I'm going to start this with a disclaimer - if you've recently enjoyed a seven-minute wildly creative single entitled 'Atlas', you needs to pick up the album by Battles, because I'd feel bad if any confusion in the names - combined with this review - would discourage you from picking up one of the albums of the year (Battles - 'Mirrored'). Not that this piece about Battle's debut LP is going to be particularly scathing, because this is by no means a particularly bad record.
Seemingly on the verge of "making it big" for a couple of years, Battle never quite delivered on their potential - often featured in little zines, occasionally featured in mainstream media, and having a few singles played from time to time on MTV2 - this is precisely where the band belong; not catchy enough to be heard 700 times a day through Radio 1, yet not eclectic enough to appeal to the indier-than-though elitist crowd.
Opener 'The Longest Time' works as a pleasant surprise - offering a lot more than the indie-by-numbers music you may be expecting after their previous singles. It's an astoundingly confident start to the record, Jason Bavanandan spitting his vocals over sprawling guitar, and catchy rhythm.
Unfortunately, 'Break The Banks' rarely recaptures the passion and excitement of track no. 1; early single 'Looking for Bullets' is pleasant enough, and album closer 'The Other Way' works as a reminder that the band does have a talent for writing rather nice melancholy tunes, yet the most cynical of listeners would label this record as nothing but filler.
While Bavanandan's voice and deliveries are far from special, the words he's written make up for that, the saving grace from 'Break the Banks'- while tracks such as 'Demons' and 'History' may read like B-grade sixth form poetry, there's a certain degree of emotional resonance to them, and their teenage demographic can almost certainly relate - "I'll stick a fork into your side / Just to make sure your alive / It'll jeopardise our friendship / But you've always hated that."
The record's biggest flaw is just how consistently average it sounds - occasionally showing promise of quality but never quite building upon it. If what you've heard of Battle before didn't excite you before, then this record most certainly won't now - but if you felt the endearing promise to their early singles, then 'Break the Banks' is almost certainly worth investigating.