Old Bones is available at:
The E.P. Old Bones is available from:
Old Bones- 9.4
We Are Strangers- 9.3
Classic Literature- 9.4
Time Management- 9.3
Old Bones; Rope; Classic Literature
March 5th, 2014
I am a bit late to this particular party…
but plan to make up for lost time. Yearbook are a band that have been making moves and music for a while now: One of the south’s finest up-and-coming acts; they have gained the ear of critics and fans- being hailed as a band to watch. In November the boys play Boileroom: Supporting Black Peaks; it is a gig I will try and check-out- see the band in the flesh, do their thing. Before I get to review them- and Old Bones’ self-titled track- I am back looking at the band market; young bands in the south- critical expectations and the coming year. When it comes to all-male bands, the sounds they play- with the exception of the minority- tend to play with the harder end of the spectrum. Over the course of this year, I have seen some great bands come through; a lot of memorable and sparkling brands- the boys have been making some interesting sounds throughout 2015. This year has seen everyone from Blur and Panda Bear make some stunning albums; some of my favouite new bands- Allusondrugs and Los (and the) Deadlines- come up with some great material. I have oft-derided the band market- in the mainstream largely- for being a little samey and limited- lacking necessary originality and surprise; that spark that captures the imagination. The best albums/moments of this year- and with the Mercury’ nominees announced- have been created by solo artists (and some great duos): The band dollar has been a little fluctuating and stagnant. If you look at the Mercury Prize nominees, you get a lot of solo/duo nods- from Gaz Coombes to Florence’; Slaves to Ghostpoet- with only a few band examples. I think Wolf Alice will steal the prize on the night- would be good to see Coombes or Florence’ get the award- but my point remains this: Our mainstream solo acts are starting to gather a lot of the attention and press inches. The lone stars have to work harder and seem more motivated: As a result, their music is more innovative and cross-pollinating; genre-splicing and bold. If you look beneath the mainstream gleam and N.M.E.-recommended examples, how many truly great bands can you name (that are original and stick in the mind)? For my money, it is the new/underground acts that are most impressive: Those playing the small music venues and are as-yet unsigned seem to be providing some excitement- I have reviewed a lot of wonderful and variegated bands. From New York and L.A. riff-kings to Australian mixology mistresses, there is a wealth of wonderful groups out there- the competition is stiff and rife. Living just outside of London, I am naturally curious of local bands: Which are worth investigating and hailing; which should be discarded- those that are a little undeveloped but have potential. With 2016 almost upon us, there are eyes scanning the musical horizons: Which acts are going to be recommended and proclaimed? Which will be under-the-radar secrets? The Hampshire-via-Surrey collective Yearbook are a band that have caused me some excitement: publications like Kerrang! have extolled the virtues of their ear-seducing sounds; the attention and detail they put into their music- the sheer range and quality of their music. The boys are keeping some cards to their chest- their social media biographies are sparse; letting the music fill the gaps- but before I carry on, they consist:
Andrew Ian Halloway- Lead Vocals/Guitar Hamish Dickinson- Percussion Thomas Brooker- Lead Guitar/Backing Vocals Louis Martin- Bass
The kinship and tightness of the quartet is evident in their music: Each song showcases the boys’ understanding and intuition; the consideration and hard work they put into their agenda- without the music sounding over-rehearsed and sterile. Last year, the band released their E.P. Old Bones: the reviews came in highlighted the raw vocals and guitar wizardry of Halloway; the interplay and guidance of Martin (bass) and Brooker (lead guitar; backing vocal)- the backbone and rudder of Dickinson. Some reviews have been a little nose-thumbing and under-appreciative: some blogs have looked at a lack of inventiveness and an effects-heavy reliance; one or two underwhelming tracks- those that truly listen have picked up on the E.P.’s merits and strengths. Old Bones is not a record you can say lacks originality and focus; it is bristling with bends and left-turns; Progressive-Rock drama and literary references. With shades of (and for fans of) Lower Than Atlantis and Straight Lines, the inventive quartet created something for the modern age: Songs that stun you on a first listen; reveal new beauties and nuance further down the line- songs that are made for gigs and touring. The boys were compelled by the touring regime and mixed fortunes on their travels: The songs are born out of frustrations and tireless work; the passion that goes into making music. Before I review the music- and raise another little point- it is note-worthy mentioning the attention the boys put into the music. In addition to the intelligent and varied lyrics- which range from historic name-dropping to fist-aloft statements of intent- the actually make-up of the music is fascinating. When it came to recording the E.P., the lads filmed some ‘making of’ vignettes: Showing just how each instrument/component fits in, it was great to see a band letting the listener into the creative process- The Dead Weather recently did something similar; de-compartmentalising their creative process and giving inspiration to young up-and-coming musicians. I think a lot of critics and press tend to assume bands have it very easy: They swan around and record a few songs; drop them into the ether- expect recognition and fame to fall at their feet. