On the follow-up to last year's debut album This Is My Ship, Dartz have chosen to drop the formerly trendy exclamation point from their name and, with it, most of the indie-dance leanings of their earlier work. This solemnly-titled mini-LP finds the Middlesbrough-based youths in introspective mood, yet remains shot through with the jerky rhythms and chiming lead guitar cadences that typify 90s American post-hardcore music.
As with many formative bands from that movement, the vocals here are not the strong point, lacking the muscle to flesh out melodies that often don't quite deliver. Hence the instrumental 'Embers', with its twitching mandolins, provides a highlight of the latter part of the album. There are more moments to savour in the shape of opening couplet 'The Arrival, Building Alnerique' and 'Oskar And Ofelia', which reference the delicate splendour of Death Cab For Cutie, as does the triumphant finale, 'The End, Moving On'. What lies between these bookends is pleasant, but rather pedestrian in comparison.
Fans of the ramshackle charm of early releases by the likes of The Promise Ring, The Dismemberment Plan and Q And Not U will find elements to cherish in The Sad History Of The Village Of Alnerique, whilst those who prefer their acts taut but with a little more polish may wish to re-evaluate Dartz a couple more years down the line.
6Tom Edwards's Score