Let’s face it, once you brush aside the persistent need for enthusiasm, the ever so slightly awkward countdown and the welcome deals on alcohol, New Years Eve tends to be a bit of a disappointing affair. Sure, your mate pulled a 45 year old divorcee, and there’s nothing better than seeing friend-of-a-friend, Mad Paul vom into a bin, but really truly, when the dust has settled and the hangover has crept in, can you honestly say you wouldn’t have rather been at home playing Battlefield 3? And it is with this continuing level of cynicism we welcome in 2012’s first 5th Dimension with 5 albums that after a few plays and genuine analysis, lead to the painful realization that they were just a bit disappointing.
1. Band Of Horses – Infinite Arms
All of the albums on this list will in some way suffer from what has preceded it; whether it be reputation, expectation or simply the album that it follows, (After all, it would be hard to argue that anyone was disappointed by Status Quo’s latest effort). And as far as previous albums go, there are few stronger double-headers than Band Of Horses’ debut Everything All The Time and follow up, Cease To Begin. Perhaps most disappointing about third effort, Infinite Arms, was that everything seemed to be in place for another corker; two years of live previews had lead to some seriously high expectation from an eager fan-base, not to mention some completely fantastic sounding bootlegs.
So when the album finally came out, it was truly gutting to hear the raw and naturalistic approach had been dismissed in favour of a rather bland sounding studio-rock album suffering from over production throughout. Muddled songwriting along with the fact that singer Ben Bridwell, whose voice had always been such a highlight of the band’s sound, seemed on auto-pilot throughout, meant this album really was not the follow up it ought to have been. Having said that, first single ‘Compliments’ is still one of the coolest country-rock songs of the 21st Century…
2. My Morning Jacket – Evil Urges
Continuing in the vein of usually-great spaced out americana bands is My Morning Jacket, with their 5th album, Evil Urges. Once again, preceding achievements tainted the release in question, and in fairness it did follow Z, which is quite simply one of the greatest albums of all time, in any genre. That however, does not excuse some of the bizarre decisions made by MMJ in the follow up; dirty funk and lazy stadium rock are not welcome factors from a band that had previously mastered the art of embracing genres and filling arenas without ever compromising on quality. For a summary of what makes this album so frustrating, see the video below; cringe-worthy choice of direction delivered with a flasetto that if we’re honest with ourselves, is never disappointing.
3. Arctic Monkeys – Suck It And See
The boys from Sheffield had promised so much for their fourth full-length. Interviews with the band had assured fans they were returning to an energy-driven sound and that there would be plenty for fans who preferred the Whatever People Say I Am… era of the Arctic Monkeys, (i.e. everyone). Third album had been an unusual affair, critics and fans agreeing that although they were glad to see a young band venture into new ground, it was on the whole an experiment that hadn’t quite worked; so news of a return to the old days was welcome indeed. And for a short while, it looked like they might have just done it. Early singles ‘Brick By Brick’ and ‘Don’t Sit Down Because I’ve Moved Your Chair’ were brilliant and effortless, refreshingly laden with a sense of humour absent from recent releases. Such a shame then that the album as a whole was limp and held back by needlessly knotted lyrics from singer Alex Turner.
4. WU LYF – Go Tell Fire To The Mountain
Hype, it’s a cruel mistress. More often and not it is of no fault to the band involved that the NME has decided tol hail them as the saviors of rock and roll (Jet, none of us blame you for that, only for ‘Are You Gunna Be My Girl?’ and the hat your drummer wears in the video, unacceptable.), and thus we should judge them on their own merits, and it’s on these grounds that I still found the debut from WU LYF to be such a disappointment. Many, including OMB’s very own Callum McCulloch found the album to be one of the debuts of the year (although even he had to admit the singer sounded like Chewbacca), and I am willing to sub seed that it has it strengths and sticks to them, but this is where my disappointment lies.
A fresh approach is a rare thing these days, and there is no denying that the vocal approach taken by WU LYF singer Ellery Roberts is ambitious and brave, but that is one of the album’s only true innovations. You only need to go as far as The Walkmen or Cymbals Eat Guitars to find bands making a racket in a similar veinn, and for my money, a much better racket. Go Tell Fire To The Mountain could have been the big push British indie music needed, but for me, was just a slight disappointment.
Thrice – Major/Minor
Thrice have, for a long as they have had a career, pushed themselves into new and unfamiliar territory. Starting as a thrash-by-numbers band in 1998, albeit really quite a good one, they have since developed into one of America’s most innovative bands to have emerged from the heavy circuit. Continuously years ahead of their peers, their fans have followed a career that has seen them release EPs and albums embracing digital soundscapes, folk and shoegaze, and alarmingly enough, they have nigh on conquered each.
After several concept-heavy releases Thrice returned to a ‘four guys in a room’ sound with 2009’s Beggars, although basic in its premise, the delivery was stunning. Spacious at times, taught and agressive at others, always personal and emotive, it was the perfect next-step for a band who had for a time, journeyed so far from their original sound. So with this year’s Major/Minor it was a huge disappointment to see them turn back the clock and release an album that in many ways might as well have accompanied their very early work; it seems for all their prowess, Thrice could not nail nostalgia.
Still, I’d like to end this 5th Dimensin on a positive note and leave you with the excellent opening track off the flawed album as we welcome in a brand new year of indie music with our fingers crossed and expectations high.
Bands of 2012, try not to disappoint us…