A little over a year ago at a gig at Bath's historic Moles club, upon entry to the particularly derelict toilets, I was met by the stern glares of three youthful bohemians. I got on with my business and thought little of the encounter, only later finding out that they were the support act for the evening, the exceptional Blaenavon. Forward fourteen months, dozens more live shows, a handful of singles and a whole lot of hype, debut album "That's Your Lot" masterfully evokes the same giddy excitement that you get when you realise that you might have shared a urinal with the next big thing.
Atmospheric opening track "Take Care" sets a beautifully melancholic tone that permeates through the whole album, which later features such bleak lines as 'Let's pray for death' and 'It's hard to keep my back unstabbed.' This is followed by a run of three of the bands previous singles: "Let's Pray", "Orthodox Man" and "My Bark is Your Bite", creating the most directly urgent moment on the whole record. The latter of these tracks is particularly emotionally engaging, culminating with the anxiety-charged cries of lead vocalist Ben Gregory: 'I lie because my mind says it's the best thing to do', encapsulating the mistrust of youthful affection. These powerful and alluring vocals are further displayed on the album's shortest track, "Let Me See What Happens Next", on which Gregory is backed with little instrumental support, creating a painful honesty that defines the band's work.
"That's Your Lot" is daring in its length, particularly for a debut album, clocking in and just under an hour and described by the band as: '5 years of our lives condensed into 59 minutes of yours.' With three songs lasting over six minutes (penultimate track "Swans" is a mighty 7:53 long), it is easy to imagine that the album could be vulnerable to droning self-indulgence, however Blaenavon's creation instead oozes with a stylish confidence through its individual and intriguing sound. The band successfully incorporate undertones of funk (on "Lonely Side") and prog-rock (on "Alice Come Home") whilst achieving precise continuity through their distinctive use of distorted guitars and distant drums.
Indeed, "That's Your Lot" feels like a snapshot of a long, often challenging but ultimately rewarding journey, something captured most visibly in standout track "Prague '99", an updated and extended version of a song taken from 2013 EP "Koso." Its frantic and rapturous conclusion reflects the poise possessed by the band that has also been increasingly present in their bold and assured live performances.
Having just finished providing support for indie heavyweights Two Door Cinema Club on their nationwide tour and midway through their own headline tour of some of the country's best independent venues, it is clear that Blaenavon have come a long way since I first encountered them in some grotty bogs just over a year ago and this meteoric rise looks set to continue upon their debut release. If they are able to maintain this progression, then who knows what calibre of star they may be sharing urinals with over the coming years.
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