The Barlights - If it Wasn't for the Light the Dark Would Have Killed Us (2009)


Look at the album cover, read the album title. 
Don't you just want to give them ten-out-of-ten already.

The moody contrast between the child-like aspirations of
peace, joy and love with the depressing reality of disappointment 
and drug and alcohol abuse. The pressing need for optimism in the
face of the crushing melancholy of everyday life.

Formed five years ago in the British city of Norwich under the name
Oblique, the youthful quartet made some hirings and firings, upgraded 
their influences and set about their art with a renewed focus and energy.

Influences: usually you look down a list of people the band claim to be inspired 
by and mutter any of the following setences to yourself (1) "Yeah right mate,
in your dreams" (2) "Is there anyone who isn't influenced by Radiohead these days"
, or (3) "You should be boiled in gazpacho soup for even daring to speak that band's 
name". The short-version: bands tend to reel of influences in a by-rote effort to lure 
in people who just might listen to their music - it's like a job applicant providing his
own references - when in actual fact, they sound like Hawthorne Heights.
Hey, what are those guys up to lately....

Tangent aside, (the answer was writing / bored / bored / new haircut / dead)
out of the list the band recommend themselves with (Radiohead, Ryan Adams, 
The National, Guillemots, Cold War Kids, The Smiths, The Arcade Fire, The Beatles,
Arctic Monkeys, Neutral Milk Hotel, Bob Dylan, The Kinks, Bright Eyes, R.E.M.) every
single one of them is discernible at some point throughout Light & Dark. You could
write that list yourself just by listening. Yet such traits do not leave the band with
a muddled tribute album on their hands. No, they have a veritable smorgasbord 
(winner of the SG '09 word-of-the-year award) of musical delights.
Premier ingredients distilled into a delightful meal and served with 
utmost care and deference.

If It Wasn't for the Light, The Dark Would Have Killed Us may take a
little while to kick into high gear with "Start Our Days" being the first 
sterling example of what the band do best: mercilessly kinetic indie-rock
oozing with melancholy. The next track is equally upstanding, when vocalist
Graham Horne sings "All the crowd watch the lights as they fall on Isobel", 
you can feel every single ounce of angst in his quivering voice. In terms of 
performance comparisons, the almighty Sam Herlihy from Hope of the States
springs to mind. True, on occasion he sounds closer to the dolt from 
One Night Only, but let's not hold that against him.

By the time we get to "Ticking" a recurring flaw begins to rear its head. 
While in general, the production on the record is exemplary, whenever 
drummer Nicholas Davies goes for a high-speed fill on his toms, we get 
a horrendously weak, hollow and tinny sound which rips the strength of
the track from its very bones. In moments which should be simultaneously
captivating and energising you're actually left with that empty feeling you
first got when you first learned that Narnia wasn't real and the only thing
residing at the back of your wardrobe was the skeletal remains 
of the mouse you'd nicknamed Maurice.

Parents always claim that they don't have favourites, but everyone 
knows that they've already made their decision should they be faced 
with Sophie's Choice - yeah, eat your cereal little Ricky, we all know 
what's going to happen to you when the Nazis take over again. Then you'll 
see why gas at the dinner table isn't funny - While we are not parents to the 
songs on the Barlights' album (that we know of) we do have a favourite 
and it is "Honest Misbehaviours". From the sublime vocals on the verse
which ballistically veer in pitch from low ruminations to soaringly high
echoes of tearful laments to the affirming, yet sombre piano backing up 
the serenade, it's everything rock music was supposed to be before 
it got infected by glitz, glamour, disco and ladies in hot-pants.

So what started out as a ten based on the promise of what could be,
we actually find ourselves with a lower score thanks to the crushing
reality of unachievable goals and human imperfection. Gee, that'd make
a great metaphor for life in general, if only someone could distil its
concept and put it on an album cover.

The Barlights
If it Wasn't for the Light the Dark Would Have Killed Us
Album art: 
Release date: 

1. Sometimes
2. Radiate
3. Finn
4. Bend and Break
5. When I'm Bored
6. Start Our Days
7. Isobel
8. Ticking
9. No Guarantees
10. Liars

Music label: 
NR One Records
United Kingdom
Average: 5 (2 votes)
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