Faster, But Slow
Faster, But Slow is available at:
1st December, 2016
The album, I Stop Somewhere Waiting for You, can be purchased here:
2nd December, 2016
THIS is a review tinged with a bittersweet taste…
Not only is this, I Stop Somewhere Waiting for You, the first album from Yearbook – it will, effectively, be the last – as the band are looking to part. Before I get to the band and focus on one of the songs from the album, I wanted to look at bands and those that have made an impact this last year; the nature of the music industry in general and the importance of differentiating yourself from the crowd. Thinking about the Hampshire formed/based group has got me wondering about all the great new acts I have heard this year. As I have stated in (many) previous reviews: it seems this year has been dominated by solo artists and their albums. I defy you to open up a list of the ‘Best Albums of 2016’ and count how many band-created records are on there. I am willing to wager the majority of inclusions will be from solo artists. That is not to say bands are obsolete: it seems there is a leaning towards solo acts and what they are producing. Perhaps not surprising given the way music is developing. There seem to be more solo artists emerging and it is only natural they should be represented. Whereas your lone act has to shoulder the duties of myself by themselves; the band has a few members to share responsibilities. That said, the reasons why solo artists stop making music is often different to that of a band – I will touch on that more in a minute. I have loved reviewing all sorts of artists from the last twelve months and have been pleased by the great bands coming through. Even if poll-makers are preferring the sounds of the solo market, there are those fully engaged with the hottest and more resonating bands in the land. After all, the major festivals in this country rely on bands to headline their stages – that is the main reason people go to them. If the ‘mainstream’ festivals like Reading and Leeds have, rather predictably/boringly, chosen Muse to be their first headliners for 2017 – almost as obvious and uninspired as asking Foo Fighters to do it – then the lesser-known stages are going to be hosting some of our most promising young bands.
I mention this topic, not as an aside, but a relevant point pertaining to the Yearbook boys. Andrew Ian Halloway, Hamish Dickinson; Thomas Brooker and Louis Martin are the noble foursome that provides Yearbook its memories, colour and immense passion. I hope, were their current album to be the last recorded material as a group, they would at least consider a farewell festival. I know, as I will explain in the conclusion, a couple of dates set aside – it would be a tragedy to think they’d miss out on one or two summer dates next year. The boys have been playing together for a while now and in that time have cemented themselves as one of the most striking and immediate bands in the country. I have reviewed a lot of bands this year – few stick in the mind quite like the quartet. Being a fan of their Old Bones E.P. – which felt like digging up the past and surveying past memories – then their album is a documentation of the here and now. It is the freshest, most complete and stunning work produced: hard to think such a body of work could originate from a group on the verge of dissolution. Whilst it is sad to reflect on their premature departure; it provides one a moment to look at music and the challenges faced. It is true, modern music is defined by huge demands and a rather Herculean set of obstacles – tasks and practicalities one must navigate and conquer in order to succeed. I have seen too many great bands call time the last couple of years and it always creates the same impression: why is more not done to provide support to musicians? This is a question I posed in my last review and seems to hold firm in my consciousness. I have not quizzed the boys about the reason for their break-up but it seems to be, from a rather far-off vantage point, a mutual decision – free from acrimony and spite. In fact, the boys have just (if they’re not still there now), completed a tour of Europe and had a bit of a ball – including a rather misjudged/conversation-provoking status updated posted on Brooker’s Facebook page but a “funny” – read: I’m going to kick his arse – bandmate a few days ago. There is revelry and brotherhood in the ranks so it seems – and I will have to ask why they are calling time – there are other reasons why Yearbook are moving onto pastures new separately. Their band name reminds me of leaving school and having to go in different directions minus the friends formed and cherished at school – that fear and unhappiness that comes with facing a rather adult truth. Perhaps there is an issue with finance and demand; maybe the boys have different creative ideas or some members are less enamoured of the band life than they once were. I would not be labouring the point so fervently was I not so awed by the boys’ music and potential. When Old Bones arrived, I was certain the group would ascend to the peak of the new music mountain: future festival kings and those likely to be dropping into the studios of ‘6 Music to play a session for Steve Lamacq or Lauren Laverne. Alas, that is not to be, so it provokes a question in my mind: why are so many talented bands splitting up? Maybe there are ‘too many’ musicians coming through which can make it hard to A) get necessary gigs and regular spots and B) stand aside and persist. Yearbook has cemented a furious local following and a deep well of fans across Europe; they would have had the potential to transcend to the U.S. and take their music global. I just feel, in relation to them, there was so much they could have done and territory they could have carved. Today, and with the groundswell of new bodies emerging, it is harder to balance the realities of workaday life with the ambitions of being a musician. Venues are closing – and those well-established finding their foundations cracking – so it is with turbulence and uncertainty musicians are playing these days. Of course, this might be rendered moot were the explanation (behind the band’s end) to be something simple or unavoidable.
