I've been to Wheathamsptead. I've played golf around there. This is a silly way to start a review, but the music contained on Larsen B's - who are from the aforementioned place - debut record is quite well-suited to rolling hills and occasional sprinklings of summer sand. It manages to combine both a largely carefree nature with a sense of urgency and potency, though it's not without its drawbacks.
Musketeer nestles nicely somewhere lyrically and melodically in the classic indie-pop shelf, whilst instrumentally being somewhere else – a place closer to the sanitised folk of Mumford and Sons and peers, with an American country swagger. A recent reference would perhaps be tracts of the Neil Hannon-led Duckworth Lewis Method album from last year, although that record was predictably and enjoyably overflowing with whimsy, whilst this one has a mere peppering over its 11 tracks.
You should look no further than opener 'Codeine' for a tone-setter. Not only does it create a frame for the rest of the record to be drawn within, it also dictactes the pace, which does not vary a great deal. This works up to a point, conjuring a vaguely blissful comatose state. Nice enough. But as things go on and on, the yearning for dynamism and punch grows larger, despite the hooky choruses of tracks like 'Marilyn' and the more gentle, two-paced, processional waltzing of 'Drown By The Sea'. Melodies this strong need firm backing – or at least variation – and there isn't much of it here, compositional adornments aside.
At times things almost lunge into folk, but that's a description too strong to describe those who employ a banjo and ukulele in the background every now and then. But the issue of just 'what' Larsen B do and what Musketeer is, is both important and irrelevant. Important because it's hard to really say with any conviction, forcing you to resort to mere description, a wobbly, infirm jelly formed only of adjectives; irrelevant because whatever it is they are doing, they make sure they do it well and without the overbearing earnestness which could, but doesn't, overshadow the whole record. Restraint is something which does taint passages, however, for reasons dipped into above.
Sometimes, though, the gloopy, delicious consistency and texture employed overwhelms, with the desire for them to just tone 'it' down a bit popping up. It's not all full-on from the off 'til the end, but it pretty much is. The album has its breaks and delightful they are, but respite from familiarity is what makes a record move up a level. That said, it's the compactness of Musketeer which is part of the appeal, even though the similarity between each and every track leaves a dull feeling once the harmonies cease and the strumming stops. By the close of the angelic choral vocals on 'Tailgate', it's all become a bit more of a bore than the early-on exchanges suggested. 'Indistinguishable niceness with smatterings of goodness' might be an accurate summary of Larsen B's Musketeer. Enjoyable but easily forgettable.
6Luke Slater's Score