Thursday, April 02, 2009

Which Bitch? review

When it comes to the mainstream, it's incredibly easy to generalise on the basis of a band's previous work or another song you've heard on the radio, and the obvious reason for this is that most bands aired on popular radio stations play it safe most of the time and hence end up sounding relatively similar to whatever you heard three months ago. Case in fact: Coldplay experienced only subtle changes over the course of their first three LPs and it was easy to generalise and like or dislike Coldplay, as opposed to specific songs or albums. If Viva La Vida proved anything, though, it's that sometimes (although not often) pop groups deserve a second look, and another record which serves as evidence in the same direction is The View's 2009 release Which Bitch? Where their debut was almost entirely bland and unexciting, most people listening to this album will expect the same, but the truth is that they will be greeted with a noticeably (although not radically) different beast. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing will probably depend on whether they like music or just listen to the radio when they're bored.

Opener Typical Time 2 is brilliant in its quirkiness and folk feel because it's going to make the average mainstream indie-pop listener sit up and take notice instead of allowing this release to become background noise like The View's first album did so often, and if there's one thing this album achieves, it's holding your interest. Sometimes it manages to do that through well-forged melodic numbers which bounce along and provide the necessary, light-hearted hooks; even 5Rebbeccas, which seems to document split personalities and drug-use – 'the one I love the most has turned into a junkie' – never even borders on depressing or downbeat. Sometimes the attention it demands is more a product of weirdness or over-ambition, owing to the eclectic instrumentation (60s type horns, melodramatic strings, and so on) which occasionally feels forced and marginally out of place. But there's usually something going on, and compared to Hats Off To The Buskers it certainly counts as experimental, although in terms of music in general the term obviously doesn't apply. On the whole, however, Which Bitch? takes more calculated risks and holds more musical merit than most albums that will garner any mainstream praise in 2009, and for that it surely deserves some credit.

Although it only stands at 55 minutes of very subtly folk-tinged pop music, the album still feels like a very long listen. In part this is due to the deliberate recording-studio feel The View feel they need to afford pretty much every track, starting with background noise, someone plugging in their guitar, or the bassist saying something utterly pointless. As such, the songs never really flow, although the track listing does feel as though it's been deliberated over to some extent – the first half of the album, in particular, peaks and settles at the right points and Unexpected, which offers a surprisingly successful drop in tempo as an acoustic guitar- and string-dominated ballad, adds just enough variety to ensure the tracks don't all blend into one. Another contributor to this flow is Covers, which provides a change in vocals in the form of a guest appearance by Paolo Nutini, although this attempt is notably less memorable. Again, though, it's picked up by a quicker number, Double Yellow Lines (an ode to the way drunk people find their way home) which is propelled by an insistent drum beat that refuses to let the energy drop, and a very prominent and important guitar line.

Largely, Kieran Webster's bass work accompanies Steven Morrison's drumming well, and the rhythm trio can take the praise for a large amount of the album's relentless energy. When the bass is given centre-stage, like on Realisation – one of the weaker tracks on offer by a long way – it is usually a mistake, since Webster demonstrates no real ingenuity or originality, and whereas elsewhere a solid performance (like on the following track Give Back The Sun) holds up to scrutiny, he shouldn't really be asked, or allowed, to do any more than that. On the other hand, Pete Reilly handles the lead guitar, and the album's better tracks are largely those which incorporate his sometimes bluesy and frequently raw picking high in the mix. He has a knack for combining with the rhythm section to create builds in songs.

Kyle Falkner joins the multitude of vocalists who play up their regional accent to near-laughable results but it usually ends up enhancing the unrestrained feel that the album manages to consistently get right. At the best of times, like when he slightly loses it mid-way through Glass Smash, his voice serves as another instrument, raw and unsettled; at the worst of times, he's still a competent singer. In fairness, the words he's singing are also a massive improvement on their debut record's generic or uninteresting subject matter; here the lyrics are consistently idiosyncratic, and from time to time manage to inject wit. Said wit saves some tracks – Distant Doubloon being the most prominent example – and sets others on fire with an impressive amount of energy. Single Shock Horror contains lines like 'if you make it to the top don't come and save me, 'cause I'll be at the bottom having fun' and 'I feel sorry for you man, you've forgotten how to clap your hands'. Shock Horror, a definite stand-out, builds from a percussion-less first half-minute which sounds like it might be a piano-centred ballad, into a huge sing-along of the latter of the aforementioned lines, and the song is structured so that the fast-paced climax 3 minutes in comes as a surprise, and a very pumping one at that.

All in all, Which Bitch? is a reasonably pleasant and surprising listen. It doesn't break any barriers of quality or creativity but it maintains a familiar character throughout and for the most part holds a lot of energy in its bouncy light-heartedness. Unfortunately, the stand-outs (5Rebeccas, Shock Horror, One Off Pretender, Unexpected and Glass Smash) sit mostly towards the front of the record, and although the second half carries its weight it never really lives up to the hooks and the invigorated guitar-pop of the first 6 tracks. The singles will doubtless come from those stand-out tracks, but with a bit of luck, the album will sell too, because despite lacking in some areas and failing in terms of overall consistency, it does illustrate a more raw, interesting side to The View that it would be nice to see develop.

By Adam Knott,, 31st March 2009


Anonymous Anonymous said...

what happened to you? why don´t you write any news anymore? i check this site everyday...^^

8:07 pm  
Anonymous Steph said...

wheres all the latest news? need my view fix! x

4:25 pm  

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