Whilst we mourn and debate the domesticity reality and capricious fate of modern music, we should never ignore the band in question and how they got to where they are now. So many bands are beholden to the legacy and sound of some rather obvious sources – Foo Fighters and Arctic Monkeys still the appetiser of choice for many young upstarts. Seeing how certain bands have climbed onto the festival circuit the natural instinct, of many bands, is to copy their sound in the hope of reciprocal attention. I have grown weary of the rather middling and spineless Indie bands whose subject book is filled with heartbroken clichés and clever-clever attempts at Turner-esque witticism. You know the kinds I am referring to: the clean-shaven lads with faux-attitude and the same sort of lines, impressions and snarl as Turner; guitars, bass and drum that are dedicated but hardly stand aside from the pack. Again, there are many that want to copycat the hirsute and chunky riffs of Dave Grohl’s gang: throwing together a collection of sub-Foo’ sounds with little imagination provided to originality and legitimacy. Those acts that have the intelligence, fortitude and ability to stamp out something unique and special should not be ignored. I feel too many of the former – the forgers and lazy – and being presented golden tickets and unwarranted airplay whereas the brave and strong are fighting too hard and becoming fatigued; tired having to get their voices heard above the parapet of the beige and average. Yearbook have a bit of Alternative and Rock but they incorporate so many different sounds and sub-genres into their psychotropic potions. The lads can muster up a Molotov cocktail of gnarly strings and bellicose beats; soul-infusing basslines and the sort of commanding vocals reserved for the most-celebrated bands around. Chuck in lyrics that rarely succumb to predictability, and are imbued with humour, savviness and literary intellect, and here is a band with all the components needed to triumph in the warfare of music. Alas, my protestations and supplications seem bereft of hope as Yearbook will be closing the doors and going their individual ways in a matter of weeks. It is sad to see such a strong and fine band separate but these things do happen. Against the 2016-appropriate sadness and tragedy we must not dwell on the negativities but celebrate the positives and goodness the band have left us. In terms of progeny: there are few finer than their L.P., I Stop Somewhere Waiting for You. The title alone beckons all sort of imaginative interpretations and speculation. The music, as I will explore in more depth, is as ripe, stunning and nuanced as you’d expect from the band. If this is, as it seems to be, their final statement: it is one hell of a legacy to leave.
Old Bones was rife with great tunes and promising moments but I feel the band have upped their game and created their finest work in I Stop Somewhere Waiting for You. I am sure they will admit the album is important and their best work yet. Old Bones is an amazing work and hard to believe it emanated from a band so young. In each song you hear so much detail and exceptional musicianship. More creative and inspired than their peers: this is emphasised through their debut album. In the eleven songs, the guys run through a variety of themes and concerns: each song sees them up the ante and turn the volume up. The band is not just noise-makers only concerned with force and aggression. They are a group who provide texture, beauty and refinement – counterbalancing the more assiduous fire and ensuring their songs are rife with nuance. That is something a lot of bands lack: the ingredient and kick that keeps the listener coming back for more; discovering each song in a new light and talking something new away. If I Stop Somewhere Waiting for You is to be the final thing we hear from the band then it is amazing finale. Let’s hope, somewhere down the line, they reunite and produce an E.P. at least. As they have shown, they grow stronger and more determined with each new release. It makes their album, not only an essential purchase, but a work that fully represents and defines what they are as an act.
