Access to new music these days is extremely easy. The plethora of webzines and blogs that flood the Internets provide both written descriptions and sample mp3s of whatever is on the current buzz-o-meter, which sometimes makes it hard to discriminate when browsing for new music. Every little indie band out there can make now themselves the new “bands to watch” via MySpace sites and making friends with bloggers – so what does it is it take for people like me and you to be genuinely impressed, to make us sit up and really listen? Let me tell you—it takes an album like The Early Years’ self-titled debut. It is truly an accomplishment, an intricately developed and intelligent project that was a joy to discover. The creativity displayed on this album demonstrates with much confidence that the band still has so much more to offer, and is not simply the flavor of the month. Guitarist/vocalist David Malkinson, guitarist Roger Mackin and drummer Phil Raines have been working together in London since 2004, always staying with “their ambition to make inventive, original and accessible music,” a sentiment from the band’s press release, with which I whole-heartedly agree.
All of the songs link together wonderfully and purposefully—the album just that, not simply a collection of songs that happen to sound good together. The tracks are intricate and lovely—each discord, slight change in repetition, or addition of reverb is meticulously crafted and executed. Kicking things off with “All Ones & Zeros,” sounding like a wonderful cross between Yo La Tengo’s “Pass the Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind” and The Cult’s “She Sells Sanctuary,” demonstrates how each song on the album is inherently structured. Maintaining one consistent style throughout (guitar pattern, rhythm section variance, etc.), the song then travels from one end to the other while varying only slightly from its center, and is completely engaging in its repetition. There’s something to be said about a band that can structure their songs in such a way without crossing that fine line where repetition becomes boring, and the Early Years avoids this deftly and confidently.
From there, we experience tracks like “Things” and “Brown Hearts,” which take the fuzzy, drone-y hints from Television and Brian Eno-circa 1975. At other times, the band displays hints of Joy Division and New Order (“So Far Gone,” “Musik Der Fruhen Jahre”), then more modern combinations of Interpol and Archie Bronson Outfit (“The Simple Solution”), ending many of their tunes with a noise rock approach of crashing cymbals and echoing discord. The tracks often toe the line between grubbier garage rock and dreamy post-punk, each one an intelligent variation of the other. Throw in new layers of synthesized echo and vocals and you’ve got a whole new version of New Wave revival.
If there’s any justice in the world, this debut full-length by the Early Years will have the same effect on many others as it did on me, as I genuinely believe that this album deserves widespread circulation and appreciation. While we never seem to know in the present time, as we remain buried in the combination of both birthing ground and graveyard that is the Internet, whether any particular band will actually “make it,” I remain optimistic that the truly talented ones will win out. We all love a good “diamond in the rough” story, don’t we?
Interpol – Turn on the Bright Lights
Archie Bronson Outfit – Derdang Derdang
Echo & the Bunnymen – Porcupine