Grammatics - Grammatics

posted 30 Apr 2009, 10:18 by The Editor   [ updated 19 May 2009, 06:02 ]

(Dance To The Radio)

Grammatics formed after the demise of singer Owen Brinley’s previous outfit Colour Of Fire, and after a period hosting the Grammar night at the Junction pub in York. Their sound is on the grand and uplifting side of things, calling to mind acts such as Suede or Arcade Fire. Brinley’s sometime falsetto vocals and the work of cellist Emilia Ergin give the band a very distinct sound and it’s refreshing for these ears to hear an album by a Leeds band with such ambition and polish, and that isn’t your usual shouty punk based noise (not that there’s anything wrong with that!).

The album kicks off with Shadow Committee – a slightly different version to the previous single release – and moves into the ace ‘D.I.L.E.M.M.A’. The aggressively hardcore-ish bassline and drums on this contrast nicely with Brinley’s soaring voice which results in what to my mind is one of the best tracks on the album.

Next tune ‘Murderer’ has an extremely infectious yet gentle chorus that may get heads turning in the bus queue if you absent-mindedly sing it to yourself. ‘The Vague Archive’ is another re-recording from a previous single release, but this just seems to emphasise the grand, sweeping nature of the song. An acoustic guitar makes an appearance on ‘Broken Wing’ for a few moments until huge guitars kick in a very Smashing Pumpkins kind of way, giving way to a brief melancholic interlude before crashing back in.

‘Relentless Fours’ is a live favourite and showcases all of Grammatics ’ tricks. From the subdued electronic intro, vocal harmonies, buzzsaw guitars, then screaming, and extended outro this is the most complete package of what Grammatics sound like and are capable of.

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‘Inkjet Lakes’ is a slight comedown after the hectic previous song. O’Hara’s bass is at the forefront here with a sliding riff that leads into some ace cello-ing (is that even a word??), with Brinley’s vocal acrobatics over the top. Top this off with some Sigur Ros type droning to finish and they’re onto yet another winner.

‘Polar Swelling’ has a tiny bit of French in it just in case you thought things were getting boring. Pretentious? Mais, oui! Another sweeping track making full use of the groups sound. ‘Rosa Flood’ is a bit of a stop-start number that could be where the band’s future lies when they really cut loose and go experimental.

Another acoustic track - ‘Cruel Tricks of the Light’ – builds on the atmosphere built through the rest of the album, although this one doesn’t explode unlike ‘Broken Wing’.

Their final ‘Swan Song’ swings along nicely into a yet another big riff until abruptly changing pace and direction when it breaks out into a vaguely dancey interlude. Again, this could be where the future lies perhaps?

 The bass and drums of Rory O’Hara and Dominic Ord add considerable power and depth to Grammatics , resulting in almost dancey qualities to the music – a hangover from the Grammar clubnight perhaps. Coupled with Brinley’s singing and the cello this makes a band that seems genuinely unique in the current music climate. It feels as though they’re reaching for something more than instant success. The time and effort they’ve put in to crafting these songs over the past couple of years has obviously paid off, resulting in a debut album that feels pretty far from being a debut album. Most bands never reach this level of confidence in what they’re doing. Perhaps Grammatics are too confident? Certainly the twists and turns on some of the tracks, particular Rosa Flood call to mind touches of math rock or even prog and can come across as being a bit TOO clever. That’s not to say that the tunes aren’t great, it’s just that this sort of effort is usually kept for those difficult second or third albums when fans and critics expect a little something else. It’s hard to think where Grammatics will go from here as more of the same probably won’t do.

Live, I last saw Grammatics supporting the Futureheads at Leeds University some time ago and was initially fairly dismissive of them, mainly because I wasn’t a huge fan of Owen’s previous band Colour Of fire. On listening to this it’s pretty apparent what a mistake that was.

This is a remarkable, assured and genuinely exciting debut from a band who are clearly serious about what they do and are more than capable of doing it. Fab.

8 / 10

Jonathan Wilcox
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