Shameless jangly indie is a good thing. Unfortunately, it’s rarely done in an especially exciting way. With so much mediocrity shlopping away in this genre – oh yes Viva Brother, I am looking, nay, staring at you – when you find a band who really know what they’re doing, you cling to them dearly. Throw in a charismatic frontman with a distinctive yelp and you’ve sealed the deal. Imagine the Housemartins doing a cover album of Strokes singles and you’ll have some sense of what ‘Hunger’, the debut offering from one of the most adorable indie bands of modern times, actually sounds like.
The whole record oozes that raw, manic indie sound which has been one of the main forces in popular music’s alleyways and backwaters – with a brief outpouring in the mid-Nineties – for over thirty years now. Yep, it’s more music about love chased, lost and briefly enjoyed, delivered by lads in skinny black trousers. Not quite a state of the nation address this one, then. Unless the state of the nation is fuck it, let’s dance. Which could work, I suppose.
The album’s title track, a reworked version of their first single – angular, frenetic and blessed with charmingly blokey backing vocals – is some statement of intent. ‘Fragile’, the album’s most cerebral moment, is a sprawling, emotive beast which gradually splinters into a raucous finale befitting of the lyric “if you’re going to break down then just break down.”
‘Tender’ continues the great tradition of indie false starts, coming across as achingly twee before erupting into another hyperactive sprint to the finish line. The album is blessed with plenty of “woos” and “woah-woah-woah” backing vocals, delivered free of irony and shame, safe in the knowledge that they simply sound bloody great. ‘Possibilities’ swaggers along at a speed which seemingly threatens imminent collapse, before the guitars are unleashed and some form of regular time signature emerges. You get the impression that they don’t want you to sit there chin-stroking and admiring the chord changes when you could just be leaping around.
The Eighties indie credentials are further enhanced with production from Edwyn Collins, lending it that thin but urgent bounce which made listening to the gorgeous Orange Juice boxset such a delight. To top it all off, they give good quote. Take this classic from drummer Dave Harper, which drew me in: “I could walk 50 yards from here and find 10 musicians who are a million times better than us, but fuck me they’re boring. There’ll be a band in Newcastle one of these days with so many fucking delay pedals you’ll have to stand in Hartlepool to hear them.” Even if the tunes weren’t already so good, you’d have to like them anyway.