The Tough Love label has been quietly beavering away for half a decade and has released an increasingly exciting series of records. The likes of The Sequins and Honey Trap were first out of the tracks but after releases from William and even a split featuring Sub Pop pin-ups Male Bonding, it would seem the label had reached something zenith... for now at least.
Basic Nature is a car crash of a record. Hurtling from the blocks like a lurcher on race day, it would be forgivable to assume Calories are mid-Nineties apologists, but it’s not quite so simple. The raw energy of Idlewild’s Hope is Important mingles here with the tail end of Shirley Lee’s Spearmint and the softer end of Dischord’s catalogue (see Rites of Spring).
Opening with the percussive assault of ‘Basic Nature 1’ there is a raw edge that recalls the friction of a rehearsal room, a 30 second descent that gives way to the palatable (if unremarkable) miniature epic of ‘You Can Be Honest’.
Basic Nature effortlessly blends the energy and sense of scale from early Idlewild and Biffy Clyro while somehow positioning the band as if they were a more grown up version of Johnny Foreigner. Guitars spiral across straining vocals, creating a tension on which the record thrive.
Lead single ‘FFWD’ is three minutes and 20 seconds of fury. A lurching bass underpins isometric riffs as the vocals are delivered with both beauty and brevity. Again, it's epic, but not in the same way as a misguided disc-jockey would insist the latest effort from U2 is; Calories create a homemade epic-ness woven from a mix of confidence and conviction.
Elsewhere the Idlewild blueprint is explored with the rolling brilliance of ‘Orchard Girls’ - only where Woomble’s move to introspection poisoned the band’s sound, Calories still extol youthful exuberance.
Perhaps the record's highlight is the palm-muted brilliance of ‘Mortal Boys’, a healthy middle ground between the beatific understatements of Spearmint and the Futureheads.
There is a real swagger to ‘Let’s Pretend That We’re Older’, fuzzed up power chords merge with bass and a driving percussion, echoes of Biffy's Blackened Sky.
Tying things up, ‘New Cross’ follows the meandering brilliance of ‘The Brink’ a track that finds Calories at their most reluctant – it is the sound of a band who have hit their stride and aren't entirely sure where to go next. After three and half minutes the nouveau art-rock disintegrates into a practice room meltdown, creating a gloriously understated end to a record that will inevitably be overshadowed by the now dead eyed cunts who offered inspiration in the first place.
A stripped back aesthetic endears Basic Nature to the listener, amid recollections of Spearmint and Idlewild are some genuinely moving pieces of art-pop revivalism. This is the sound of a band hitting their stride – first record Adventuring was by no means scrappy, but here things have clicked into place. It’s not a challenging listen, but it is rewarding.
7Will Metcalfe's Score