It’s been a busy year for Antihero. Since the ‘MTV’ single in 2000, they’ve released the ‘Who’s Looking Out For Number One?’ 7”, received airplay on Radio 1 and the World Service (true!) and done a hell of a lot of live appearances, culminating in this month’s nationwide tour. If you caught them on any of those drownedinsound dates you’ll know they’re exciting live, but on record can Antihero still come up with the goods?
Yes they can. If last year’s album ‘a.n.t.i til I Die’ showed a band who were still growing up and a little unsteady on their feet then new long-player ‘The Alamo’ shows them to be a mature and confident group who’ve definitely found their niche.
The album opens with the most recent single ‘Who’s Looking Out For Number One?’ with its exhausting, driving guitar and an energy that’s reminiscent of Ash in their 1977 days. Rest assured that if you listen to this track first thing in the morning, the annoyingly infectious chorus with three part vocal harmony is going to be whizzing around your head for the rest of the day. The album also comes with a bonus remix of this song, (think in the style of Soulwax’s Dewaele brothers and you’d be on the right lines), which really showcases the imagination, originality and talent of the band.
“Shut up, I’m trying to say something!” yells front man Pete Hurley in the chorus of live favourite 'Limb from Limb'. With its apparent Pixies influence, this song is Antihero at their most bitter and angry. Simple yet solid, it is one of the highlights of the album, along with Midget-esque ‘Rolling Stone T-shirt’, a straightforward punk song, taking a stab at the world of fashion. By rights, 'Dying to Meet You' should be the next single. It works on the same basis as ‘...Number One’, tension building up level by level throughout the verse before exploding into another irresistible chorus completed with the now trademark vocal harmonies. Where on 'a.n.t.i..' the band struggled to recreate the energy they generate on stage, these three tracks especially are proof that they’ve overcome that particular problem.
Amongst the powerful alt-rock songs on 'The Alamo' are two quiet songs recorded on an 8 - track. The first, ‘So Tired’ resembles some of The Smashing Pumpkins’ quieter moments. Compared to songs of a similar nature on last year's album, Hurley’s vocals are clearly stronger and much more mature. The same goes for closing track ‘Trapped Inside the Record’, a dreamy song with a beautiful piano part that floats around, leaving you dizzy and emotionally drained by the end of it. Worryingly, the lyrics show premature signs of Pete feeling the pressures of musicianship: “I’m trapped inside the record, trapped inside my songs, everyone’s happy around me but your hero’s feeling all wrong”.
These more delicate songs have the tendency to leave you feeling like you’ve listened to something way too personal. The honesty and rawness of emotion can leave you feeling a little uncomfortable. That said, some of Radiohead’s early material was criticised for the same reason. But it’s this profound and undeniable affect on the listener that makes Antihero stand out from so many other unsigned bands. Live, in a context where it’s more suitable to play the louder, heavier songs, you’re exhilarated but you miss out on this more sensitive aspect of the band.
Also featured on 'The Alamo' is the now classic 'MTV' and its accompanying b-side 'Time Washes Everything Clean'. 'MTV' seems lost amongst the newer material, but with its simple pop structure and anthemic chorus it’s still easy to appreciate why Peel and Lamacq loved it.
'The Alamo' is a well-rounded album with few low points. It displays a band who are constantly evolving and refining their style. The pop songs are bright and fizzy, the angry songs are harsh and scathing, and the gentler songs are handled with sensitivity and compassion.
Antiheroes by definition are supposed to lack conventional heroic qualities. Could the saviours of pop punk come in the form of four unassuming males from Stratford? On the basis of this record maybe they could.