Sunday, 15 June 2014

REVIEW: Towns - 'Get By' (Howling Owl Records)

Towns were a band made up of four childhood friends from the Somerset seaside town of Weston-Super-Mare. Wanting to create an exciting sound as an escape from their humdrum surroundings, on the strength of two demos, the highly promising group were hyped by the NME before they even played their first gig. Maybe they were cursed. A booking agent stole a thousand pounds of the band's money, and following this crushing setback, their label arranged for them to record with Oasis/Verve producer Owen Morris, only for the sessions to be cancelled after the label was taken over by a major. It's fair to say that their experiences of the music industry were not pleasant ones, so they opted to record their debut album with friends from Bristol and release it on the city's Howling Owl Records. 

The resulting twelve tracks have a low budget edge that lends the record a raw honesty, as the band combine baggy, shoegaze and psychedelica with a strong pop aesthetic. Opener 'Get Me There' puts foggy, spiralling guitars over shuffling baggy beats and kicks off the record with an exciting sense of purpose, before the terrific 'Marbles' combines irresistible Britpop melodies with trashy grunge guitars and plenty of glam cool. The thrilling 'Trip Over' is a euphoric blast of rock n roll driven by My Bloody Valentine guitars, while highlight 'Gone Are The Days' thrives with vibrancy, delivering masterful hooks and a buzzing energy not unlike Primal Scream in motorik punk mode.

Baggy and shoegaze combine with stratospheric atmospheres on the dizzying, high reaching pop cracker 'Just Everything' before the lysergic daydream 'Too Tired' takes the tempo down a notch while keeping the mood bright and mesmeric. 'Young At Heart' is another one that allys 90s flavours with Horrors-esque psych-pop, while a fine JAMC-like instrumental 'Interlude' provides a superb introduction to the LP's second half, leading brilliantly into the swaggering adrenaline rush of 'Heads Off'. Their more reflective side requires a bit more patience, but '' does add a sense of calm at a necessary point before the scuzzy, leather clad rock n roll delivered by 'Everyone's Out' builds into a wall of tantalising cacophonous noise to provide the record with a fierce climactic peak. The downbeat sigh of the title track closes 'Get By' on a sleepy, sad but subtly optimistic note, offering something that contrasts nicely with the rest of the LP, gifting it with something different to increase the level of variety.

So you'd think that the future would be an outstandingly bright one for Towns. Instead, the band split up exactly one week after releasing the album, gone before I could even complete this review. Whether they decided that they weren't appreciated enough, or frustrated that music by great new bands isn't able to reach the masses anymore, or possibly just worn down by bad luck and the rotten reality of the music business, it's obvious that this is the public's loss. Perhaps they'd planned all along to record a great album and split just after its release, cementing their magic for others to discover in future years. Maybe word of mouth will see 'Get By' grow in popularity and become something of a lost gem. Gutted to know that we aren't going to be hearing any more music from Towns, but what a fine piece of work they left us with. 8.2/10

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