It’s not that I’ve been struggling to write a review of The Memory Band’s third album. More that I’ve struggled to decide how I feel about it at all. All I’ve come up with is that I want to like it, but…
Opening track ‘Crow’ with its lilting guitar riff, is certainly a nice starting point. It’s a good display of the minimalist folk style running throughout Oh My Days, and unquestionably a much calmer soundtrack to the morning commute than the Northern Line.
The rest of the album carries on in much the same vein, with the sweetly melodic plea of centrepiece ‘Some Things You Just Can’t Hide’ giving way to the percussive insistence of ‘Demon Days’. There’s a lot of solid musicianship on display from the merry band of folksters Stephen Cracknell has assembled. No, objectively, ‘bad’ it is not.
Lyrically, the classic folk tropes of love and connecting with humankind are out and about. The album hinges on the relationship tales we can all relate to, albeit in slightly twee and naïve fashion: ‘Some Things…’s central refrain is "Tell me what you really think about me, tell it to me straight". Now, in my personal experience, no boy is ever going to do that and certainly not if you ask him like that. Run a mile for the hills, maybe. There is a distinct old-school lack of cynicism though, which in the age of Facebook stalking – probably directed at the one you’re trying to get to speak of their undying love/desire for a shag in the first place, if we’re being honest - is undeniably refreshing.
It feels like these should be good songs. It feels like Oh My Days should be a good album. But it’s just missing whatever it is in a good album that grabs on to you and won’t let go. In my desire to give this review proper service, the only thing I’ve been able to conjure up, given the band’s name, is that too-oft used thing known as irony: that it’s difficult to remember anything about what you’re listening to, even while you’re listening to it.
It’s inoffensive enough on the ears, and a perfectly pleasant thing to spend half an hour listening to. I don’t want pleasant though. I want something that makes me go back for more. I want to be transported away from the morning humdrum of inner city life. Essentially, I want atmosphere, and that is sorely lacking here, despite the feeling that that’s exactly what the album is striving for.
Listening to Oh My Days is, in many ways, a frustrating experience. Frustrating because it does display good musicianship and good lyrics, and it’s an album that you feel you should like. Thing is, ‘should like’ and ‘feels like’ don’t work. The album’s fundamental problem is not that you ‘should’ like it, it’s that it should be working harder to earn and keep your attention and the right to be liked in the first place.
It’s very difficult to shake the feeling that the album was thrown together in very little time. That kind of laissez-faire attitude could, in some circles, lend it a certain charm. But ultimately, for this listener at least, it only serves to throw light on the fact that a passable album could, if it pushed just a little further, be much better. And no matter where your musical loyalties lie, that’s the one thought that should never intrude on any attempt to escape from the morning commute.
4Krystina Nellis's Score