Start and Complete is the second album from musically minded collective, About Group. A bit of a modern day super-group, the band comprises the talents of Charles Hayward (This Heat, Camberwell Now) John Coxon (Spiritualized) Pat Thomas and Alexis Taylor (Hot Chip). The whole idea behind the group is to keep a live, spontaneous feel to the music they’re recording and so in a similar fashion to the first record, released through Treader in 2009, the album was recorded in one session in the famous Abbey Road studios.
The concept behind Start and Complete is to celebrate ‘the moment’ – on the spot creativity and musicianship. Aside from a few overdubs, the album on record is the album heard in the process of being made, a concept which would strike many a modern band as completely foreign, almost impossible, perhaps. With this album, we are presented with stripped back, but by no means unpolished material where chief songwriter Taylor has composed each track in a similar key, with a fairly standard tempo running throughout. Such a touch adds a real sense of fluidity to proceedings, showcasing the manner in which the record was made.
Start and Complete opens with the track ‘Married To The Sea (A)’ and ‘Married To The Sea (B)’ is the closer. ‘(A)’ leads us into the journey with the nostalgic sounds of a Wurlitzer accompanying Taylor’s silky vocals, the track slipping effortlessly into second song ‘Don’t Worry’, which gives more of an accurate glimpse into what’s to come on this free-flowing record. ‘Don’t Worry’ is the first of the jams that we hear, built up of a wah guitar and a Wurlitzer, giving the track a really soulful, almost 70s feel. The 11 minute cover of Harvey Averne’s ‘You’re No Good‘ is an epic journey of emotion and of pure musical immersion, as the improvisational basis of the album is really given the chance to run wild.
The main story running through the album is that of a relationship – of needing someone, of loving someone, of losing someone. The instruments used to create the music reflect this vibe really well, ‘vibe’ being a great word to use for this record. It’s a series of vibes. Each track tells a story, and each of the musicians in turn interpret the story with their instrument to create the atmosphere and the setting. Taylor’s lyrics are poignant throughout, with him producing arguably some of his most touching, sensitive material to date.
As high quality as the music on this album clearly is, there’s a bit of an issue. In the mega fast paced world that we inhabit, our iPod shaped ears have become very used to being able to flit and flick between songs, albums and genres faster than you can say ‘skip’, rather than listening to albums in their entirety. As such, the modern listener can become easily distracted and this is what I found happening with this album. I greatly appreciate the principle behind the project, as I do the calibre of the musicians involved with About Group, but I found the journey a bit repetitive. Listened to in stages, the intricate melodic constructions and the heart wrenchingly open lyrics are very impressive, but unfortunately, technology has spoiled my appetite and I didn’t particularly enjoy the album as a whole. Emotion ridden, extremely well performed tracks which take the recording process back to its fundamentals are to be found on Start and Complete, if you’re lucky enough to have an intact attention span.