This is a review of "s/t" recorded by The Outlines. The review was written by Richard Garnett in 2004.
This two tracker from The Outlines is a self-produced side step from the rock-pop formula adopted on previous releases. Clearly walking a path that now reads indie / dance beat crossover, this is well charted territory with such recent luminaries as The Music and The Rain Band setting a pretty high bench mark.
There's plenty of excellent guitar with crackling wah-wah and delay filled licks, which when combined with a highly reverbed lead vocal has a peculiar 80's stadium feel - needless to say the jury's out on this! Where the songs suffer is a lack of beef. The use of a rather straight drum machine is no match for the skills of their living breathing drummer. Opener "The Difference It Makes" is crying out for a Primal Scream style bass line... in fact just a bass, for if it is there it's buried so far in the mix as to render it irrelevant. Without this bite the songs nicely drift along but never truly grab the attention.
It is a peril of the art of self-production that so often the true merits of songs are lost. The Outlines have a clear ear for melody as demonstrated by the great layered pure-pop harmonies on "The Last Time", but if they are to truly walk this new path they need to find some grit and a bass player.