By Five O'Clock Heroes
'Speak Your Language' by Five O'Clock Heroes kicks off in the best possible form with the ear-Prozac of 'Judas.' This song will make you instantly fall in love with frontman's Antony Ellis' addictively angular voice and the band's talent for mixing awkward indie with just the right amount of pop, to create something that's original, but accessible.
Track two is the impossibly slick 'New York Chinese Laundry' which has the sort of infectious bounce that's guaranteed to put a spring in your step and a smile on your face. And, just when you thought things couldn't get any better, this spring-heeled number gives way to a blissed-out chorus that's the sound of summer committed to record.
Track three and latest single 'Who' sees Five O'Clock Heroes stripped of some of their bounce, and is largely made up of a single short, sharp chord that pulses away like that irritating twitch you sometimes get in your eye. Even worse, guest vocalist Agyness Deyn is clearly trying to imitate Ellis' unique vocal style with her contributions to the verses. Alone, Ellis' voice is appealingly odd, but Deyn's imitation tips the scale and the oddness becomes slightly too much. However, it's possible to forgive Deyn this misjudgement, as her contributions to the choruses are perfect: beautiful, breathy vocals that are an addictive contrast to Ellis's. The chorus is so good that it more than makes up for all of this song's shortcomings.
Three great songs mean expectations for the rest of the album are high. It's surprising then, just how dramatically 'Speak Your Language' loses its way. The chorus of 'Speak Your Language' is basically the same, unintelligible line sang over and over again. You'll most likely find yourself tensing at the end of every verse, in anticipation of that chorus kicking in and annoying the hell out of you.
Things only get worse. 'Alice' has an incessant "Alice won't you take-a me back" line that you'll be desperate to forget but which will torment you for days. Likewise, the nauseatingly self-satisfied "We are happy together" chorus of - you guessed it - 'Happy Together' will remain stuck in your head, even though that's the last place you'll want it to be.
The other major problem, besides choruses that keep beating you about the head with the same line, is that Five O'Clock Heroes don't seem sure of how they want to sound. As the album progresses, they gradually dismantle their music until they're left with a skeleton of pounding drums and stop-start-stop guitars. By track ten, they really do sound like Dirty Pretty Things, only without the full-blown, inventive awkwardness that makes DPT's so great.
Five O'Clock Heroes are at their best when they leave straight-faced, wishy-washy indie of songs such as Radio Lover well alone, slap some extra meat on their music and come up with slightly kooky, poppy numbers. Catchy choruses, Ellis' odd vocals and smile-inducing rhythms make a handful of songs on this album near-perfect. However, 'Speak Your Language' is slowly defeated by Five O'Clock Heroes' apparent desire to sound like a bare-bones indie act, a la Dirty Pretty Things. It's frustrating, and you wish Five O'Clock Heroes would just stick to what they're great at, instead of trying to be something they're not.