Faster, But Slow is another catchy and intriguing title that warrants fond investigation. There are contradictions and quasi-philosophical impressions laid in the opening seconds of the song. It is a rather far-off and echoed introduction that sees the lead down in the mix and singing from a distant realm. Representing that feeling of confusion and dislocation: one imagines a confined vocal booth with very little space and light; such is the nature of the vocal performance. In terms of lyrics, we hear about life and death; defeat and success. The hero is, conversely, omnipresent and extinguished – almost like Schrödinger’s cat – and provokes some rather vivid interpretations. It seems like something has caused this rather defeatist and somber mood. True, there is no overt cynicism and anger at the start: more a series of ponderings and oblique statements. Whether a romantic ruction has caused this or just a look at life around him: the listener is left wondering the genesis of the song. The band keeps the composition rather clean and causal as they score their companion in his quest. Mortality and ageing are subjects that have been addressed in previous Yearbook work – Old Bones’ archeological nominal provokes images of fossils and growing old – but here you get the most arresting assessment of the subject. The hero is growing old and his face can be seen in everyone around – also growing old and starting to slow down. It seems odd a bunch of twenty/thirty-something musicians should tease such a subject. Such thoughts are usually reserved for more ‘mature’ musicians of a different generation. I guess it is just the weight and imbalance of life that does mandate one thinks like that. Whereas other tracks across the album go in fast and burst from the lines: here, there is slow-burning smoke and a moodiness that is hard to shake. It is foggy and open; echoed and strange – all the components that sow seeds of curiosity and get the imagination and body prepared. Being a Yearbook song, there was never a doubt a volume shift would occur somewhere down the line. As it stands, that does not arrive until relatively late. In the opening moments, you get invested in the lyrics and the rather downbeat sound of the hero. One can interpret the song as an insight into the band’s mentality.
Some of the words can be attributed to their situation and what their mindset was like when recording. We often get carried away with interpretations of a song – look at issues of mortality when an artist has just died – and that can cloud the truth and individual feelings. It is interesting to note but you can apply some of Faster, But Slow’s revelations to the cracking façade of Yearbook. Whilst gilded and bonded in blood: the band knew they were going to come to an end and that must have weighed heavy. In other realms, one hears a young man growing older and seeing a world not as rosy-cheeked and innocent as it used to be. Given the growing threats and uncertainties around the globe; how many of us are as secure and safe as we once were? Maybe this is the truth of the matter but that is the beauty of the song: nothing is that obvious so one can scurry down all manner of different-sized rabbit holes looking for Wonderland. The band themselves have that knowledge but the listener is free to interpret. Just as you get comfortable in your thoughts and await the next verse: the band unleashes a Tyrannosaurus Rex – or Pachycephalosaurus maybe – that is stalking through the undergrowth and baying for a tiny little entrée. There is echo and reverb; there is an eerie silence and snarling guitars aplenty. You wonder what is coming next although you kind of realise the seduction and foreplay is done with. It is unprecedented just how exploding and bridled the revelation is. The staccato stabs and guttural bellows are greeted with multi-limbed percussion and insane bass work. The band step up to the plate and create a Mosher Symphony: a perfect soundtrack for those on-edge pit-dwellers to get their bodies flailing and their beer flying. I can imagine, when this is played live, there are some head nods and refinement from the crowds up until this point: that changes to an insatiable and floor-pounding stampede when those first guitar notes strike. By the end – providing you have not moshed across the room and lost yourself completely – there is more feedback at the end. The song has completed and the band are letting the instruments echo and buzz; giving just a little bit of reality and live presence to their songs. Whether, when/if this song is played in Brighton, instruments will be intact at the very end is hard to say. It is a song that provokes guitar-smashing defiance and like-minded rebellion from the capacity crowds. Faster, But Slow does what it says on the proverbial and delivers a jaw-smacking, body-juddering burst of heat and alcohol. It is drenched to the skin in flammable liquid before willingly lighting the match and racing around like a mobile barbeque. The hibachi-like nature of the song means it might take a few minutes before you embark on another listen. Anything thinking such a direct song lacks nuance will be sorely disappointed. It is a song of two halves and one that very much appeals to the senses as it does to the body. A perfect lead-off single from the album and perfect opener for I Stop Somewhere Waiting for You. The boys carpet-bomb the landscape and ensure every dwelling and citizen is immolated and crisp. You are helpless to resist the sheer force and pummel of the outpouring. The band show how tight and together they are. No performer misses a beat and you get a blitzkrieg of emotion and physicality. Faster, But Slow is, on reflection, just as advertised. Less a title for huge interpretation it is a spoiler and dynamic description. It starts slow and shows maturity and depth before downing some shots and deciding to destroy every stool and awning in the joint!