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth: From relentless touring and mixed-blessing crowds; the huge financial burdens and stresses- following a passion of music could age and deter the best of them. For that reason, we should celebrate those that put the graft in- not just to their work-rate but the music itself. Although Yearbook are still in their infantile stages, they are a band that have a clear future. Although their music is perhaps more durable in small venues and on the too-cool-for-school radio stations, they certainly have mainstream appeal: Their songs are varied and open enough to draw in all sorts of music-lovers and fans; it does not exclude anyone. In addition to a November Boileroom gig, I am sure the four-piece have ambitions for the next year: It would be good to see a new E.P. or albums- perhaps a single dropped in there- and many eyes will be trained their way.
Although Old Bones compels some archaeological digging and investigation- shall stop with the bone-related analogies- their first real release was All Squares and Circles. Unveiled back in 2010, the five-track release is an ambitious and fully-formed debut effort. Have Patience starts with a pitter-patter percussive slam; some funky and hypnotic bass- emotive and dramatic vocals. The vocals are insistent and urgent, yet are not over-emotive and false. Wanting to “medicate myself from you” there is clear anxiety and a need for disentanglement. Staying up “way too late” our hero has his share of scars and regrets: That desire to be free from a shackle; having been played and let down too many times. The entire band is focused and exceptional throughout- the composition snakes and progresses as the song goes on- and the composition has so much depth and detail. Unthink is more slow-building and evocative- not the instant attack of its predecessor. Wanting to “adjust to your smile” again we are under the wheels or a dilemma. The weapons-grade body- the song’s femme fatale possesses- is causing anxiety and anger; our front-man lets his voice climb and emote freely. Another concentrated and disciplined track, it is that band unity that defines the mood. The guitar enflames and stabs when needed; the percussion is relentlessly purging and searching. It is perhaps the bass parts that provide most fascinating: Elastic and dirty; snaking and melodic- so much colour and range is explored throughout the song. The title track is perhaps the E.P.’s most immediate and compelling cut: A song that begins with some personal doubts and matter-of-fact lyrics- it soon explodes into a demonic and animalistic beast. The vocal screams and exorcises; the song becomes a stabbed and bleeding thing- stumbling and staggering with fury. That quiet-loud dynamic keeps things unpredictable and exciting: It is a song designed for the sweating crowds; a mosh pit favourite that is designed to get bodies slamming against one another. Fingertips In juxtaposes the previous number: A softer and more emotive start, the composition stutters and judders along; the vocal runs a gamut of emotions- an harsh break-up is being surveyed and ripped open. Echoed vocals and a hugely exhilarating team performance keep the E.P. at its peak of desire and ambitious- that raw Punk edge blends perfectly with more melodic and introverted calm. 3’s and 6’s marries a dizzying introduction with an anthemic sound. The track’s initial moments largely consist of wordless vocals and electioneering sonics- leading to the E.P.’s most memorable lyrics. Slugs and snails (and puppy-dog tails) are “what little boys are made of”- girls are made of stronger stuff. The reverse-sexism-cum-nursery-rhyme-cuteness is reintroduced and spun: A mantra that becomes more inflammatory and raging with each presentation. Delicious strings; hissing percussion and rhythmic (and authoritative) bass give the song a richness and nuance. Xylophones and child-like chimes sit with unadulterated passion and fervor-resulting in a perfect swansong. A terrific initial E.P., the boys have since gained new confidence and quality: Old Bones sounds more varied and experimental; more wide-ranging and compelling. That said; you cannot ignore the effects and wonders of All Squares and Circles. Even in the earliest days, the band sound completely assured and vital: You can tell how much each song means; how much passion and attention goes into every moment. Over four years, the quartet keep their core sound and themes in tact; they expand and augment their qualities in Old Bones- a natural progression that saw them galvanise and come up with their best set to date.
