The second album from Leeds-based indie kidsScamsis a collection of non-offensive alternative tunes abundant in angular guitar stabs, sullen basslines, and surprisingly pleasant three-part harmony canons.If you've listened to an album filed under indie/alternative anytime in the past ten years 'Add & Subtract' will offer you nothing you haven't heard before, but if you like the genre, you'll like this album.
Opener 'Be A Gentlemen' has a brilliantly dirty guitar riff facing off with a single note harmony part that was clearly educated at the Interpol School of Guitar Harmony Parts. Enter the rhythm section and a moody bassline that grooves its way all over the backbeat. It's an angsty but catchy verse and had this song delivered a killer chorus it would've been one of the best songs of the year, but sadly the chorus we have is an underwhelming let down of seemingly random "Oh-Oh-Oh's."
Track two, 'Colouring,' is a rather messy post-punk song that if you played loud in the house your girlfriend/wife/mother would ask you to turn down because she has a headache. As the album progresses there is no groundbreaking musical style to uncover. Recent single 'Pyramids' is an ode to early Bloc Party, whilst 'Lucky Day' has a certain Arctic chill about it, and track five, 'Lifeboats,' might just get Vampire Weekend on the phone to their lawyer. However, there are some great melodic hooks to be found, in particular on the ballad 'It's War.' A simple yet beautiful descending piano line waterfalls through the song, leading us in and out of the best chorus on the record.
'Jessica's Drawn That Way' is a four-chord bash categorically lying somewhere between art school and terrible, but things pick up with the bouncy 'Compliments.'This song is post-Britpop at its best. It's 'Up All Night' era Razorlight in bed with The Futureheads. Like I said before, this album won't offer you anything you haven't heard before, but if like Johnny Borrell you believe Johnny Borrell is the greatest songwriter of the last decade then this album is for you.
The penultimate song on the record, 'Sound And Vision,' slows things back down again. A military drumbeat marches through the song and leads us all the way to the trumpeted (yes, trumpeted) outro. Album closer 'There Is No Shame In Revenge' is as deep and as angry as SCAMS go lyrically and even gets a little prog-rock when the outro turns into a dizzying waltz of guitars and drums speeding up into a frenzy before bowing out.
'Add & Subtract' is a solid collection of songs with some delightful melodic moments, interesting percussion ideas, and competent musicianship throughout. However, it lacks that one "special" song that's capable of lifting an act above the thousands of other bands all vying for the same limited space on our MP3 players. Perhaps SCAMS singer Andy Morgan put it best himself on his song 'Pyramids' when he sang: "I don't think I'm the greatest, I don't think I'm the worst."