The St Albans fab-four are back, bringing another collection of tunes for folks into subjects like the growth of the corporate-state , the imminent ecogedoon the failings of capitalist greed, and high-energy mixing of big-beat trance with post-hardcore guitar rock. So four albums, 11 years, and no real changes to their whole operation. Although, as they motor into their 30's as flag-bearers of a musical sound that never defined a generation but certainly gave some of it it's own feel, they sure as heck seem to have mellowed out in places.
For example first single "The Last Garrison" starts up as one of their traditional onslaught masterpieces of socially aware observations but then grows into a more thoughtful slow piece. The singalong glory of the main hookline "Head's up and thank fuck you're still alive! There's still air in my lungs, still blood in my veins" isn't the call to arms of youth, it's the pause, consideration, and consolidation of experience that knows it's still got a long way to go. Very powerful, very moving, properly progressive on so many levels. It's a feel that goes through all the album, still powerful but with a bit less frantic and a little more confidence that they don't have to be doing a million things all at once.
"Never Let Go Of the Microscope" is another prime example, with a couple of sections in-between the thrashing that are not far off reggae, and "The Bank Of England" is a slow paced tale of caution rather than what would previously have been a nonstop scream of disappointment. "Myopia" and "Anesthetist" are more of their classic sound, but even they have a touch less constant drive to them than previous tracks. For long-term fans it's more of what was found on A Flash Flood of Colour than Take To The Skies and Common Dreads, for new listeners it's going to be that little bit more accessible and also demonstration of a greater range. Live it's going to be fantastic, as with longer sets and more options it's going to be a roller-coaster rather than their previous 1000 foot drop.
It's not a radical departure, but a change never the less, and one that works incredibly well. As a band with a very distinct, and in many ways singular, sound they could have easily refined and concentrated the "hardcore with rave bits" approach to diminishing returns. Instead they have expanded and embraced areas of both dance and rock, grown as a band and grown up as an act in the best possible way, to give more of a range and depth of sounds. They have shown that they are going to continue to expand, continue to grow, and continue to make albums as amazing, energizing, thoughtful, and joyful as this one.