I shall examine its maternal origins later, but I wanted to concentrate on the E.P.’s golden child: The stunning and entrancing sounds of Old Bones. The initial electronic distortion and discombobulation that opens the track puts me in mind of Progressive-Rock- a little bit of Radiohead’s Karma Police (the final moments of that song). Building gradually, you lean into the speakers and wonder what is coming next; the song’s early tease and mystery is enticing and ear-grabbing- before jumping into a self-help/Spoken Word parable. A predictably un-emotive and robotic sound- not sure who provided the vocal, yet it nails the inhuman sounds of self-help tapes- the voice speaks of lows and self-doubts; fears and clarities- at the sapling stages, echoes of Pink Floyd come out (not sure if they were on the band’s mind when writing the song). Right away, you are studying this list of fears and doubts; the guidance and motivational quotes- before that anodyne voice is drowned-out but a band ready to kick out the jams. The percussion leads the army into war: The composition is a canine attack that transposes the initial segment’s calm and composure- the composition has embers of ‘Britpop’ anthems and more current Alternative Rock. Having had your head inside a self-help-style verse, you now have your senses re-organised and spiked- the urgency and primitive pummeling washes away the early faux-sentiments. The guitars, bass and drums are strong and forceful from the off- this track is one that is highlighted in reviews for the E.P.- and once more demonstrates Yearbook’s unity and performance talent. Evoking memories of ‘90s glories- there are even little touches of Grunge thrown into the mix- the boys are very much stepping up to the plate. The bass notes mingling dirty and concrete with some genuine emotional resonance and colour- it works well with the guitar and drum to whip up a storm of sounds. Initial lines see our hero in apologetic mood: Sorry for the “way I’m always leaving”, it is almost a confessional sermon- a regretful and earnest plea to his girl. Whatever the reason for his flight-or-flight instincts, there is no instant explanation: Only the revelation that the absence means an “empty space in your bed”. A lot of bands are not quite as sensitive and honest in similarly-themed songs- maybe in an ironic way; the girls are a little more compassionate- so it is refreshing to hear Old Bones raise some new qualities- and create something tremulous and soul-bearing. It is hard to overlook the electricity and tormented nature of the vocals: High-octane and genuine, you feel empathy and sympathy for our lead (strangely, perhaps). Initial abandonment seems to be the result of travel or touring- perhaps a musician’s insight into real life- and the distance between the two is justified by pillow talk and electricity. If the lovers are separated by continents and oceans, their feelings and passions transcend the loneliness of their predicaments- you can hear that desire and passion in the vocal clearly (the composition is a lustful and impassioned outpouring). I get little glimpses of Manic Street Preachers when the vocal reaches fever-pitch- the compositional and instrumentation has little shades of their Everything Must Go work. A lot of bands include lyrics on their website if the song suffers clarity issues- shoddy mixing or poor production- yet Yearbook’s tones and notes are clear and crisp- whilst sounding almost like a live recording. It is astonishing to see the amount of detail (a word I use a lot) and diversions in the composition. Fuzzed-out guitar sits with twanging and hungry bass; riffled and militaristic drums cut through the mist- it is such an evolving and interchangeable beast. Ensuring the song never becomes boring or tired, the boys ensure there are no weak or ineffective moments. After the initial honesty and affection- marked by a distinct tonal shift in the composition- things become more recriminating and soured. Whether enforced by arguments and disenchantment, the vocals are more spiked and dark. If our man is following passion and sacrificing self; it seems his