Not so much rising from the ashes of 90’s indie chart topping band Smaller but an evolution of, Liverpool band The Sums is one of those proposals which suddenly swoops on the unsuspecting to unveil one captivating proposition. Certainly that is the situation for us, though for those in the know and fans of their previous guise, the band and its striking presence will be no surprise. What is the same for everyone is the impressive and compelling arrival of new album Start At The Finish on ears and imagination. Consisting of thirteen pop rock offerings weaving flavours from the past decades into tantalising new infections, the bands second full-length is one stomp of melodic and creative magnetism.
The quartet as said emerged from Smaller, a band making a potent contribution to the UK Brit pop scene and whose Badly Badly is listed as one of Noel Gallagher’s all-time favourite albums. Fronted by singer songwriter Peter ‘Digsy’ Deary, the band hit problems from that successful release when their label folded before its successor could be released, an encounter never seeing the light of day. The band continued with various line-up changes marking the years, until in 2005 Digsy and bassist Chris Mullin decided to bring the band to a close and re-emerge as The Sums with a new creative direction in tow. The band had just recorded a new collection of songs showing this evolution in sound so the time was right to regroup and change the band name. First album If Only…,after early demo Treat Your Victim was the first major result of the move, a very well-received offering lighting potent attention the band’s way.
It was in hindsight just the base and teaser to bigger enthralling things, specifically the eagerly awaited Start at the Finish. It is an album which from beginning to end has ears and energies engrossed and at times really ignites a blaze of passion for its almost mischievous enterprise. One such moment comes in the tempting shape of the album’s opener and title track. Start At The Finish opens on a cosmic dazzle of sound, relaxing for an acoustic strum to caress ears and then unleashing a firmer compelling embrace led by a slow heavy bass stroll and exotic melodic radiance. This turn of events is soon joined by the distinct vocal tones of Digsy, his voice a perfect mix of raw touches and pure infectiousness brought with almost side show barker like mastery. The song itself continues to croon and slowly wrap around the senses, its burst of rock intensity as enthralling as the shadow kissed smouldering guiding its persuasion. The track is glorious, addictive, and an inescapable coaxing into the album.
A bluesy touch of guitar opens up the following Cliché, making way for a gentler acoustic hug and the entry of the vocals, before returning straight after with even brighter flames. The rhythms of Mullin and drummer Chris Campbell provide a firm if undemanding frame for the sonic enterprise cast by the guitars of Lee Watson and Digsy, but all together it makes for a highly enjoyable blues rock seeded stomp matched in success by Come On Down right after. Catchy from its first breath, with a chorus impossible not to lend your own tones to, the song has a strong Beatle-esque whisper to its melodies and harmonies and a riveting swing to its whole body, though it and its predecessor are shaded out just a little by the excellent I Won’t which follows them. A little pop punk, a little beat, and completely contagious, the song romps with a great mix of muscular reserve and addictive energy. It is swiftly an irresistible prospect but digs deeper with its flashes of warped devilry as hooks explode across it with discord lit tempting.
Nobody makes an enjoyable companion next, its opening balladry leading into a highly agreeable, and of course should be assumed catchy, rock folk/pop punk forged stroll with a hint of Weezer to it. It is immediately overshadowed though by Get Out Clause. Its opening clockwork rhythmic enticing, (Trumpton anybody?), is the prelude to an outstanding punk ‘n’ roll stamping, though again one cast upon a melodically smouldering and controlled incitement. It has a great snarl to it too, vocally and inventively, whilst its imagination provides a web of fascination employing essences of post punk, new wave, and folk rock.
The reflective and intriguing charm of It’s You cups ears in a sultry haze initially before expelling blues rock winds whilst its successor I’m Not Very Good has a certain XTC elegance and imagination to its captivation. It is also flavoured by the guest vocals of Dave McCabe of the Zutons, who provides a great sandy growl of a passage mid-way and helps turn a great blues veined melodic rock song into another peak of Start At the Finish.
Every song comes with great unpredictability and surprising attention grabbing twists and hooks, this no exception with its guitar and vocal crafted devilry or indeed neither the melodic flight that is Hose Me Dow. Providing its mesmeric croon with almost carnival like quicksteps and harmonic smooches, it is an adventure of ideation and sound again bringing something extra to the character of the album and helping it stand apart from the crowd.
Vegetable is another track which easily grips ears and thoughts if not quite lighting their emotions as dramatically as other tracks, whilst Maybe One Day is a bewitching serenade with a great feel of Holly Johnson meets The Killers to it, and a song which only blossoms to greater heights with its orchestral infused climax.
The album is brought to a close by firstly the tangy, acoustic and atmospherically rich croon of Bad Move and lastly the smoky blues treat of Something’s Afoot. The final song enters on a brilliant deranged vocal and rhythm shuffle and proceeds to coat its length with sonic liquor and melodic spicing set ablaze by the dusty growls of Digsy and a juicy guitar solo.
Produced by Mullin & Pat O’Shaughnessy, and themed by tales of ‘achieving whilst being the underdog’, Start At the Finish just lights up and involves ears and imagination for its whole length. It might not become your most favourite album this year, though it just as easily could, but it and The Sums will be one you return to time and time again with eager haste.
Start At the Finish is available now @ http://thesums.net/store/
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