When Grouplove burst onto the scene a few years ago they brought with them a breath of fresh air; an almost tangible youthful exuberance and an infectious zest for life. With their self-titled first EP and debut album 'Never Trust A Happy Song', they injected life and soul into their music creating a real party atmosphere with a disposition so cheery, it was nigh on impossible not to be drawn in and won over. With a plethora of catchy hook-laden tunes like 'Colours', 'Naked Kids', 'Lovely Cup' and 'Tongue Tied', it was like they'd arrived fully formed and nothing could stop them.
Fast forward a few years and we have the band's second album 'Spreading Rumours'. Now, we all have to grow up, move on and explore different creative streams, but this is in parts like listening to a different band. I'm not sure whether I just don't like the album that much or whether I don't like it because it's a disappointment given the quality of their first record. If I was listening to this and filtered out the obvious individualities that tie the two pieces together, I might find more merit in it but, because I know this is not as good as it can get, the over-riding feeling is of being let down and under whelmed.
'Spreading Rumours' is, on the whole, harder ('Shark Attack), heavier ('What I Know') and a lot darker ("I'd rather be the dying than the rising sun", from 'Hippy Hill') than its predecessor. The joie de vivre and endearing naivety that was so captivating has seemingly been thrashed out of Grouplove as if they've been force fed an aural diet of thrash metal, EMO and Foo Fighters on rotation until they've surrendered what they had and given in to produce whatever this is.
'I'm With You' starts the album off nicely, if not somewhat misleadingly, enough with an initial orchestral keyboard flourish and a layered, floating vocal arrangement that bridges the divide between their two albums. From there on in, however, it is harder work to find something to like. 'Borderlines And Aliens' punches relentlessly with each aggressive strum of the guitar and the bombardment of frenzied drums. Songs like 'School Boy', 'Ways To Go', 'Sit Still' and 'News To Me' display a softer side and do try to emulate the inspirational heights of 'Never Trust' but, in the end, just show how the song writing seems to have faltered along the way as well as the band's musical attitude.
'Shark Attack' feels like the band returning to what they do best, injecting life and enthusiasm into the mix, but even here they are only two thirds there. The steel drums are a nice touch, the vocals as ever interesting but the occasional need to let it all go in some berserk caffeine overload spoils the plot. Similarly with 'What I Know', the band go intermittently over the top and end up just sounding shouty; Ryan Rabin's percussive excellence may be a master-class in drumming, but this song or band does not need a Dave Grohl - it's not a good fit (and, lyrically, well I'm still undecided as to whether it's supposed to be irony or if they're just bad: "I give you this, you give it back, I tossed a coin right on the track, is this for real or is it whack?")
Latterly, 'You Didn't Have To Go', 'Raspberry' and especially the instantly deletable and extremely annoying 'Bitin' The Bullet' highlight the stark difference in the quality of one record to the next.
Grouplove are not a bad band and because of that maybe I have been overly critical. This is not an awful album, but it is a bad album by Grouplove standards - let's hope it's just a blip and the follow up sees a return to form.
Official Site -