beau is suffering petulance and immaturity- maybe not being as accommodating and understanding as she should. Having stopped taking her pills- as they’re “making you ill”- things are unraveling and disintegrating. There is a been-there-seen-it fatigue in the lyrics- it seems this act has been tried a few times; a relationship that has seen its share of fall-out- and a weariness in the vocals. Perhaps the intercontinental drift and musical itinerary is a dream; the reality is an anchor and fallback- there is a sense of resignation and limitation throughout. The sexual passions do not burn and explode: The relationship is perfunctory and unspectacular; they are one another’s fallback plan. Whilst our man is mired in anger and dissatisfaction, his spiraling sweetheart is a fiery and troubled mind- someone who’s silver spoon is tarnishing and copper-coloured. The twin lead and compositional strengths- at every stage the band’s instruments create their own weight and shades- give the track a real power and urgency. The song is a constantly-shifting animal- from the quirky start to the softer verse; the more-bitter sentiments are unfolding. I was exhilarated by the how-many-arms-does-that-due-have?! drumming work; bowled-over by the addled and intoxicated guitar buzz; positively stunned by the buzz and command of the bass. Each player supports one another- the drum compels and drives the bass; the bass inspires the guitar; the vocal vibes from this linkage- and it results in a song that never relents its grandeur and unexpectedness. Past the half-way point, the compositional has done its work; the story carries on- hitting its most mordant and submissive point. It is said- and referencing the song’s title- we are just “old bones/Waiting to decompose”- an image and sentiment that provokes some rather bleak and stark images. Perhaps having seen the flame of dreams snuffed-out, our hero is resigned to his fate- perhaps ‘real life’ and the day-to-day is all we can rely on. Even when the words become defeatist and ho-hum, the composition remains burnishing and inventive. Contrasting the central themes/mood, the instrumentation ensures there is plenty of energy and endeavor- no shortage of colour and light. After the haunting proclamations- old bones and decomposition- the boys ensure Old Bones ends with a little swagger and wiggle. The guitar’s leather-clad cocksure cool combines with guiding and white-hot percussion drive- throw in some valiant and stand-out bass notes- give the song memorable dying embers. Ensuring we end with a bang, Old Bones completes its campaign- and compels you to come back for more; a song that makes you go back in- its nuances and complexities beg for fond investigation and repeated study.
With Halloway, Brooker, Dickinson and Martin completely united and exceptional, it is hard to find any fault of weak moment. Old Bones is brilliantly produced and mixed- ensuring nothing is watered-down or mixed-down- and the song has so much to recommend. The lead vocals are instilled with so much conviction and passion throughout: whether protesting for common ground or spitting with venom, they are compelling and stunning. Never sounding too much or too little, you get a perfect blend of technique, passion; power and nuance- with each play you spot little details in the vocal. The percussion is something that is octopus-like and avalanching: Whipping-up so much hardness and masculinity, you get ample amounts of technique and composure- Dickinson (on percussion) blends perfectly with Halloway throughout. The guitar work of Halloway and Brooker is impressive and strong, yet does not stand out as much as the drums and bass. An exceptional amount of emotion and rhythm; intelligence and style is elicited in the bass parts. Martin not only shows his mastery of the instrument; he combines wonderfully and keep the song level and disciplined at every stage- ensuring it never runs away and loses its focus. The entire band ensure Old Bones’ title track sticks in the mind: It is hardly surprising it is a standout from the E.P.; a song that shows the Hampshire band at their very best.
