When I tell musicians and music snobs about Engineers, the band who was signed before they ever played a live show, I usually get groans and gripes of unfairness thrown at me. How does one try to explain that such sudden adulation and respect is deserved? (This coming from the guy who thinks that the NBA should ban drafting high school players). One listen to the band’s debut album will change the mind of even the most hard-hearted music devotee. Equal parts Kevin Shields, Air, Pink Floyd and Coldplay, Engineers are the real deal, that once-in-a-very-long-while band that knocks your socks off, not with its sonic power, but with its sheer brilliance of composition.
One of the London-based foursomes’ conscious efforts in making this album was to record `air.’ That is, they plugged their instruments, including the keyboards into amps and then recorded the resulting sound. Guitars are softened and distorted enough to be confused with the keyboards at times, making for a rich and textured sound that gently soothes the ear. Singer Simon Phipps dreamily sighs his lyrics into the mix, not unlike Roger Waters during “Goodbye Blue Sky” or Kevin Shields in almost any of his My Bloody Valentine tunes. String flourishes, orchestral instruments and studio polish abound, and yet Engineers still sounds as unlike the mainstream as it can possibly get.
The album begins with the Doves’ “Caught by the River”-esque acoustic guitar strumming, which then builds into the resonant layered harmonies of the band in the song “Home.” With the added touches in the studio of different sounds, one can easily see the influence that Brian Wilson circa-Pet Sounds had on them. “Forgiveness,” one of the early singles from the album, also appears on their initial EP, Folly. It’s easy to hear why the band and label decided to repeat the song on the album. The track is transcendent pop, a delicately constructed piece of music that is always treading on the edge of the precipice without quite going over, always staying within a modicum of decency. Although the bridge is near bombastic, the reins are pulled just in time, before other bands might put in some guitar squonks or drum solos.
“Come In Out of the Rain” is another of the band’s early singles and also appears on the aforementioned EP, Folly. Some might describe their sound, especially in this song, as `sleepy’ or `shoegazing’ and be close to the mark. At times it does resemble Slowdive or Sigur Rós, but it also reflects some seventies-era proggers like Floyd, Eno, or Todd Rundgren. “Thrasher” is one of the more memorable tracks from the debut, being a hypnotic, drum-centric track with crashing Coldplay-like choruses. If “Clocks” were covered by Talk Talk, this is what the result might be. Closer “One in Seven” continues in the vein of dramatic flourishes amidst drowsy verses and puts a nice cap on the project as a whole.
Engineers are finally getting to play those live shows that they never got around to before they were signed. Of course, some of those shows are at places like the Glastonbuy Festival, the Oxygen Festival in Dublin and the Reading Festival, but hey, dues are dues, right? Engineers are a band that will not be remembered or recognized for their looks, their hype, or particular song titles, instead they will be recognized by their lush, meditative and emotive music.
Various Artists- Lost in Translation
Air- Talkie Walkie
My Bloody Valentine- Loveless