Another Step the debut album from UK indie alternative rock band City Reign, is a release which leaves one mutually satisfied and dissatisfied. Consisting of eleven excellently crafted and presented slices of guitar driven passion the album has all the ingredients and invention needed to ignite the passions but lacks the fire and uniqueness to achieve that intention. The band from Manchester has the promise and craft to forge a formidable place in UK indie music, and has already for a great many people, but Another Step falls short of being the trigger.
The band was formed by songwriters and guitarists Chris Bull and Mike Grice, who met six years ago at a Ryan Adam concert at the Manchester Academy. The following years saw them writing and playing in bands together before starting up City Reign whose name the pair took from an Adams song, City Rain, City Streets. The past three years has seen the band release their debut single Making Plans on their own label Car Boot Records, the song gaining the support and enthusiasm of Steve Lamacq, and the Numbers For Street Names EP in 2011. As with following singles Out InThe Cold and Daybreak, the band received strong reviews and responses from online press and bloggers from their releases and soon embarked on their first UK tour and ventures in Europe.
With drummer Duncan Bolton and bassist Michael Glaze completing the line-up, the quartet recorded Another Step with producer Sam Jones (Band on the Wall, Alex Turner) in Salford’s Sacred Trinity Church, making full use of the building’s natural acoustics and not allowing being interrupted by a funeral the priest had double booked at the same time, to slow their creative momentum. Musically the band has a sound which to simplify things is an intriguing mix of Oasis and The Mighty Lemon Drops which possibly shapes the personal indecision towards its potency from a dislike of the former and love of the latter. Certainly from opening track Anchor through to the last rich note of the release the album enthrals and evokes with its honest impassioned voice. The first track opens with sturdy riffs and rapid rhythms around a sonic groove which plucks at the senses with infectious engagement. The vocals of Bull releases the heart of the track with strong expression and is ably aided by the good group harmonies across the chorus, whilst musically there is a slight Inspiral Carpets whisper to the pulsating track. It is a grower too, the initial encounter leaving mild content with evolved into strong admiration and pleasure, something which can be applied to the whole album.
Making Plans, Out In The Cold, and Sleep Easy follow to warm the ear with stylish melodic enticement and an overall raw honest energy. There is a familiarity to the songs which even with their individual moments of compelling invention means they do not leap out at the ear or rip attention from the world but all are accomplished and well- crafted companions.
After the slow melodic melancholy of The Line, a track which brings Doves and Mighty Lemon Drops to thoughts as well as seductive strings from Maya Kashif, Graham MacKenzie, and Ailsa Hoyle, the album truly hits its strides and moves into its strongest moments starting with Retaliate. The song opens with guitar caresses brought with a delicious kiss of discord and wraps its emotive arms around the listener with warmth and plaintive passion. Again Oasis is a predominate spice with the rich lush strings again elevating things to an absorbing grandeur to leave ear and thoughts engrossed from start to finish.
The excellent See What It’s Worth with its sinewy rhythms and bulging energy is the prime highlight of the album, the rock track bringing vibrant diversity to what is at times a singularly gaited release whilst musically the band show they can pump up the pulse rate as easily as they can tenderly coax it. The big boisterous beats of Daybreak introduce another pinnacle upon the album, the song a sculpted melodic brawl for the ear to devour. Contagious in every note and rhythmic persuasion, the track is a pleasing restrained riot of sound which like many other tracks shows the deep potential of the band.
With further songs like the first single from it, the sensitive Ahead of Ideas and closing track Anywhere, Anyway offering strong ideas, the album is a satisfying if at times underwhelming release which certainly deserves investigation. With a more distinct character to its songs and diversity to the vocals of Bull to break up the similarity which puts a glaze upon the album, Another Step would have convinced the passions much more but nevertheless it still sets City Reign firmly on the radar of bands to watch.
Another Step 6.5/10 The promise of City Reign 8.5
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