By Turin Brakes
Rather notorious for their wallowing and broody contemplation, Turin Breaks' fourth album was hardly going to go all-out-rock on us. That's to say, attributes of previous albums that were both condemned and celebrated still stand.
First to break this down step-by-step. The overall impression here is, as most will be expecting, a little underwhelming. Hooks are delicate and, to put it kindly, are growers.
Often there is no definite distinction between tracks; it sometimes seems more like a 40-some minutes exploration and it's possible to float through the album without really taking notice of the songs as stand-alones. Its hypnotic tone and repetitiveness - typical of most of Turin Breaks' work - is as present as ever, making it a lovely album to completely unwind to but not really an album to enthuse about. In its given 'understated' genre (also known as 'slo-fi' or 'quiet-core', and many other silly non-genres) there are some sublime moments. Opener "Last Chance" makes wonderful use of textural build-up over the 4.40 song, title track "Dark on Fire" has a beautifully echo-y feel and minimalist guitar part and "Real Life" provides a welcome change of pace, shaking you unexpectedly from mesmerised lethargy. In contrast, other songs do feel like a poor man's version of Turin Breaks songs such as "Rain City" and "Future Boy"; in an attempt to reproduce the introvert charm of such tracks, we have been presented with some pieces that are rather unconvincing and exaggerated. So-called 'filler tracks' on other Turin Breaks albums are similarly lacklustre, but those on "Dark On Fire" somehow come across infinitely more dragged-out.
These are just some of the petty criticisms that can be aimed at "Dark On Fire" but perhaps what's really at the core, rather than lack of movement within tracks, is the lack of movement in the whole picture. There's very little hint of conventional progression. Turin Breaks are still doing what they did back in 2001 - with varying levels of success. Folk-rock is clearly just what compliments the duo well, but every now and again I wouldn't mind them jumping up and shouting 'boo' at us. In a metaphorical and musical way, of course.