Seeing Bloc Party in Stoke late last year; hearing they were to go on hiatus; and first hearing music from the new respective projects by guitarist Russell Lissack and vocalist/guitarist Kele Okereke – these are three things that seem to have happened very quickly and close together indeed, much moreso than I expected, at least. With Okereke being such a recognisable figure and voice, it’s perhaps inevitable than his debut record The Boxer will accrue the bulk of the press and audience attention when it emerges next month, but it is Russell Lissack’s collaboration with Milena Mepris which has emerged first.
The name Pin Me Down has been hanging around for some time, and with the exception of a couple of tracks from this album having appeared before now, it’s been very hard to… pin down (That’s an awful pun – Ed) any expectations of what the project could be expected to sound like. It is not unfair to describe the sound of this self-titled debut as it turns out as poppier, more electronic Bloc Party-lite with a very nasal female singer. A huge amount of Pin Me Down‘s appeal or lack thereof, is going to hinge on what listeners feel about Mepris’ voice. Personally I’m unimpressed – in fairness these songs are relatively unambitious vocally, but Mepris doesn’t display a lot of range and her tone veers far too close to sneering far too often for my tastes. There’s something inherently superficial about her which doesn’t do it for me, but some will inevitably take to her – if you like her performance on one track you’ll like the album, in all likelihood.
Underlining the fact that this is very much a record of two performers and that the beats and synths are efficient but uninspiring, when we’re not thinking about Mepris’ voice we’re thinking about Lissack’s guitar. During the Bloc Party era it was easy to forget how distinctive Lissack’s playing is, but on several tracks (not least opener “Cryptic” and especially “Time Crisis”) you are immediately hit with a sense of instant recognition. It’s the presence of a lighter, less raucuous but fundamentally classic Lissack sound which makes Pin Me Down frequently sound so much, instrumentally, like Bloc Party. However, it is the fact that Okereke is missing, replaced with a much less emotive and inviting presence, and that the songs are frankly less interesting structurally and lyrically, that makes Lissack’s new project decidedly less impressive than his previous vocation. Ultimately, Pin Me Down provide pleasant but unspectacular pop, unlikely to do as much for Lissack’s stature as his stint with a resurgent Ash will.