By The Culprit
Despite preparing you for some Innerpartysystem-esque synth-rock with the crunching electro and naff robotic vocals of album-opener 'Welcome To...' the rest of The Culprit's debut album is much more rock-orientated than initial impressions suggest.
The main weapon in The Culprit's arsenal is the big chorus, where the guitars are cranked up to 11 and the easy lyrics demand you sing along. 'Blackball,' 'Reboot' and 'Curveball' all pack these huge, attention-grabbing choruses that swagger with a very professional-sounding confidence. 'Blackball' teams its instantly likeable chorus with a stream of high octane riffs, which periodically take a sharp nosedive into a bowel-quivering low note. Big-chorused, easy and enjoyable modern rock with some hooky riffs.
'Curveball' and 'Reboot' have a darker slant. Inbetween the in-your-face stamp of the chorus, 'Curveball' is a mass of churning riffs and storm-tossed backing vocals, while the chorus of 'Reboot' throws up a wall of shattered-glass riffing. Following in 'Curveball's footsteps, 'Reboot' delivers something less immediate, and more substantial, for the verse. The Culprit take a fairly unexciting shuffle of drums and liven them up with a tremor of violins, which haunt the disant corners of this track. Harmonised gang vocals drift across this unusual combo of strings and rustling drums, bringing a lick of pop to the eclectic proceedings. 'Reboot' will pique your imagination with the verses, before administering a shot of headrush modern rock with the chorus. A song that covers all bases.
Despite The Culprit's talent for the instant chorus, there are some songs on this album that require a few listens, namely 'Kill Or Cure?' and 'The Forfeit.' 'Kill Or Cure?' is one of those songs of multiple musical passages that, taken on their own, are chewy-centred electro-pop-rock nuggets. However, as a whole, this song doesn't make immediate sense. Still, stick with it, because once you build up an immunity to the sudden, and often poorly-handled, twists and turns, 'Kill Or Cure?' is a real grower. The jigging guitars, ecstatic "yeeeeeah!" vocals and piano-key synths are quirky; the big, stompy chorus is a shot of classy, anthemic rock; while the dizzy guitars and vocals that whirl us out of the chorus and back into the verse, were custom-made to whip a live audience into a frenzy. Understandably a little hard to swallow on the first listen, 'Kill Or Cure?' will slowly win you over.
Like 'Kill Or Cure?' 'The Forfeit' is a song of contrasting elements that aren't a natural fit. It has a darker electro slant, in the form of an organ that blares away beneath the crunching guitars for most of the song. But, again, once you get over the initial strangeness, 'The Forfeit' is a song you'll like for the few moments where it all comes together.
The Culprit throw in a cover of Howard Jones' 'What Is Love,' which takes the form of a glitter-storm of synths, tangled up with spiralling vocals, and underpinned by a satisfying crunch. It's an overpowering head-twister of metal and sparky electro, and it's easy to see why this cover earned a few spins on Kerrang! Radio. 'What Is Love' The Culprit-style, has it all: ballsy metal thunder, slathered in synths and shot through with sugary pop vocals. It's The Culprit's most electro moment, followed by 'All In The Eyes,' a spring-heeled, pogo-friendly rock song with an electro flourish. This blend of harsh electro and rock could have gone so terribly wrong and wound up sounding gimmicky, but The Culprit make it sound like a natural combination.
However, this isn't always the case: The Culprit do slip up with 'Dilute To Taste.' Here, the synths during the verses feel superfluous and pointless, but you'll forgive The Culprit the second they break out the big riffs in one of their crowd-pleasing, roof-raising choruses. Amidst the full-throated chaos, twist separate riffs that have a warped, almost electronic-sounding edge to them. This chorus is just one big, fat hook. Shame about the verses, though.
The album comes to a close on a completely different note, as The Culprit embrace the alt-pop side of electro, with the atmospheric 'Birthmark.' A sublime, stirring sway of blurry sound effects and ethereal vocals, this is a song to melt into. It's not a million miles removed from the luxurious, three-dimensional listening experience of North Atlantic Oscillation, but with a few blunter notes thrown into the mix, making this more modern and mainstream than anything NAO have ever produced. A beautiful, understated note to end this album on.
The Culprit are an easy band to like. Pretty much every song on this album delivers a walloping great chorus that's impossible to ignore, and their electro leanings accentuate what's already there, instead of feeling like a tacked-on afterthought. Don't let the naff 'Welcome To...' album-opener fool you; this is sassy, stomping modern rock with a unique electro quirk and choruses to sing along to. And, better yet, this album is currently available to download for free from the band's website. Instant rock 'n roll fun, with no price tag; there really is no excuse for not giving this one a spin.