Before I wrap up – revisiting the points I made at the top of the review – it is prudent mentioning the merits of I Stop Somewhere Waiting for You. The Unreasonable Man, with its hero “washed away by the rain”, is a start-stop, quiet-loud beast that takes you by surprise and delivers a granite punch to the gut. It is one of the most rapturous and rollercoaster-like songs in the band’s cannon and instilled with gunpowder, blood and focus. I can hear the sweat flying from the walls and the unbreakable intuition and bond the boys share. It goes into a song, and the entire album, with effusiveness and undeniable authority. A majestic and festival-ready song that boasts one of the strongest vocals on the set – sad the song might not get an airing at a large venue. That said, the guys have played in Europe and I hope the track has been getting an airing out there. “That is not enough for me” is a niggling mantra running rampant through Holy Trinity. It is here you get more experimentation from the guys: the percussion and guitars seem more alive and rebellious; there are effects and fantastic little moments abound; a strong core and huge chorus that demands crowd unity and endless singalongs. A fiery and cracking mandate from a group completely in the groove – another album highlight that will see you replaying the song time again. All Dead provides, at first, more melodic and tranquil reflection. There is almost a contemplative element to the opening – and a rare appearance of female backing vocals – that marries beauty, tenderness and confusion in a strange and wonderful ménage à trois. Before long you get that rapture and primal scream from the lead; on the Yearbook Rorschach Test you wonder what has caused such furious discontent. There are loneliness and disconnections; a feeling of injustice and fear – deciphering and unpicking its origins is a fascinating task. One gets covered by a tidal wave of sound and irascible anger; a band that step up to the plate and provide their lead plenty of thunder, avalanche and electricity.
Only Love is one of the most real and conversational songs on the album. Stepping outside (“for the first time”) there is some confusion and questions being posed. Finding out what the hell is going on and what this is about: the hero implores with the girl not to listen to him; there seems to be some romantic disenfranchisement and strain. It is almost like a gritty and real episode of Made in Chelsea – minus the setup emotions and needlessly beautiful cinematography. The Yearbook boys can present relationship dilemmas and fraught emotions and concentrate it in a song that appeals for a number of reasons. Whilst it is another commanding and domineering band performance; the guitars stand out here. At once sterling, driving and gliding: they turn into bouncing, swaggering animals that register high on the fuc*-yeah-o-meter. This, like a couple of other tracks, seems destined for wider airing and one, I hope, will get a showing at their gig at Brighton’s Green Door Store. Wild Machine puts the focus on percussion and is almost Electronic/Electro.-Pop at times – reminding me of ‘80s Synth.-Pop and acts like New Order. The guys keep the electronic histrionics in the locker whilst the percussion and keys. As the foreground builds – and recriminations and self-doubt come in – that parabond of synths./keys and percussive hiss grows larger and more scintillating. Whilst Wild Machine seems dystopian and Lynchian in its manner and composition; the song has redemption and hopes against the tide. “Holding on” against the machine is the takeaway vibe: that central message that is the heartbeat inside the mechanism. That mechanical embodiment is represented by clanging pots and off-key metal; tender notes and all manner of surprises. The half-time substitution is a riot of hurricane guitars and percussion – rampant with impunity, indiscretion and engrossing ferocity. Props must be paid to the band who subvert expectations and deliver an amp-busting orgy that catches the breath and overwhelms the senses.
