- Plans and Apologies »
A lot of songs find themselves faintly praised with the description, "this track rewards repeated listens". Essentially, the reviewer is saying "People might not get this at first, but if they've any taste, like moi, then they'll get it in the end". With its Brighten The Corners-era Pavement-style beauty, 'Eggbound Mutebone', the lead track on Plans and Apologies' new EP, doesn't merely reward repeated listens, it demands them.
Powered by lead singer Dave Williams' and his Kinks-ish willingness to address the mundane and the genuine, this track wins out through honest, old-fashioned charm. They prove it's not a fluke by backing it up with a similarly well-realised, soft-pedalling, harmony-led charmer, 'Everyone Song'. This is a complete gem, replete with elaborately cheeky, affectionate lyrics, deft piano touches and a cheeky Stephen Malkmus 'ch-ch-ch' from Williams. More so than 'Eggbound Mutebone', the tale of a lunchtime encounter with an evangelising Christian, 'Everyone Song' succeeds because of the warmth and sly humour of its lyrics. Starting off by setting itself up as a tune dedicated to anybody who's feeling down about the fact that nobody ever wrote a song about them, it develops into a study of the complexities of writing songs whilst having a girlfriend. _"Ok, so the chorus was about her too / But the verses are dedicated solely to you."
In addition to these two fully-fledged, stylised story-songs, the EP provides two minute-long, thrashy, 'Wowee Zowee'-inflected rave-ups. In the more notable of the two, 'Kaputchawoonga', Williams takes his stand - "If I'm David / Then you must be Goliath" - before delivering a total trashing, in under a minute, of the sort of haircut band that we could all do without. That the track actually recalls Blur's early gem 'Popscene' is a nice irony and the righteousness with which Williams sings "Vision corrupted your division!" is a treat. Goodbye, bands with heads full of pound signs, chasing deals by mimicking whichever buzz influence just worked for someone else. You won't be missed.
Here is a group which has spiky, sharp, intelligent, unruly, thoughtful, spontaneous, creative energy. There are obvious signs of nascent lyrical genius (the words are provided and, for once, it's actually worth reading them) and a band who can kick up a gutsy, early Magic Band-ish fuss or play majesterial, stroll-tempo pop. This maverick sextet project such a sense of BAND, of togetherness, warmth, humour. They undercut the ponderous, the bogus and draw intelligent material from the everyday stuff that most others are too pretentious to consider writing about. That's why they sound so genuine, so capable of anything, so fun.
They get 5/5 for the first four tracks, but lose a point for the last two. 'Crafted In China' is the sort of wishy-washy emo that lots of other bands can do and is shown up by the stronger material here. And despite 'The Paperclip Key''s lovely closing 15 seconds, you get the feling that the track is a spliff too far over the line - a sprawl that turns into a stretch.