Old Bones- the song and E.P. - reflects a band who put their hardest efforts and passions into the music. Having toured and toiled relentless- I am sure their gig schedule still has the odd ‘challenging’ date- it would be good to see them sojourn to the studio; capitalise on that raw and nuanced gem- produce a sophomore E.P. that cements their reputation and fantastic songwriting. The Yearbook structure does not rely on the front-man or one facet: Each component is vital- from the music to the lyrics- and the there are no egos at play. Each player has full respect for each other; the songs are as a result of shared appreciation and understanding- few bands have such a tight and compelling sound. Before I give a ‘mini-review’ of the E.P; I am going to sum up my points- relating to the band and music itself. The mainstream is putting a lot of attention towards/currency in the solo acts: It would nice to see some genuinely scintillating and long-lasting bands emerge and prosper- in addition to the ones we have at the moment. From Royal Blood to Deerhunter, we have some wonderfully original and merit-worthy bands around- those that are immune to the worst instincts of critical pens. I am exciting about the underground music scene: Being connected with various venues and record labels, I get to see so many great acts emerge and seduce- those that could be festival favourites in years to come. Yearbook are a band with no shortage of ammunition and confidence: Their songs do not suffer fatigue and lack of ideas- they uncover new insights over time; showcase a rare songwriting talent. Old Bones is an E.P. that drops with dedication and love: The sheer joy and importance of making music; the hard and sweaty riffs; the sweet and ear-catching bass- topped with primal vocals and some heart-pounding percussive support. If you have not encountered the innovative young band, make sure you follow their progress; see them at Boileroom in November- Old Bones is a testament of their abilities and acumen; a sign of things to come. With that in mind- and seeing how the band’s year will pan out- there are some expectant ears and excited fans. Whether they craft another E.P.; decide to expand over the course of an album- or dedicated themselves to some solid touring- there is certainly a fan-base out there.
Ropes is Old Bones’ second track: Following from the title track, we get something that is instant and insistent. The track fires from the blocks and shows a consistency and intrigue throughout. The band is tight and compelling as always; the lyrics look at break-down and holding on. You can feel the hopelessness and strain in every lyric. The band brings in biblical imagery and clever wordplay to score a song that sees two lovers going through the motions. The walks between the bed and wardrobe are marathon-like; the heart and soul are empty and exsanguinated- pure silence where once there was energy and love. Showing how deft and ingenious their lyrics can be; Ropes is one of the E.P.’s most stunning set of lyrics- some of Old Bones’ most haunting and unsettling lines. There are funereal scenes and we-gave-it-our-best-shot haunt- by the end, you are emotionally rung and exhausted.
We Are Strangers boasts the E.P.’s most insistent and hard-hitting composition. The drums are animal-like and rollicking; the boys are having fun on this one- you can hear how dedicated they are to the material. One of the E.P.’s standout moments, the lyrics look (once more) at relationship imbalance and doubts. Our lead is plagued by doubts and expectations: He has lost his dreams and is a shell of what he was; his lover is his secret- some self-pity and realism comes into play. Never sounding too precious and false, the lyrics and vocals are delivered with conviction and reverence. The song is perhaps not the E.P.’s finest moment; it does however affirm the band as a force to be reckoned with- another track that is designed to ignite and get the crowds singing along with pride.
Classic Literature is a symphony of pained vocals and Progressive-Rock riffs: sky-scarping and epic, the song starts with an immense bang. Showcasing some primo screamed vocals, you cannot deny the importance and emotion at play- how much anger and resentment there is. Whoever the heroine is- whether she is the same figure across all the tracks- she is certainly someone that causes pain (bit of a bitch by the sounds of things). Our lead is in the eye of a hurricane; fighting demons and inner-turmoil, he lets his anger and vitriol spew with abandon. Whereas the song’s first half investigates fall-out and resentments; a few clichés here and there- heart being kept in a box; being tied up in knots- the second half is a different affair. Time is reset and the relation starts a-new. Walking to Hardcore territory, the vocal delivery is at its most insistent and pained. The final refrain- “I am Napoleon/I’m changing the rules on you”- is intriguing and fascinating. The band likes to weave historical and religious imagery into things- perhaps our man has a Napoleon complex himself?- but the imagery here is fantastic and evocative.
