When Chris Olley revealed The Death Of Six By Seven approximately 12 months ago, few would have predicted it to herald a rebirth instead. However, that's exactly what's happened if Love And Peace And Sympathy is anything to go by. With former Six By Seven band members James Flower and Pete Stevenson on board, it was only a matter of time before some of their old chemistry clicked into place. The addition of ex-Lotus guitarist Martin Cooper followed by former Placebo drummer Steven Hewitt further down the line confirmed the arrival of Six By Seven MK3, and with it arguably their strongest collection of songs in over a decade.
While Olley is quick to point out Love And Peace And Sympathy wasn't just borne out of the band's reformation, it's clear from the outset that the each individual sum of its parts makes their own vital contribution here. Listen to the sanguine yet melancholic 'Fall Into Your Arms' for example; Olley intoning "I can drink myself to sleep, but I can't keep myself awake"; or the broodingly intense 'Sympathy' ("I wonder who you want to be, all this love and sympathy") for an insight into his enthralling, occasionally schizophrenic persona. Then there's the rhythm section of bass player Stevenson and sticksman Hewitt that helps drive each one of Love And Peace And Sympathy's nine compositions piece-by-piece, sometimes to the point of exhaustion but never without good reason.
Indeed, what really stands out about Love And Peace And Sympathy is the way every song expands into a whole new level of intensity, seemingly as a gateway to the next. Opener 'Change', based around a haunting piano-led intro slowly grows into a monstrous, noise-infused ballad of epic proportions, eventually collapsing in a heap at the final hurdle, probably under the strain of its own weight. Again, Olley is in fine voice, declaring "Nothing here is right for way" before saying "I don't want to make you change." As unbelievable as that may be based on past reputation, here his sentiments are delivered with a brutal honesty and heartfelt passion capable of reducing grown men's knees to jelly.
With six of the nine pieces clocking in at over five-and-a-half minutes or longer, there's clearly no room for half measures here. When Six By Seven do venture towards poppier climates - and remember Olley wrote some of the finest skewered anthems of his generation like 'IOU Love' not so long back - they're blessed with a jagged edge that turns 'More' into a bitter parting shot ("I don't want you crawling back") and 'Crying' into an austere, if begrudgingly sentimental ("We can't go back in time, nothing can hurt us now") lament.
It's monumental brooder 'Truce', though, that really encapsulates both band and record in all its glory. Just 13 seconds short of the nine minutes mark and crafted around a lolloping, looped groove that wouldn't have sounded out of place on a Neu! record four decades ago, Olley and Cooper's guitars growing fractionally heavier at each instrumental segment. Listen carefully and its quite possibly the sound of a nervous breakdown set to music, yet utterly insatiable with each subsequent hearing. If ever any doubts remained as to Chris Olley and co's resurgence they're firmly confounded well before 'Truce' reaches its feedback heavy finale.
Welcome back Six By Seven, very much alive and kicking with the rage and fury of a thousand suns.
8Dom Gourlay's Score