By This Et Al
We'd seen angry young men come and go before, and Leeds has been brim-full of earnest tunefulness for years, but from the early days This Et Al seemed like something a little different (remember the red shirts?) But here, three years on from the split 7" that launched Dance To The Radio, the main differences between themselves and contemporary Leodensians such as the band with whom they shared that single, ˇForward, Russia!, seem to revolve around the resolute failure of the national media to pick up on their efforts.
Our recent interview with the band (LMS, 6th May) provides a possible explanation in that the boys practically admitted their recorded work to be lacking some of the anger and sheer expression of their live performance. As someone who never felt motivated to give the debut LP (Baby Machine) as many spins as it might have had, I can certainly empathize with this. There may have been 'tunes', but alas they were often somewhat indistinguishable. To paraphrase a noisy but unmemorable offering from that album, I'd listen for hours (and not remember a thing.)
So now we hear the band setting out their stall for the future ('post-rock... condensed into a few minutes', says Wu), and to be honest the jury's still out. To my ear the four tracks on this EP are a split between the old ('Figure Eight' and 'Medicine Hammer') and not-particularly-condensed post-rock ('Ice Age' and 'Frosty Jackson'.)
'Figure Eight' weighs in at 2 minutes 16 and seems to occupy exactly the same territory that the near-identically (un-)lengthy 'Wardens' did on the album. Hand-clapping to the throttled twang of guitars towards the end is unlikely to win over those post-rockers either. And dare I say 'Medicine Hammer', as a 4-minuter, is in very similar territory to the less distinguishable longer tracks from Baby Machine. The fact that it shows a mellowing at the edges is unlikely to make it stick in the memory. Even the greatest of lyrics will be lost on a listener who has no desire to listen more than three or four times.
'Ice Age' is a superior track to its predecessors; measured in its aural assaults without becoming soporific, slow-building but tempered by catchy hooks and, moreover, musically varied. This tune even ends on a piano coda, albeit one suddenly interrupted by the cymbals that herald the arrival of '(The Tale Of) Frosty Jackson'. I don't know who the eponymous Frosty was, or whether his presence immediately following the previous track hints at some sort of sub-zero thematic. However, for this listener, he lends his name to the stand-out track of the EP.
In it This Et Al truly realise their potential as post-rockers, compressed or otherwise, and cast wearying almost-tunes to one side. Instrumentals such as this may not lend themselves as vehicles for the band's songwriting abilities, but pithy statements don't all need to be shouted ˇF,R!-style outbursts. As their other near-contemporaries iLiKETRAiNS might attest, the carefully crafted crescendo of guitars need not be the enemy of trenchant lyricism. We look forward to something more truly demonstrative of these twin gifts in future.