Compilation of first three EPs makes first promising album
The very concept of a New Acoustic Movement sounds like a Maoist re-education policy, deprogramming listeners of any attachment to such modern fripperies as dance, metal, hip-hop – hell, [I]electricity[/I] – and hanging a big placard bearing the head of Fred Durst around the necks of recidivists.
Manchester collective Alfie have been named leaders of this stealthy mission, yet this compilation of their first three EPs – plus new tracks ‘2 Up 2 Down’ and ‘Umlaut’ – certainly doesn’t indicate young men hung up on principles of maudlinity and purism. They never confuse the pastoral with the agricultural, and devoid of that oaty, whiskery Luddism that often lurks around the ‘folk-tinged’, Alfie create a merrier rural idyll – a sprightly Dejeuner Sur L’Herbe tableau, a group of young boys frolicking on lawns with cellos and brass, a free-range healthiness that lend these songs such a plump wenchly winsomeness and gleeful wayward glint.
In the best possible way, these 11 songs are effortless, like this is the music they could be [I]bothered[/I] to make in between gambolling and experimenting and living the kind of sun-dappled, smoke-scented lives of which people walled up in offices and inhibitions can only dream.
Yet this is music that is far from naïve or innocent – there should be no doubt that we are dealing with a smart band here, and not a flock of spring lambs strayed into rock’n’roll’s fold. ‘It’s Just About The Weather’ (from the ‘Montevideo’ EP) shows how Lee Gorton’s sunsheeeeine inflections can sound like a feathery cherub-Liam, while The Stone Roses’ baggy swagger underwrites their buoyant attitude. Better still is their effusive creativity: while most bands who try to combine folk seriousness with knowing about trainers end up in that tepid pool of ‘comedown music’ – the kind of earnest-faced strum only Beth Orton could love – Alfie’s playful instrumentation is too adventurous to settle for being the afterthought to a heavy night out. They can make ‘Check The Weight’ fade out like a prototype pre-industrial Tortoise, or the excellent ‘Umlaut’ mimic the woozy flow and weave of My Bloody Valentine. They can tug jazz into ‘You Make No Bones’, drag Belle & Sebastian into a busy road on ‘2 Up 2 Down’, or pinpoint Manchester as the alt- countryside on ‘Manor House Farm’.
One laid0back band with a very loose plan, if it’s going to work, it’s going to work like a dream. We certainly happy with, for now.