Justin Vernon’s third Bon Iver album is a weird and wonderful thing
Hundred Reasons : Shatterproof Is Not A Challenge
...a record built for FM Radio that drips with experimentation...
The 'Strokes'n'White Stripes-led American invasion might have saved The Indie, but since then, the tunes have come home and rock has polarised into those accepted by the style rags/broadsheets and those emphatically (i)not(i). Not so long ago, let's not forget, Cooper Temple Clause occupied the exact same moral high ground that, much as this 'media' just didn't understand, the people who mattered knew otherwise. But while The Coopers have long since been welcomed to the media's bosom, the bigger Hundred Reasons get, the more their status as outsiders is reaffirmed. And so 'indie' has split in two: in one corner we have the Camden-based North London Hair Mob and on the other, the swelling army of honourable outlaws: Hell Is For Heroes, Amplifier, Funeral For A Friend, thisGIRL, Biffy - well you know the people we're talking about. But then, in a world where eternal underachievers Snow Patrol have top five hits and Lostprophets crack America effortlessly, you really shouldn't bank on anybody being outsiders for very long.
So Hundred Reasons occupy the place in all our hearts known as 'Anti-Camden', and Mavis and Talullah or whatever they think they're called choke at the very sight of Colin Doran's afro. All good so far. And thankfully, 'Shatterproof Is Not A Challenge' delivers. It's still falls occasionally descends into the realm of the stodgy, but nobody does sunblushed riff-rock as convincingly as Hundred Reaons at their best, and there's enough of that going on here to make most of 'Shatterproof' an absolute scream. Being a second album, the keyword here is 'mature'. While 'Ideas Above Our Station' was an exercise in 'LOOK HOW MUCH NOISE WE CAN MAKE!' that, spunked out its biggest chorus, 'I'll Find You' at the first available opportunity. This time 'Savanna' kicks things off with a grubby solemn signature that lurches forth without ever cascading into the full-on avalanche you'd expect. Hundred Reasons learning the power of restraint is hardly a mouthwatering prospect, but in practice its winningly seductive. 'Stories With Unhappy Endings', too, is strangely barren as air-punching riff rock goes. It takes until the single, 'What You Get', before we're met with anything so obvious as a radio chorus; but its doubly powerful because a) it's a thunderously brilliant one and b) by now, you've opened yourself up to expecting more from Hundred Reasons than you ever thought possible.
Which is not to say that this is bereft of jump-up-and-down good times, but guitarist Larry Hibbit's time producing the likes of [/a] has clearly given him a new hunger to bend sounds into different shapes. Almost to prove the point, the tune that most recalls the heady first album is named, you suspect rather grudgingly, 'Pop'. Thing is they're right - it's a durable enough tune that if you stuck some banjos and a comedy moustache on it [a] could cover it and pass it off as their own.
Of course, by wearing absolutely everything on their sleeves, there's no get-out when it doesn't work; the only real clanger is 'My Sympathy', an attempt at doing heartfelt that just comes out lumpen. But then, that's the charm of Colin and his leather lungs; he bellows like he does because there's really nothing he'd rather be doing, and 'Shatterproof Is Not A Challenge' is shot through with that same conviction. An album packed with tunes that cunning enough not to reveal them all straight away, a record built for FM Radio that drips with experimentation. And one made by men barely midway through their twenties who, now, can hold their heads up as elder statesmen.
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