After pouring his heart out following the emotional breakdown of a particularly significant relationship, Fyfe Dangerfield rejoined his mother ship to get on with life and help his original band make album number 3, 'Walk The River'. It's taken 20 long months to eventually see the light of day and you'd have to say it's not exactly been worth the wait. I don't know whether he's still not over it, never had closure or simply that the band as a collective have lost direction or imagination. Fair, average, OK, mediocre, alright etc are not really the types of words you'd want to be reading as adjectives to describe your latest work but they are precisely the words that capture the bloated and slightly pompous new album. Not wanting to be lumped in with the Indie crowd is one thing but taking inspiration from Coldplay or Snow Patrol is no act of genius either. Recorded in a "really boring industrial estate in London" comes as no real surprise as grey, not the 'Vermilion' or violet that is sung of, is the colour that washes over the twelve tracks.
Walk The River is the follow up to 'Red' and is some way from being seen as the bands troublesome album..."I don't know; I think every album can be difficult. I would say that with us it was a difficult second one, and not a difficult third" although Fyfe does add that the songs sound like they were "Sleepwalking their way on to tape." (I think this is seen by him as a positive!) There are some epic movements and well constructed soundscapes along the way, but there are also no really good, memorable, "can't wait to hear that again" songs. Each of the tunes, with the possible exception of the livelier 'Basket', feel overworked and devoid of enthusiasm.
The title track and opener starts atmospherically enough with some interesting laid back and haunting percussion under pinning a slightly distorted and echoed vocal, rather like a slower male take on a Bat For Lashes song. When the chorus kicks in with its talk of "walking the river like a hunted animal" we get an 80's through back but with too little shift in direction to maintain interest until the song fades into the distance. 'Vermillion' sees a more passionate performance but nowhere near the red hue it promises before 'I Don't Feel Amazing Now' whines on in an unapologetically miserablist way of "Stars losing their gaze....hearts on the table.....and Moons fading." New Order like bass lines lightly lift the chaotic arrangement of 'Ice Room' and then 'Tigers' opening salvo aptly captures the set thus far..."I'm getting so close to giving up, so very close to giving up."
The second half of the album has its moments in the slightly twisted optimism of 'I Must Be A Lover' and the subtle, gentle caress of 'Sometimes I Remember Wrong'. The latters Cocteau and Felt layered instrumentation acts well as a sumptuous back drop on which to lay Fyfe's sorrowful vocals. You get the impression that 'Dancing In The Devils Shoes' has a wry smile hiding behind the tension and torture............"What I have I always tend to lose by dancing in the devil's shoes" and you can't help wishing there had been more akin to the albums popier highlight 'Basket'. Scuzzy synth notes and driving percussion help the Guillemots really come to life in this their most accessible track on the album. The energy and vibrancy displayed here are equal to the other 11 tracks in their entirety. Oh what could have been?
It could be argued that David Kosten, the sole producer on all but one of the tracks, has to take his fair share of responsibility for the final agreed edit of 'Walk The River'. Has he overproduced and over engineered, and in doing so kicked the life out of potentially great tracks? ..........Or has he salvaged and reconstructed borderline numbers into something passable, palatable and to some pleasurable songs? In the end time will tell but for now I don't think this will ever be seen as some of the best Guillemots work as there are too few highlights and too many moments of mundanity.