March 26, 2009
Album Review: Grammatics
8 / 10
Facts about this album:
* Grammatics' album is released on Dance To The Radio, the label set up by members of !Forward, Russia!.
* Grammatics take their name from the indie night, Club Grammar, they used to run in York.
* The band are Dominic Ord, Owen Brinley, Rory O'Hara and Emilia Ergin.
Maiden albums of quality rarely come out of nowhere. Leeds quartet Grammatics have been a name on the lips of Yorkshire’s indie cognoscenti for a long while now – first seven-inch ‘Shadow Committee’ dropped in October 2007 – and their self-titled debut has certainly taken its time, but this is a body of work that more than justifies that long gestation period. Painstakingly assembled during weeks of recording with rising production star James Kenosha (Dinosaur Pile-Up/Duels/Pulled Apart By Horses), Grammatics have – in a way – trumped their heroes Radiohead by turning in a superlative first record that’s less their ‘Pablo Honey’ (or even ‘The Bends’) and more their ‘OK Computer’. A bold claim for sure, but this is a bold, ambitious and diverse collection of songs.
Previous singles ‘DILEMMA’ and ‘The Vague Archive’ never really did the band complete justice and here they sound almost throwaway – or like B-sides, perhaps – placed alongside string-swept electro-ballad ‘Polar Swelling’ and ‘Inkjet Lakes’, a haunting duet between angel-voiced singer Owen Brinley and guest vocalist Blue Roses (née Laura Groves). Then there’s ‘Relentless Fours’, the record’s centrepiece and – if we go back to Radiohead measures – the band’s ‘Paranoid Android’. “Why are your clothes scattered on the garden/When the taxi’s waiting?” questions a worn-out-sounding Brinley as the song builds to a thrilling crescendo via ethereal guitar noise, electronics and treated cello, before exploding into a manic, operatic closing passage, Dominic Ord’s drums sounding like they’re about ready to burst through the speakers. “Everyone loves a breakdown” concludes the singer. Indeed.
Lyrically as well as musically, it’s a record that displays maturity beyond
its creators’ years, but it’s the poise with which the two are woven together, the skill of the songwriting and the grip on dynamics, that’s most impressive about ‘Grammatics’. In less dexterous hands,
a song like ‘Broken Wing’ could hang limp but here, after a couple of scene-setting verses, it soars to a perfectly-arranged epiphany. And this was only
a B-side on that first single, remember. Once upon a time (around that time,
in fact), it seemed like Grammatics
had too many ideas, they couldn’t quite decide who they wanted to be. In the end, they just decided to be themselves, and the result frequently approaches bona fide genius. Rob Webb
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