane: “I decided to quit my band, and I trained as a money man/And got to restaurants, and buy the things that I want/So I trained as a Government man”. The attempted groove on the track is as limp as the attempt to critique modern society, and comes off as sixth-form whingeing.
Better is ‘Candy Bar’, a bright and breezy three-minute pop song with a lovely, classic indie melody and killer chorus that falls into a charming ’80s synth bridge, and lyrics that seem to recall teenage innocence and blossoming first love. The insistent and addictive throb of ‘The Norms’ is ruined somewhat by a chorus that undoes all the good work in the verses (“Step away from the norms with the real jobs and regular sleep patterns”) and final track ‘Intense Kids’ lacks the tune that such a song title deserves.
Perhaps I had too high hopes, or unrealistic expectations, for CYMBALS and this EP, but the overriding feeling of disappointment remains. There’s so many bands following the path that the likes of Metronomy and Everything Everything have carved out, creating pop music out of electronics and guitars, and singing about British life. Some do it well with verve and charm, and some sadly don’t, and for the time being CYMBALS fall into the latter category.