he ranks of indie rock bands don’t appear to be ready to thin out anytime soon, which only makes it harder for young bands to differentiate themselves from the pack, especially since the Arcade Fire are now more popular than the Rolling Stones. But the Concretes managed to break through the rubble last year, riding on the power of Victoria Bergsman’s alien voice and their above average sleepy-eyed arrangements.
Layourbattleaxedown is a miniature career overview of sorts, collecting recent b-sides, but also restoring five songs from 2001’s lost Nationalgeographic EP (Insert obligatory space bar joke here). None of the material, newer or older, represents any radical departures from The Concretes, but everything is worthy of inclusion.
The first four tracks are the CD’s most varied and, hence, the set’s strongest. As on the debut, the Concretes retain their familiar sound throughout the disc, but tweak them all just enough that the songs become instantly identifiable from each other. On “Forces,” they incorporate an accordion and a horn solo toward the end that heightens the song’s sense of loneliness. “Sugar” turns the tempo up just a tad, and “Lady December” is the best that Layourbattleaxedown has to offer—its lilting keyboards and violins, along with the overarching “forgive and forget” message, almost necessitate that it play in the background of some charming romantic comedy’s denouement.
After another strong entry with “The Warrior,” the Concretes try their hand at a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Miss You.” Unlike so many pointless rehashes of old classics, the band actually does its best to inflect their own style upon “Miss You.” The end result itself isn’t a terrific success, but they do manage to transform it into a Concretes song—highlighting exactly why so many consider them to be so promising in the first place.
The disc’s second half isn’t nearly as exciting as the first. While none of the songs are boring in and of themselves, there are just a few too many “Pale Blue Eyes” types sequenced together to not become at least a little overbearing. You might as well just listen to the Clientele instead. But “Seems Fine Shuffle,” which closes the set, is a fun retake on one of The Concretes’ better tracks, and is what compilations like this are for.
For big time Concretes fans, Layourbattleaxedown is something worth getting excited about, especially those of you wondering what might have been had the Nationalgeographic EP ever seen the light of day. But while Layourbattleaxedown comes reasonably close to equaling the debut, it misses by just enough that for impartial fans, its beauty will lie firmly in the eye of the beholder.
Reviewed by: Ross McGowan
Reviewed on: 2005-07-27