Back in 2002 Econoline gained plaudits from various underground sources as a kind of UK Fugazi. An EP appearance on Fierce Panda and debut album Music Is Stupid positioned them just under crossover territory. Money and luck can be ignorant givers, so they’ve not quite made it overboard yet. I first encountered the band’s 2006 sophomore effort last night, after a plea for material for Trans-Atlantic Underground #3. Its hardcore-pop excellence has preserved a modicum of my good-feeling during work, and I’m not about to be enthused in a more productive way tonight.
Firstly, despite the hardcore comparisons, this is basically a pure pop record with schizophrenia. Recorded in 2003 but delayed by financial constraints, it’s a journey between acoustic turned heads and amps on full blast. The major parallels with Dischord from over a decade ago lay with vocalist/guitarist/lyricist Ian Scanlon’s sincerity. Occasional guitar grinding occurs, “Chicks Dig Scars” is worthy of Read Yellow, but the album has a propulsive emotional flavour. Mostly these songs sound as though they could soundtrack Garage Days. Like Alex Proyas’ validation of glossy amateur enthusiasm, This Band might own the throwaway summer given the chance. “Lend Me a Friend” is reminiscent of Neil Finn and Teenage Fanclub at their most cantankerous. Scanlon testifies, “Do you kiss your mother with that mouth…it’s nothing to shout about” with the manner of a community worker that you’d actually trust. “Sorbet” sounds like a Chris Martin co-opted lullaby for Mogwai children. “Sex Tips for Losers” evokes Jebediah and Ash. Plenty of film scenes involve beer and car stereos, and a talented indie director is missing out.
“Slate Wiped Clean” has the medium immensity of Idlewild circa 100 Broken Windows, tempered by a slowdown to suit Harrison and Shankar. “A Charm Offensive” is just that. Commercial as REM and Wilco on a bright day, bulky like My Bloody Valentine or Q and Not U, and bleep ridden at the finish. There’s repetition of “sometimes is not enough” to satisfy the wizened, and an almighty quivering guitar spring. The aptly titled “Go Team!” pulps pop aesthetics like its namesake. Combining Corgan melancholia and Busted harmonies, it transforms bad employment into great lyrical copy. A parting proclamation that “then it’s over, you find there is no beautiful house…it’s just you, and an endless succession of days, each one worse than the last” is worthy of Jack Dee. I can’t offer many frills to sell this band: London based, and now constituting Scanlon, guitarist Piers Chandler “and whoever we can pressgang into playing,” according to the front man’s enclosed handwritten note. What matters is that This Bandblows most people with organized PR out of the water. A widescreen, best of the circumstances homage to life and its lapses. Buy this and right several wrongs.
Brian Wilson- Smile
Miss Black America- God Bless Miss Black America
Idlewild- 100 Broken Windows