hoever would have thought that A Weekend in the City would have such influence? “Not many people bought that record, but everyone who did formed a band,” they’ll say, and the band all four of them formed was called Goodbooks. Well, Goodbooks have been around since 2005, so perhaps they’ve actually just been stalking Kele Okereke through the same London streets, and reaching similar conclusions. Except, while Bloc Party’s reputation can still be kept afloat by the success of their debut, Goodbooks will have to vastly improve on Control if they are to be known as anything other than an approximation of another average British indie band.
And there are plenty of those already—Britain is a small island with a disproportionately active indie scene where trends replicate easily, with only tiny variations between each group. Even Goodbooks’ name is confusingly similar to another new guitar band who prefer footwear to fiction. Goodbooks try to stand out from the crowd by being “literate” and slightly “electro,” and they do have a disco bent that lightens the mood—when it appears. But most of the time they aren’t dancing, they’re being earnest, and it’s a right bloody bore.
Take latest single “Passchendaele” as an example. It’s an anti-war song about how men die in wars, and that’s tragic, and yet wars keep happening—usual stuff. But that’s it—arguably there’s little else to add in explaining the tragedy of war, but that’s not the oh-so-clever reason why Goodbooks say nothing else about it in this song. For a truth so profound, they don’t half tell it in a glib way—it’s as if they’ve only just read about it in school. Meanwhile, guitars are glimmering on a 2-note riff, shaky synths are stabbing and the chorus is big and hooky, with the whole package safely chart-bound. Like too much of Control, it neither moves the feet, nor the heart, nor the mind.
So what are Goodbooks good at? For most of the album, the only “electro” elements apparent are the beats-and-beeps intros—until the guitars and drums kick in, whereupon that all gets swamped. The exceptions actually show some promise—“Violent Man Lovesong” and, hilariously, the two-minute hidden track. The former is built on deep sea atmospherics, multi-layered fruity loop beats, minor chord piano, and intimate vocals. The combination of shifting, scuttling rhythms and Elbow-esque romanticism works a treat, and suggests a possible new direction. Three minutes after the final song has ended, a similarly dream-like hidden track emerges, again with a solemn piano motif that suggests an understanding for how to make this angle work—though it’s never developed, because it’s only a hidden track designed to wake up the lazy listeners who haven’t pressed ‘stop’ yet. It’s amusing—and telling—to find such a brief and experimental moment among the best on the entire record.
Of Control’s central guitar-driven theme, “The Curse of Saul” deserves a sympathetic listen—it tells an anti-war story from the view of the unwilling populace, over bouncy synths and a catchy disco bassline. But the battle Goodbooks is fighting is the one for your ears and, for the most part, they’ve decided to go to war with fast guitars, hooky synths, and big choruses, as well as complaints about the rat-race, relationships, and getting old (well they are 21). Does that sound like what you need? Was your thirst not satiated already this year by Bloc Party, Editors, and Maximo Park? If not, then you won’t be disappointed.
Reviewed by: Ally Brown
Reviewed on: 2007-07-31