Ah… remember 2007? The dying days of Blairism, that soggy summer, yet more footballing disaster for the home nations? The year The Pigeon Detectives played every festival known to man, released four singles and managed to score a chart-hugging platinum album out of it with their brand of definitively-’07 spiky terrace-rock? Seems like it was just yesterday, doesn’t it? Well hold on to your dentures, gramps, ’cos The Pigeons are finally back! No-one was expecting Matt Bowman’s gang to cloister themselves in a studio for eight years of sampling Kieran Hebden chewing celery, but 363 days between albums? A third one already cued-up behind it? It’s curious. Either they’re amazingly prolific or, as a band who gusted in on fashion, they sense they may soon gust out again and are therefore engaged in some end-of-lease sale on the whole era of Cribs-Libsian guitar skronk, furiously asset-stripping their own bottom drawers before times change.
So which hypothesis holds? ‘Emergency’’s answer is ‘a bit of both’. The Pigeon Detectives realise that, in the crowded market in which they operate, their rapid rise has been premised on sheer strength of tunes. With this bit of canny self-knowledge tucked away, they return with a record even more smothered in hooks. From the skittering riff swirls of ‘I’ll Be Waiting’ to the Clash-indebted ‘You Don’t Need It’ (heavily indebted – it’s basically ‘Hateful’ in a false beard), there’s plenty that’ll rock the festivals once again. New producer Stephen Street performs the same trick he pulled off for Babyshambles and The Courteeners – finding the button marked ‘de-wobble’ on the mixing desk, shoring up the skronkiness of ‘Wait For Me’, to forge something richer, darker. Like Jacknife Lee, he’s great at sculpting guitar parts into silvery bullets of sound so compressed they’re practically emo (best witnessed on the snarling ‘This Is An Emergency’).
Problem is, it sometimes feels like the songs are just a conveyor belt on which to lay down another of Ollie’s mark-of-Zorro guitar riffs or one more scudding chorus chant. Individual tracks can feel forced rather than organically nurtured. It all means that by the time they hit ‘Making Up Numbers’ and ‘Everybody Wants Me’, there are no longer enough new tricks in their bag to hold our attention, and ‘Emergency’ bleeds away without a climax (albeit with a post-climax cigarette in the form of the jaunty strumalong final track). Combine that with a crotchety turn in Matt’s lyrics (like his Leeds mentor Ricky Wilson, he seems to be in danger of mistaking snarky cynicism for ‘attitude’), and ‘Emergency’ never quite hits the highs of ‘Wait For Me’.
For now, though, we’ll offer them a pat on the back for having produced another collection so quickly, and forgive the sense that ‘Emergency’ could have done with a bit longer in the oven. After all, we won’t have to critique it for very long: album number three will be with us any minute now…