Grammatics - Grammatics Album Review
Review of Grammatics' self-titled album released through Dance To The Radio.
The fact that Grammatics emanate from the embers of emo also-rans Colour Of Fire will probably come as a surprise to some; certainly the extreme differences in musical styles between a sub-genre steeped in American college angst and their current, part-classical, part-pop guise is of immense proportions. However, several listens to the polemic deliberations of 'Murderer' or traumatic confessions of 'Relentless Fours' would suggests Grammatics are a far from emotionally comfortable outfit, something that resonates throughout their debut long player of the same name.
Chances are if you've been to any European festival or indie-themed club night over the past 18 months you'll have seen this four-piece in the flesh at least once, and having steadily honed the majority of the eleven songs that make up 'Grammatics' over this period of time, they've unashamedly unleashed one of 2009's most astounding, and in many ways unparalleled albums. That's not to say its been plain sailing all the way; far from it in fact, as little under two years ago amid severing inter-band relations with previous members, it seemed like Grammatics would be little more than a one-single wonder confined to Dance To The Radio's vaults along with the likes of Voltage Union and Sometree.
Nevertheless, the ensuing changes in personnel that Grammatics were forced into making in order to continue have brought with them an added dimension to their sound. While there was never any doubting the band's potential, there was always a worry that Grammatics music at times tended to border just a tad too far on the obtuse, deliberately awkward even, therefore narrowing their appeal when all that was required was a pop-induced hook or symbolic turn of phrase at the right moment to weld each distinctive piece of their armoury together.
And that's what Swedish cellist-cum-backing singer Emilia Ergin seems to have brought to the band - certainly highlighted here on the record - the missing link between Owen Brinley's delirious melody and lyrical assertions combined with the taut rhythm section of Rory O'Hara and Dominic Ord. All of a sudden, those early day comparisons to the complexities of Arcade Fire and subtleties of a latter day Radiohead don't appear too wide of the mark, not least on the two-songs-in-one split personality of 'The Vague Archive' or closing epic 'Swan Song', which clearly illustrates Brinley's panache for writing mysterious ballads as well as instinctive angular pop songs.
'Inkjet Lakes' and early single 'Shadow Committee' - re-recorded here with fast-becoming producer extraordinaire James Kenosha - display a more introspective side to the band's make-up but it is on the album's standout moment 'Relentless Fours', six minutes of intertwined duets between Brinley and Ergin culminating in the former insisting 'Everyone loves a breakdown' over a glorious orchestral-tinged crescendo that Grammatics tendency to create goose bumps and make them stand to attention simultaneously is assured.
Ultimately, 'Grammatics' does not contain any filler and even previous singles like 'D.I.L.E.M.M.A.' and 'Polar Swelling', which may have just lacked that certain spark as stand alone 45s sound near perfect in the context of the whole record. Although we're still only in the first quarter of the year, Grammatics have triumphantly created an accomplished record they can be proud of for some time to come, and even at this early stage of 2009 it would be hard to imagine this not featuring in most end-of-year 'Best Of.' lists.
9/10 Dom Gourlay