Saturday, 2 April 2011

Album Review: The Pigeon Detectives - Up, Guards And At 'Em

Album: Up, Guards And At 'Em
Artist: The Pigeon Detectives
Singles: Done In Secret

The Pigeon Detectives took a bit more time with this album than with their second (there was a year's difference between their debut Wait For Me and the follow-up Emergency) - this time taking three years. Now taking that sort of time would make you assume something big was coming; as I thought Emergency was brilliant (although looking back, my 8/10 review for it was a little nice - I'd give it 7/10 now) considering the time it took, imagine what they could do with three years rather than one! And the answer is... nothing really new. This album could have easily turned up a year after Emergency. There is the odd hint of synth here and there but in short, the band still to the same formula. Some parts sound a little more polished than on the first two albums, but still you could mix these in with earlier songs and not be able to tell the difference.
However, this is not to say that the songs are bad - while I was slightly disappointed by the lack of change in sound, the songs are actually decent enough (well most songs anyway).

She Wants Me
This was released as a pre-album teaser, and it heralded a new sound for the band; slightly more synth-orientated. But it's one of the only ones to do so. "I don't want to do anything like you" comes the first lyric from the familiar voice of Matt Bowman (lead singer). 30 seconds in, the synth backing fades into memory as more obvious Pigeon Detectives guitar sounds come to life. It's a decent opener; maybe needs a few listens before it really hits home, but still quite a good start. Even for a song that lasts just three and a half minutes, it does get a tiny bit repetitive towards the end, however.

A nice powerful drumbeat opens the second song before a slightly softer guitar sound than we're used to from the band turns up, followed swiftly by "I can't get this all out of my head" and the slightly 'scraping-the-barrel' lyric "is it me, is it you, is it me now?". Who cares, though, it's catchy. The chorus is traditional Pigeon Detectives - memorable and powerful; this should be a fan favourite when it gets played live. One of the album's highlights

What Can I Say?
Starting off slightly more peacefully with a gentler guitar riff, which fools you into thinking it's going to be a quieter affair. A militaristic drumbeat turns up about a minute in, getting the song going a bit more. Then the illusion of this song being more peaceful is shattered 30 seconds later as massive guitars crash in. Memories of their debut are awoken when Bowman starts singing again - it just seems a little bit similar (not a bad thing). It quietens down again before the end. It's a decent song but I'd forgotten it not long after it finished.

Need To Know This
One of my two least favourites on the album, this sounds like quite a boring song, it doesn't have any particular redeeming features, no big chorus or anything like that. Not even the guitar solo that turns up toward the end can change my mind, although it's probably the best part about the song. It starts out with a very annoying synth as well, which doesn't help. Luckily it's the shortest song on the album.

Done In Secret
Oh, never mind Need To Know This, this one is probably the best on offer, so it's good that it was chosen as the first single. A memorable, catchy guitar riff, with a nice big crowd-pleasing chorus, along with the chant of "All these things were done in secret, all these things were done in secret" make this song pretty damn good indeed. It's not far at all from their old stuff (a synth does turn up about halfway through, but still...) but it more than makes up for the previous song.

What You Gonna Do?
"Are you still carrying their torch? Did they forget about your cause?" comes the opening lyric. The vocals sound very slightly Freddie Mercury-esque at times (I bet no one else hears this, but this song reminds me a little bit of some old Queen songs). Other than that, it's fairly standard Pigeon Detectives - catchy chorus, decent guitar riff, over before it gets boring. At least there's no irritating synth this time.

Turn Out The Lights
A very odd song. It sounds very heavily distorted, the vocals in particular. This is starting to move away from the first two albums. "You can stay, if that's what you'd like" goes the chorus - unfortunately a slightly less interesting one than other songs. This is definitely a grower, and oddly its strength lies in its verses (unusual for the Pigeon Detectives) and the solo that turns up a couple of minutes in. But it did eventually click, and although it's not up there with my favourites, it's still good enough.

Through The Door
This, along with Done In Secret, makes up the album's best moments. While the lyrics are slightly nonsensical: "I want to dance with you, but my hands are on fire", the lyrics have never been a strong point for this band. What matters is that they're memorable and catchy (I know I'm using those words a lot, but they are completely relevant. Promise.) A personal favourite moment is the opening guitar. I can picture it opening an epic music video (let's hope this is a single) or starting up at a festival and leaving the crowd screaming with excitement. A definite highlight.

Go At It Completely
Another awesome guitar riff opens this one. Again, we're reverting to basic Pigeon Detectives sounds and style. The chorus when "go at it completely" is actually being sung, borders between having potential as crowd-baiting singalong and just being annoyingly repetitive. After a few listens, it does head towards the former, however. The guitar right at the end is also a highlight for this song.

I Don't Know You
Opening with a slightly Western-sounding noise before the vocals turn up, this is the album closer. Ten tracks really seems too short for a Pigeon Detectives album. "I don't know you, but there's a look inside your eyes that says I used to" goes the chorus. This one is more of a build-up song compared to the other nine. And for me, it doesn't work. This song and Need To Know This are my two least favourites on the album. It does hint at a different sound to the rest of the album, but it's not a good direction. And I'm not a fan of the carnival-esque sound that closes the album down either.

So, overall, a slight disappointment at first, especially considering the three years time that they have had to make this album - apart from a few songs, there's no real change in the sound, and even when there are hints of it, it's usually left alone and older sounds resurface. But after a few listens, a few songs I didn't like first time around have grown on me (some haven't) and there have been a few instant likes (Lost, Done In Secret and Through The Door are my personal top picks). I do enjoy this one more than Emergency, but I don't think it deserves an 8/10 rating. I will just have to accept that I was far too nice with reviewing albums three years ago. Well, sometimes I still am, but I think I'll have to give this one:


Previous albums: Wait For Me (8/10), Emergency (8/10)

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