Friday, 12 December 2014

Album Review - The Xcerts - There Is Only You

Having released their second album Scatterbrain way back in 2010, it feels like we’ve been waiting an absolute age for the return of Aberdeen’s finest noise makers, The Xcerts.

Alas, the wait is finally over and the trio are back with a brand spanking new bunch of tunes, collectively known as There Is Only You.  The hype around its release was definitely high but not many could’ve anticipated the sheer raw yet perfectly polished nature of the album.  This is what happens when pure emotion meets great production.  More specifically, the astounding efforts of old pan Dave Eringa and new pal Paul Steel, the other half of frontman Murray's short lived side project, Cold Crows Dead.

After the short introduction, 2.12.12, which instantly reminds you of Murray and co’s power to evoke All Of The Feels through chord progression alone, it’s straight into Live Like This, a raw and raucous opener that washes over you with its shroud of thundering distortion.  Who knew blasting some fuzzed up noise pop could feel as cleansing and cathartic as this?

Shaking In The Water was the first we’d heard from the new album – the band had actually begun testing it out live towards the end of the Scatterbrain era.  Catchy as hell, it was the first indication we had that this new album would be a departure in sound from the previous two, embracing all the very best and most fun elements of pop music, whilst, lyrically, maintaining that dark, brooding approach.  The lesson here?  When self-loathing, why not just have a wee dance?

Now, Murray is rather adamant that the songs on this record are not directly inspired by his break-up earlier this year.  But with songs like Kick It, a loud, relentless ode to messy, drunken arguments and I Don’t Care, a slower, but just as powerful, song about impending relationship destruction, it’s quite hard to believe him.  Then there’s the small matter of the album’s title. You’re fooling no one, Murray.

After Kevin Costner, an impassioned ode to the actor, there’s a triple whammy of excellent ‘screw it, let’s dance’ songs.  Teenage Lust sees that unabashed embracing of pop, with infectious verses and a great sing-a-long chorus.  This is something the band have always had a talent for (Aberdeen 1987, anyone?) and on this record, it’s found in abundance.  Pop Song is, by no means, an exception, with its stadium sized drums and Baywatch-esque piano melodies, as Murray declares, “You haunt me like a pop song in my head.” Kids On Drugs is another slower-paced but hard-hitting number, with a huge chorus that could easily fill spaces ten times the size of the clubs they currently sell-out.

In the final tracks, things fade in volume and pace but grow, exponentially so, in sentimentality.  While She has all three members come together to deliver the bittersweet message that love is, indeed, blind, the closing title track sees Murray pour his heart out with just piano and strings.  However, it’s not long before the guitar, drums and bass are re-introduced for one final explosion of sound.  And, wow, is it a beautiful explosion.

If there was any shred of doubt that The Xcerts deserve to headline the kinds of large-scale venues in which they have supported the likes of Brand New, Twin Atlantic and, dare we say, even Biffy Clyro, There Is Only You has well and truly shattered it.  Having been together since their teens, this band are made for great things.  It’s only a matter of time before we see these become reality.

- Nina Glencross

The Xcerts - There Is Only You is out now via Raygun Music and is available on CD and limited edition picture disc here.  A deluxe version of the album (with two bonus tracks) can be downloaded from iTunes.

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