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"In Guards We Trust"

Guards – In Guards We Trust
29 April 2013, 08:57 Written by Hayley Scott

There seems to be this perennial myth that, if you’re feeling a little low then the best music to pick you up is “happy” music, like it’s some kind of escapist antidote that has the ability to metamorphose reality into an exultant utopia where everything’s fine and dandy. But what happens when the record stops playing? Play it again? Find something else equally immaterial about how carefree the person on the other end is feeling?

Guards’ debut has an adverse effect on me; there’s something depressingly vexatious about listening to an album with such euphoric reverence when you can’t particularly relate to the joyous, beatific clamour permeating your earholes. That’s not to say that musically, the only cure for dejection is Joy Division, but the problem with Guards’ music is – not that it’s too cheerful, too blithely hopeful, too wrapped up in its own insouciant bubble – but that it’s lacking conviction. There’s a difference between evoking that feel-good exuberance you get with so many of Guards’ antecedents, and being overtly optimistic for the sake of it. Even in the moments that are supposed to lament contemplative grief it lacks tender sentience: ‘1&1’ has an underlying introspective that’s enshrouded by clichéd discourse of love gone awry.

Of course, you could argue that perhaps if I was in some halcyon nirvana soaking up the sun with this album on repeat I’d be relishing every second of it. But the (sad) truth is I’m not. And with unfamiliarity often comes an inability to relate, and In Guards We Trust sounds like a gushy, overly-ebullient depiction of a world a million miles away from where I am – and while some music has the ability to transport you to a better place – Guards don’t perpetuate this idea – instead they deliver something that often sounds extraneously effervescent.

That said, In Guards We Trust is nothing if not consistent. From the euphoric opener ‘Nightmare’ to the rapturous ‘Giving Out’ that proceeds it, all twelve tracks nurture scaling bass lines, colossal choruses and hyperactive, washed-out vocals en masse. It’s all seemingly pleasant initially, but as a collective it begins to sound redundant and tedious by the album’s close. It’s not entirely uninspiring though, there’s admirable hints of genre-tinkering: aforementioned opener ‘Nightmare’ is powered by a soul rhythm underpinning Follin’s jovial lilt, dressed up and swathed in hazy, Californian imagery, and ‘Can’t Repair’ is a continuation of Guards’ penchant for exploring elements of Motown.

‘Your Man’ offers a more placid vision of Guards’ competence for melody and nuance and it’s a welcomed juncture. These are the moments where Guards’ ability to make proficient pop songs really begins to shine and In Guards We Trust breaks from its effusive lavishness. You’ve also got to give it to Richie Follin & co for being masters of those familiar gigantic hooks and aggregated choruses that no-one seems to be using anymore, though it plays a big part in why the album in its entirety sounds a little outmoded in 2013 – and while not remotely original – the unabashed attempt to salvage the last remains of anthemic indie-rock music is admirable in itself.

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