Time Management is the E.P.’s penultimate number- quite a little beauty at that! I have seen a couple of reviews that have noted it is bordering on filler- tosh and bollocks. From its calm and riparian introduction- replete with tripping percussion- it is one of the band’s most accessible and memorable numbers. Highlighting their most curious and noteworthy set of lyrics- “There must be more to us than the things we can’t escape” is perhaps the E.P.’s defining statement- the boys notch up the offensive. Although not straying far from the shores of broken love and personal hollowness, they present their ‘comfort zone’ with new light. Multi-tracked and duel vocals add potency and layers; the composition is one of the most fertile and detailed- changing pace and conjecture at will. Our lead is caught between two minds really. He is not sure he needs her (the girl) and is positively apathetic at times. That said, there is a yearning and need that bubbles under the surface. These emotional contradictions and murky agendas show a man whose heart is undecided- one of the E.P.’s most interesting manifestations. Consistently dramatic and driving, the song end beautiful- you think it has stopped it has died but comes back for one final dive (like Carrie rising from the water).
A lot of bands- when it comes to E.P.s- do not realise your final number needs to be one of your best. The golden rules of track listings are: Put one of your ‘top three’ songs up-top; make sure the middle is strong enough to sustain interest- end with one of your best cuts (ideally finish with your finest number). I see too many E.P.s that violate these rules; end with a damp and forgettable track- puts their best numbers too far up the mix. Whereas Yearbook begins with one of their finest jams- in the top three for sure- they ensure they wrap things up with a sizzler. Already Heard- an online music blog- labelled Sinker thus: “…less an echo of Brand New circa 2006 than a second-rate copy à la tribute band. Vocal mannerisms, song structure and instrumental arrangement all mirror Lacey and cohorts to an almost laughable degree, but much like B-movies borrow the conventions of blockbuster cinema and vulgarize them, it doesn’t inherently make it a bad track.” Aside from the grammar errors and off-topic tangents, I would disagree with their conclusions and assumptions. The band might want to send the review a package of dog mess in the post, but Sinker does not sink- it swims sublimely. The lyrics show paranoia and fear. Our lead’s heroine seems infatuated and obsessed with her man; there is a slightly unnerving edge to things. The guitars, bass and drums really come into their own here. The guitar work is riffled and exhilarating throughout; the drumming varied and mutational- matching and mirroring the lyrical/vocal needs. The bass does not sit back and simply play away: It creates its own gravity and personality- the best bass work across the album, perhaps. When the vocal rises and reaches boiling point- when our hero feels his head is taken-over; his bed too claustrophobic- that is when you realise the words are not hollow and forced. The pained and defeated vocals show a man pummeled by attrition: His life is being controlled by an unwanted woman; someone who cannot take ‘no’ for an answer. As visceral and overt as anything across the E.P. it ensures Old Bones ends on a high- Already Heard need to clean the wax out of their ears!
I am a year late to the Yearbook party; I have enjoyed dipping into their divine E.P. - I will make sure I review them when they come to Boileroom. I would not say my time keeping is completely without fortune: It gives new listeners and fans a chance to seek-out a wonderful young band- one whose best days are still ahead. Old Bones fizzes and entices from first to last; containing so much passion and range, there is something for everyone. Above all, the lads showcase themselves as one of the scene’s most potential-filled bands- one who will be playing the high-profile festivals in years to come. Whilst they decide what moves they make next, I would advise they put pen to paper- it would be great to hear another E.P. In a scene that promises few genuinely great bands, make sure Yearbook are part of your rotation. With that being said, think it is time…
TO give the E.P. another spin!
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