Concept albums. Why? Just when you thought that particular strain of album creation was slowly but surely dying out (unless you’re Muse, in which case you can pretty much get away with anything), along comes Animals, the latest effort from This Town Needs Guns. And the “concept” is the first thing you notice, which is a bit of a shame really as this is a stunning little album, technically inventive and incredible overall, but marred by song titles like ‘Dog’ and ‘Pig’. The bravery is appreciated, but naming tracks with words that are automatically associated with fat, smelly farmyard animals does nothing to put across the overall beauty of this particular collection of songs. And understandably, if you create music in the studio with temporary titles, using the names of animals instead of ‘the blippy song’, and ‘the blippy song 2′, well, it is pretty smart and quite amusing. However, then releasing the tracks with their animal names still there just smacks of laziness, and this laziness is what makes this album not as perfect as it could have been.
Pushing past the theme, what you get with this album is 13 tracks of solid, polished music that, although stylistically narrow-minded, establishes This Town Needs Guns as big hitters in their field. There is obviously variation from song to song, with ‘Lemur’ being a cheeky, mysterious little beast of a track, with Chris’ skittish drums and some haunting backing ooo’s adding a ghostly feel to the piece, via the brass-flecked instrumental ‘Elk’ right to the final track ‘Zebra’, a song that comes across so fragile and delicate that even listening to it may cause it to fall apart and collapse mid-play. This Town… deserve many compliments for not layering their music up with pointless instrumentation. It’s not necessary given their musical style, and when it is used in this album, it adds a lot of weight and emotion that would have been impossible if it had been over-used throughout the release. They know what they’re good at, and they do it to such a high standard that it’s near impossible not to overlook the apparent repetitiveness. And given their contempories/influences (do i really have to write Cap’n Jazz, American Football, Minus The Bear et al ANOTHER time?), This Town… have created us a record that is, well, pretty damn good. So we know that the music is untouchable (Tim must be a guitar idol for many a young post-rocker by now), so what about the element of the band that was previously deemed the weakest part, the vocals? And by ‘weakest’, i mean technically sound but not quite as perfect as the rest of the crystal-guitar maelstrom surrounding it. Well, its very much running on the same level as the music now. Stuart’s vocals ebb and flow, perfectly reflecting and complimenting the mid-track variations in sound and texture. Kind but commanding, one can’t help but be swept along by the waves of pace and pressure that This Town Needs Guns throw out to us in their wake, with Stuart at the helm of a complicated, multi faceted glass pirate ship of musical goodness. “Tech as Fuck” would be a good summary of Animals to a fresh pair of ears.
But shit pirate ship comparisons aside, This Town Needs Guns have delivered one of the most accomplished records of twiddly un-genre-label-ifying music (is it post, is it math, is it alt, who cares?) to date, and their label (the U.K’s favourite D.I.Y.record slingers, Big Scary Monsters) should be very proud of them, as if they keep this up, This Town Needs Guns will soon be awarded ‘cult’ status amongst thousands upon thousands of like-minded music lovers, and followed across the country fanatically. Seriously, it’s that good. If you like ANY of the recent crop of guitar-based bands, or any 90′s era American twiddly guitar-based groups, you would be ill-advised not to get this album. Animals is a cracker, and This Town Needs Guns have earned their tech stripes with distinction. Shame about the concept though. A couple of percent off for your score, This Town… for not taking long enough to find titles that really fitted the music. Now go and write another album of quality tunes and we’ll all love it as much as we love this one. But then, there won’t be a ‘Dog’ or a ‘Chinchilla’, or even a ‘Quetzal’.
What the crap is a ‘Quetzal’, anyway?