Released in the closing weeks of 2013, Kind Words For Cruel Times is an album you may have missed but is deserving of some of your attention. Brought to life by UK indie band The Reverse, the release is a gentle and persuasive collection of songs bred with a merger of folk and alternative rock intent. A little undulating in its convincing at times and more a work in progress sound wise than the finished article, the album nevertheless provides an attractive way to spend your time.
The Reverse began with vocalist/guitarist Nathan Loughran and drummer Jason Moran, its idea and seeds growing out of pub conversations between the two, through late night recording sessions, and rehearsals. Initially the band’s sound engineer, guitarist/backing vocalist Sam Hartley was added to the line-up before a bassist called Joe completed the line-up, before his departure led the trio to linking up with bass/backing vocalist James McKeown (ex-lead singer of The Great Divide and The Colours). A trio of EPs also emerged to good reactions starting with the debut release A Clean Incision in 2006. The following year saw the release of the Shutterspeed and in 2008 the My Lifelong Psychological Experiment EP, all three as the album recorded with and mixed by Graham Dominy (The Rifles, Razorlight, Ray Davies, Supergrass). Onstage the band has built a reputation to match their records, performances alongside bands such as Klaxons, The Wave Pictures, Lupen Crook, Sgt Buzfuz, and Carina Round enhancing their stature. Kind Words For Cruel Times makes the next step forward for the North London quartet with its unveiling on Under The Influence Records, the label an offshoot of one of London’s premier music nights Under the Influence, a monthly showcase for new songwriters/bands at the Boogaloo in London. Whether it will make an indelible mark on the awareness of UK’s indie scene is hard to tell but certainly given the chance it is an album to wake up some eager attention for the band.
The release opens with Encore a well-crafted slice of folk pop which makes a positive if underwhelming start to the album. With keen melodies and crisp rhythms around the mellow tones of Loughran, the song certainly provides a pleasing encounter but something feels missing, a spark to ignite the imagination. There is a Dire Straits lilt to the melodic design cast by the guitars whilst vocal harmonies embrace their lure with an appealing tempting of their own but there is a low key energy or maybe unoriginality to the track which prevents it taking as much attention as its design deserves.
All the same the album makes a decent first touch which is immediately built upon by the provocative Atoms and the following Then They Came For Us. The first of the two from a smouldering start develops a swagger and energy to its stride which infects the imagination, guitars cradling the more urgent stance of the song in an engaging melodic web. Again the vocals work best when the trio of singers combine even with Loughran’s delivery a strong focal point; though as the album progresses you yearn for a snarl to his tone occasionally. With a great rhythmic dance in its latter surge, the track is a compelling suasion setting a high level for its successor to match. Evocative and melodically caressing the second of the pair is an absorbing ballad with potent sinews which grows and grows on the emotions over time to provide another sultry high point of the release.
With a healthy resonance to the opening bassline, a rhythmic tantalising, and melodic enticement to its heart the title track makes a pleasant but slightly underwhelming offering before making way for a song which still offers doubts and irresistible bait. Myleene is a whimsical reflection of a maybe rocky relationship, a song with a creative tonic which simply infests the imagination but one with a poor lyrical presence which at times just niggles. Despite that the song never leaves thoughts and senses alone, the song an addictive sort it is impossible not to embrace and join in with.
The highly emotive encounter, The Longest Day has thoughts working eagerly next whilst the heated breath and melodic radiance of Ghosts incites a warm appreciation, but it is the excellent revelry of The Third Party which has things blazing again mentally and emotionally. Another song to start with a slow and tender coaxing it soon washes the ears with a bluesy guitar enterprise alongside a stirring prompting from the drums and bass, both elements constantly impresses across the album. With a contagious charm and magnetism to its chorus and energetic heart, the song fights feistily for the best track award.
Both Mary and Lucy make strong and captivating enticements, the first an especially bewitching treat with its punchy rhythms aligned to virulently addictive hooks and melodies giving the previous track a run for its money. Their lofty heights put next up Dynamite & Gunpowder a little in the shade but it is another to take its time in convincing before succeeding, even if the vocals flounder a few times along the way though redeemed by the backing harmonies and sixties folk pop air.
Closing with No More Encores, the track completing a top and tail union with the opener on the album, Kind Words For Cruel Times gives a great deal to find strong satisfaction with. It is not without flaws but comes with a potent promise, its accomplished slice of indie folk/pop suggesting The Reverse is a proposition to watch out for.
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