By The Xcerts
The comparison of Aberdeen noisy-pop-punk band The Xcerts and Long Island emo-rock legends Brand New is hardly an unfounded one. Their debut 'In The Cold Wind We Smile' is reminiscent of 2001's 'Your Favourite Weapon' and their new album hardly goes out of its way to dispel the notion. It was even produced by Mike Sapone who worked on 3 out of 4 of Brand New's albums, so it's hardly a shock that 'Scatterbrain' sounds more than slightly like 2009's 'Daisy' at times.
Over-comparing with Brand New is unfair on The Xcerts though, as 'Scatterbrain' is a fantastic record in its own right. From the start, it's evidently rather different from their debut, far heavier and generally noisier. Frontman Murray Macleod's already brilliant vocals have expanded a new level, a screamy one, and are all the better for it. His screams on the likes of the title track and 'Gum' contrast wonderfully with the gorgeous 'He Sinks. He Sleeps' and closer 'Lament'.
Vitally though, it is darker than 'Cold Wind' ever was. With its opening statement of "So I failed yet again, lost the heart of my dearest friend... hope she's sleeping well tonight" it is far more focused than the debut, the ideas of the character's life simply falling apart. Recurring themes of losing sleep and troubled times bring a new level to the band and the rougher sound only encourages the feeling here. Other highlights include the stunning 'Hurt With Me' and the pre-Puzzle era Biffy Clyro-esque 'Carnival Time'.
Where their debut was full of thoughts of lost friends and alienation, 'Scatterbrain' is on a different scale. The despair in Murray's vocals matching the far darker lyrics make it heartbreaking. "You're getting off on this feeling of feeling pretty low..." he sings on the upbeat 'Young (Belane)', by far the closest this album gets to its predecessor. Closer 'Lament's' refrain of "please just lay cold with me" sums up the essences of 'Scatterbrain' in a sentence. Dark, desperate and alone.
The band have stepped it up on so many levels, new found maturity and the care the music is composed with is evident at every turn. Credit to Mike Sapone, the production is inch perfect, the noisy sound complimenting the screams and brooding basslines. If 'Cold Wind' was the great pop-punk opener, this is their Deja Entendu, and that's surely the best compliment any album can be paid.