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Which Bitch? by The View

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Reviewed on 21st April 2009.


Which Bitch?

By The View

The View's follow-up to chart-topping debut 'Hats off To The Buskers' is an interesting collection of songs that sees the band expand into previously uncharted territory. Anyone expecting The View to come out with another radio-ready 'Same Jeans'-style single, is going to be disappointed.

Album-opener 'Typical Time 2' is more of an introduction than a song in its own right, as The View blend twinkling, lounge bar piano with piping harmonica. It's often difficult to take any song that features an harmonica seriously, but 'Typical Time 2' is a pleasant enough introduction, before The View get properly stuck in with the foot-stamping indie-rock of '5rebeccas.'

'5rebeccas' is perhaps 'Which Bitch?'s most conventional track, and it's no surprise that it enjoyed a single release. However, the main barrier here - and indeed, in a few other songs off this album - is frontman Kyle Falconer's twitchy vocal patter and impossibly thick Scottish accent, which at times makes it difficult to understand what he's singing. This is especially true during the verses, but it's well worth working at deciphering those vocals, as a quick glance at the accompanying lyric booklet reveals some intriguing, story-telling lyrics.

The chorus is even better, as its headrush of rock n roll riffs is accompanied by a nursery-rhyme-infused chant of "5rebeccas / all of them close to me / one's a cook / one does history." Quirky and surprisingly twee, this is one chorus that was made to be sung along to.

Two more great songs that need an initial investment to properly appreciate the vocal and lyrical hooks, are 'Jimmy's Crazy Conspiracy' and 'Give Back The Sun.'

'Jimmy's Crazy Conspiracy' is a twitchy, rollicking indie sing along with willfully bonkers lyrics that are in danger of being lost on the casual listener. The same applies to the chorus of both 'Jimmy's Crazy Conspiracy' and the jerky, foot-stamping, hand-clapping sing-song chorus of 'Give Back The Sun.' But, once you've deciphered them, you'll have great fun singing along.

Of course, Falconer's nervy vocal style isn't always a barrier to the listener. On the summery, hand-clap fest of 'Temptation Dice,' Falconer's edgy, all-over-the-place vocals only adds to this song's energy and fun vibe. It perfectly complements the song's central music hook of shunting riffs and bouncing drumbeats, giving way to a spasming guitar-flutter.

'One Off Pretender' is something a little different, as verses of rap-infused, spoken-word vocals trade off choruses of looser, more relaxed singing in a style not a million miles removed from Placebo's 'Spite And Malice.'

Like the Placebo song, the semi-rapped vocals are pretty cheesy and have the potential to become rather irritating, especially when Falconer lets his lines trail off in a smug whine. However, the essential naffness of those verses, is possible to overlook when they're put next to those likeably tuneless and free-flowing choruses. 'One Off Pretender' is a cheesy rap/indie mash-up that you'll know you shouldn't like, but will.

'Unexpected' is this album's obligatory slow song, and it does a fair job of bothering the heart strings. Falconer turns out some wonderfully introverted, muttered vocals on the verses, and reaches for those emotional highs on the chorus.

The whole song is heaped with strings. Deeper, resonating strings infuse 'Unexpected' with a black-hearted undercurrent, while a surface layer of screeching, higher-pitched strings puts that final, emotional twist on the song.

'Unexpected' is a downbeat, genuinely angsty ballad, with only a bridge section that builds, but never quite peaks, holding this song back.

Right from the start, 'Glass Smash' is an attention-grabbing song, opening with multi-layered, choir-like vocals, before fluttering chords and stomping beats transport this song into off-kilter, indie-rock territory.

But, 'Glass Smash's strongest asset is Falconer's voice. His every vocal acts as a razor-sharp hook, as he alternates between pop-infused hollers and tongue-tying stuttering. Falconer's inspired vocal work makes this one of the best choruses on the album.

And then, The View really indulge themselves, swapping guitars for a full-blown orchestra on the multi-part symphony of 'Distant Doubloon.' Moving across various orchestral passages, the only constant in this meticulous musical arrangement is its underlying oompa-oompa beat. It's ridiculously catchy and its simple, repetitive nature counteracts the song's potential pretentiousness.

Over this rollicking beat, The View lay an ever-changing skin of spine-tingling, twinkling piano, trembling strings, waves of atmospheric synths and other instruments you can only guess at. As the threads of heavy orchestral arrangement wind through the verses, you'd expect Falconer's voice to get lost in the fray. This isn't the case, as this is the song where Falconer gets the balance between accent and clarity spot-on, and it makes for distinctive and charismatic listening.

This track repeatedly winds down into silence, only for that resonating beat to strike up again moments later. It's a clever trick, as the silence draws you in, claiming your full attention ready for when it waltzes back to life.

The sea-shanty-esque 'Distant Doubloon' is well worth a listen, if only because you've probably never heard anything quite like it in modern indie music. It's hard to believe this is the same band behind 'Same Jeans.'

'Covers' and 'Realisation' are two simple, sing-song tracks, but 'Covers' actually works better when The View go for a fuller sound, with a string arrangement swelling beneath the dual vocals of Falconer and guest vocalist Paolo Nutini.

'Realisation' works better as a stripped-down sing along, as a whistling recorder and folkish cello give it a quaint charm that compensates for the lack of aggressive musical hooks.

The View offer up two harder-rocking tracks in the form of 'Shock horror' and 'Double Yellow Lines.' Both are packed with euphoric, heady guitars and stomping drumbeats, and feature massive, sing along choruses. These are two tracks that'll get rooms full of people singing and dancing along when they get a live airing.

Album-closer 'Gem of a Bird' is clunky, folkish indie that sees Katie Gwyther join Falconer on vocal duties, for a charismatic and casual sing along. Trimmed in rattling acoustic guitar, 'Gem of a Bird' has a laidback appeal and brings this album to a toe-tapping conclusion. Shame about the screeching strings at the end, though.

You have to admire The View's refusal to recreate 'Hats Off To The Buskers.' They probably would have sold more records, but they wouldn't have come up with such a rich, varied album. 'Which Bitch?' is the sound of a band eschewing the radio-friendly indie formula and trying to break away from being that-band-who-did-that-Same-Jeans-song. Lush orchestral arrangements, folkish sing alongs and sea-shanties aren't what immediately springs to mind when you think of The View, and it is occasionally a little self-indulgent and intentionally awkward, but, 'Which Bitch?' is mostly a mature, experimental and thoughtful take on the indie genre.



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