Bandcamp stream: Link
If you’re anything like me, you probably spend a while in your youth thinking that Discord Records were the absolute ideal model of how a record label should be, both musically and ethically. More specifically, you’d have read about Revolution Summer, and thought it sounded amazing, in every sense of the word. I’m willing to bet that members of Plaids have thought that at some point, as the comparisons to Revolution Summer and Discord Records are almost too easy to make. Aside from playing in Plaids, members also run Nottingham DIY space JT Soar, which regularly organises wonderfully varied gigs and events (none of which I have yet been able to get to, much to my sadness). The optimistic, youthful spirit of 80s Discord is obvious to see, yet all that would be for nothing if their music was mere imitation work, lacking in charm or character. Thankfully, that is not the case at all, and their début LP demonstrates an immense leap from their previous splits and EPs which, whilst good, did not prepare me for just how good this release would be.
What is most notable and key to the success of the album is that, rather than abandon those early emo/post-hardcore sounds, the band have recognised that the evolution of emo in to more indie rock and post-hardcore sounds (as well as countless other styles) was a natural one, and have used those sounds to add extra colour and texture to their pallet. Of course, emo is hardly a genre shackled by constraints in the way other styles are, but by adding space rock influences and the like, the band have added extra, well, space to their sound. There are still plenty of twisting, inter-twining, arresting guitar lines and shifts in emphasis and style that bring to mind the likes of Fugazi or even some of the stuff Level Plane Records put out towards the start of the millennium, as well as a sense of urgency and energy that makes the punk heritage of the genre clear for all to see and hear (probably coming in no small part from the album being recorded in four days). But there is also that sense of something extra, arising both from the vast range of influences on display, but also from the lyrics, loosely based as they are on the concept of space.
But whilst the above may be an attempt to describe the sound of the album, the chief impression left is of the boundless sense of energy and excitement that is almost constantly present – and when it isn’t, it’s because the band have chosen to slow things down. Take the opening moments of “Twenty” as a prime example, where guitar lines snake on top of powerful bass work before giving way to palm-muted chords played at a very intense speed, whilst the vocals transmit that same sense of urgency. It’s also notable that the band combine this with a sense of space – when the guitars step back, allowing the rhythm section to take the lead, there is no drop-off in energy or intensity. Likewise, the shifts in tempo are handled well, keeping things moving along at a pace that feels faster than it often actually is, an effect aided by the way many of the songs quickly lead in to one another, often dropping you right in the thick of things, and I’ll be damned if “Twenty Two” isn’t one of the most exciting songs I’ve heard this year. The chief exception to this is “Twenty Five”, an intentional (and successful) attempt at slowing things down for the most part and taking a different approach, before speeding up towards the end. Closer “Thirty” is full of spacious guitars and gently rolling drums, with more than a few moments that are closer to indie than punk rock (and if that description puts you off, then it really is your loss).
It’s quite difficult to put in to words just how good and enjoyable this album is, though. Each description written above feels like it is falling just short of adequately describing the spark that Plaids possess, and there are more highlights on the album than I can list. To put it another way, if this was released on a big American label, kids everywhere would be freaking out over how good it is; or if it had been released fifteen years ago, it would be considered a lost classic by those in the know. Don’t get stuck on the “emo” tag or let it put you off, this is an album full of varied sounds and punk energy, and I can’t recommend it enough.
Plaids is set for release via Art For Blind and Barely Regal. Two tracks can be streamed via Bandcamp at the time of writing. Keep an eye on the band’s Facebook page for updates and tour dates; this is a release you don’t want to miss out on.