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The Music – Strength In Numbers (Album Review)

Word-of-mouth in today’s music-saturated pop culture-orientated world is very important. Blogs, Wikipedia, and sites such as Myspace have become virtual beacons to introduce new music to newer ears all around the globe. The Music have been sadly ignored by the music-buying general public, perhaps because – like The Band, or The The – using google isn’t really gonna be much help for those who want to find out more about them. Even writing The The in Microsoft Word is too much for it to take. The Music do what Kasabian do, but easily hundreds of times better. Plus they were doing it before Kasabian came along. But it seems that the timing for The Music was all wrong. In over 8 years that they’ve functioned as a band, Coldplay and Muse have grown in stature to becoming grandiose stadium-rock behemoths personified.

The Music have always had that great Led Zepp rumbling bass groove, mixed with the psychedelic guitars of The Verve with a dirty nightclub dance-vibe, long before teenagers came over all Nu Rave with The Klaxons. Mix this up with a great frontman in the form of Robert Harvey who whirls around the stage like a dervish on speed with a wasp chasing him (watch the band’s live performance on David Letterman on youtube, or the “Welcome To Japan” live DVD), and maybe you can imagine what they’re like live: spectacular. The Leeds-based foursome formed in 1999 and 2 years later released their first E.P. called “You Might as Well Try to Fuck Me” through Hut Recordings, who The Verve and Embrace were also initially signed to.

In 2002 they released a second E.P. called “The People”, and then their eponymous debut album, featuring some truly great tracks: the effervescent “The Truth Is No Words”, “Getaway” and “Take The Long Road And Walk It” and the floaty “Human” to name a few . The album garnered some great reviews and awards (BBC Radio 1 celebrity DJ Steve Lamacq famously hailed them as the “best new band of 2002”, and NME declared that they were potentially “the most important UK band since Oasis”), sold-out tours that grew in scale and popularity, and highly recommended festival slots. I made the bold move of missing out on Metallica headlining the main stage at Reading 2004 to see The Music in the small tent touring their second album (the unfairly mauled and maligned “Welcome To The North”) and, to this day, I know I made the right choice.

But it was the release of “Welcome To The North” that begun the band’s unfortunate downward spiral. Whilst they stated that they were fervant fans of chemically-enhanced fun, the drugs and the relelentless touring of an album they readily admit that was badly produced begun to create cracks in the band’s dynamic. It’s a real shame actually, because the album has some amazing singles (“Freedom Fighters”, “Welcome To The North” and “Breakin’”) as well as some cracking album tracks, such as “Bleed From Within”, “Into The Night”, “I Need Love” and the deliciously slinky riffage of “One Way In, No Way Out”. Seriously, if you’ve not heard at least some of these tracks then the least you could do is have a listen, you won’t be disappointed. Whilst the band don’t particularly like the way their second album panned-out (though they don’t go to the lengths of disowning it, like Oasis do with “Be Here Now”), it’s still a firm fan-favourite.

Four years on, The Music have managed to finally release their third studio offering. As the Stone Roses know, long periods of time spent in the studio can be to the band’s lasting artistic detriment, but fans of the band will be glad to know that new album “Strength In Numbers” is a real stunner. Robert Harvey recently said that the fundamental problem with the “Welcome To The North” album was that it was produced as a rock record, as opposed to a comfortable hybrid of rock and dance. “Strength In Numbers”, like their debut album, successfully juggles the two genres together nicely, and it’s a very pleasing amalgamation indeed. Fair enough, album-opener “Strength In Numbers” (don’t ask me why, confusingly, a single on each album is also the name of the album itself) sounds a bit like “Welcome To The North”. The song, not the album as a whole. I told you it’d get complicated, sigh. And, fair enough, the lyrics are still the same old rallying cries of the let’s-overcome-adversity-together type that Oasis do so well, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. And fair enough, the intro to “The Left Side” sounds a bit like Linkin Park, which doesn’t sound too promising.

But the album works. Robert Harvey’s soaring vocal range (reminiscent of Robert Plant, but sadly now without the same messy curly hair), the searing drum and bass combo, along with those crunchy guitar riffs pound the listener’s ears: an example being when track 3, “Drugs”, kicks in (that’s not a pun by the way). But, yeah, the contrast of ambient sounds to a huge guttural rush is startling, as we hear Harvey sing about the dependencies he’s overcome. The band’s unmistakably energetic joy de vivre on “Vision” (with the tellingly honest references to a life without the band (‘Without you I’m a broken man’)), and harsh coldness of “The Spike” shows that, whilst down, they’re certainly not out. In fact, The Music have come out fighting. The sleek bombast of “Cold Blooded” and “Fire”, and the unapologetically anthemic “Inconceivable Odds” highlight a nearly decade-old band out on the hunt and thirsty for what they deserve. They deserve accolades. They deserve a bigger audience. And, finally, they fully deserve our full and unswaying attention.
(By J. M. Ross)