The Great Destroyer was never going to be a Keane-esque piano ballad. As it is, it’s a divine swansong from Yearbook. Starting strong, but never too hot and intense, the track starts to build and show signs of impending cacophony. A brief interlude of Funk – bit of slap bass on the side, perhaps – has a Red Hot Chili Peppers vibe; that evolves into a stringently austere and imperious delivery that blows away any romance and clouds – a stunning and angered vocal that gets into the mind. Not only does the song bounce around the brain (like an ill-mannered and impudent child) it staples itself to the testicles. I am not sure what the lads have in mind for their final set list – I can see The Great Destroyer being a set-closing grandstand; one that will get the moshing crowds, even more spirited and unified. It is a song that switches between harmony – some delicious multi-part harmonies – and utter chaos. It is a nose-bleeding fighter that screams (literally) its name and demands respect. A wonderful and epic way to end the album. I Stop Somewhere Waiting for You is a spectacular, surprising and complete album from a band that sound at their very peak. Maybe, knowing the end was nigh, they threw it all into the blender but one suspects the decision to split arrived during recording – maybe I am wrong. You would not be able to tell here was a band considering ending their partnership. The songs are so urgent, together and focused: like a band who had been performing for years and had more ahead of them. I have selected a few to review but the truth is there are eleven gems to be discovered. No players steal the limelight; no player is anything less than incredible and indispensable. At times, the guitars and bass seem peerless whereas the vocals are always dramatic, full-bodied and utterly commanding. Percussion is the heartbeat and backbone that drives the song and gives the album is guts and raw edge. The songwriting is stronger than Old Bones and a step up from their E.P. Here, there is less reflection and more direction; much more confidence and range from a band that could never be accused of being average and sound-alike. They started off on very solid foundations but have built a veritable People’s Palace here. Unlike the Romanian one; the British bands have crafted something imperialistic but socialist – oh f*ck it, I’ll dispense with imagery and metaphor. The album is immense and amazing and a record that ends 2016 with a huge high. Totemic and beautiful at times; carnivorous and violent the next – how many albums can boast these sort of dichotomies and emotions?
The band plays Brighton’s Green Door Store on 22nd. It will be a pre-Christmas present that is unwelcomed as a pair of grey socks. Nobody wants to consider the band splitting up but in a way it is the perfect venue to end things – for now at least. You can never truly close the door on music, and as many legendary acts have shown, the lure of demand is too heady at times. Whether Yearbook does a Libertines/Stone Roses act and re-ignite the spark years down the line; it will be fascinating to see where the members head in the meantime. I Stop Somewhere Waiting for You is a perfect goodbye and album that shows just what music will be missing – a veritable vacuum that others will struggle to fill. The Yearbook story has been one of anger and stress at times; happiness and unbridled liberation with some rather unforgettable memories put it. They have a scrapbook they can proudly look back on and have, whether they realise it or not, inspired other bands to follow in their wake. There are few bands as original, emphatic and popular as Yearbook so I can predict a few like-minded souls entering music in the next year or so. 2016 has been a pretty crap one for a lot of reasons: Yearbook announcing their split//hiatus can be added to the list. It is like Death has got bored this year and decided he is a bit cheery: discriminately picking off the finest out there; ensuring there is unhappiness all around. Let’s not end things with a tragic reflection on a band’s end but celebrate a marvellous album that ranks alongside my favourite of this year. Faster, But Slow is the highlight (in my view) but there are many more (songs) like it across the album. Bands have been getting rather muted acclaim this year but I feel that will change in 2017. Few real and genuine groups have emerged which might be part of the problem. The likes of Yearbook show there is spirit, invention and promise in the market and that is a good thing. Yearbook is composed of multi-talented musicians so I am sure each member will find success in other groups – or go solo should they fancy that life. Being based in Hampshire/Surrey/East Sussex; they are in the middle of creative hubs that will provide chances for them to perform and grow. I cannot wait to see where they each head in 2017. In fact, I am sure the guys will perform again, but for now, this is them and this has been I Stop Somewhere Waiting for You. It is a jam-packed stocking of treats that will not only delight their existing fan-base but entice and allure new followers to their ranks. If you can make the Green Door Store gig, then you will be in for a treat I am sure. It will be emotion, no doubt, but with such fine and enduring songs in their arsenal, it is also going to be…
A night where incredible memories will be made.