Album review: Detroit Social Club - 'Existence' (Fiction)

The Geordies' rollicking genre promiscuity is proof that you can please all of the people all of the time

The last time someone tried to merge indie sampletronica with the grizzled bark of a bluesman it didn’t end well. They were called Gomez and, despite picking up a Mercury Prize for their chutzpah, their adventurous dabbles into Beck’s brand of pop esoterica jarred painfully with the fact that one of their singers sounded like he was gargling the entire Mississippi between vocal takes. So there were cries of ‘Eureka!’ across indieland when the first loping sitar refrains of ‘Black & White’ by Newcastle’s Detroit Social Club did the rounds – the endearing chug of ‘Loser’ drums, the quirky Bollywood tics, the Black Rebel guitar scree, all lashed together by singer David Burn’s wolf-howlin’ wail. By jove, Blind Willie McHansen, they’d cracked it!

The arrival of debut album ‘Existence’, however, thickens the plot. String-laden indie epics? Mary Chain feedback freak-outs? Rousing terrace yowl-alongs? By turns, DSC play every trick in the Big Indie book; it turns out they’re alt.mimics, pop culture chameleons, the ladrock Jon Culshaw. ‘Kiss The Sun’, ‘Sunshine People’ and ‘Prophesy’ all pull on the new England strip and grab at the Kasabian Ladlectro dollar, pulling in sly references to Editors, The Enemy, Joy Division, Beck and Embrace along the way. ‘Chemistry’ is Arcade Fire’s ‘Wake Up!’ slumming it down the Barfly and ‘Silver’ even drops bongos and harmonicas all over a chirpy but minimalist pop tune and ends up sounding like a pastiche of ‘Rhinestone Eyes’ from the new Gorillaz album, right down to Burn uncannily recreating Albarn’s laconic drawl, as if he’s trying to host a children’s party with an armful of Mogadon.

At times it almost feels like a Britrock Rizla game. Have I got a massive orchestra? Am I mid-paced and ‘widescreen’? Do my drums do that rat-tat-tat thing in the verse? Does my singer sound like a stoned balladeer in space? Have I got a title like ‘Northern Man’? Am I The Verve? Yay! It’s clear that DSC are trying to please all people with ‘Existence’ and that they won’t make proper sense until they’ve settled on an identity of their own. In the meantime though there’s great fun to be had rifling the songbook and running the gamut of alternative rock with them here, right up to the inevitable Oasis finale of ‘Lights Of Life’. Bung it on at a lagered-up barbecue this summer and pretend you’re re-living the entire Knebworth weekend in 45 minutes.

Mark Beaumont

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Click here to get your copy of Detroit Social Club's 'Existence' from the Rough Trade shop.

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