Tubelord - Our First American Friends

Sounds overwhelming, right? Probably because, well, it is.

Label: Hassle

Rating: 9

Good grief. Where exactly do you start with this band!? We’ll keep it brief: Tubelord hail from Kingston in the UK, and are a three-piece - though listening to them you certainly wouldn’t think that. Believe us when we say that they make a hell of a lot of noise for a three-piece band.

They’ve said that they write ‘pop songs for rock kids’. What’s that sound like, you wonder. It sounds like the sprawling, accessible-yet-difficult ‘Our First American Friends’. Fans of ‘The Vertigo of Bliss’-era Biffy Clyro, or ¡Forward, Russia! will lap this up, as they’re two bands that spring to mind when listening to Tubelord. All three are big fans of unusual time signatures and song structures.

Take, for instance, opener ‘Your Bed Is Kind Of Frightening’, which morphs from a straight up 4/4 indie-pop tune (after starting life as an acoustic song) to a deliciously complicated jumble of time signature changes and about a million different song ideas all cleverly woven together… in under four minutes. This, then, is a prime example of what you’re getting yourself into when you start listening. Sections ricochet off each other, going through more changes than you could shake a stick at. Meanwhile, the band never forget to let their pop sensibilities shine through.

Sounds overwhelming, right? Probably because, well, it is. This is a lot to take in all in one sitting. However, we can think of few albums this year that are as much fun as ‘Our First American Friends’. ‘New Old Songs’, ‘Night of the Pencils’ and ‘I Am Azerrad’ epitomise the band’s sound, the former coasting along on gigantic choruses and distinctly memorable lyrics (‘Let’s spend the rest of summer stoned / And we’ll wake up for the winter / Fuck the memory of the sun / And there’ll be nothing to moan about’) and the latter pretty much a perfect pop song, albeit one with a dark heart - ‘I’ll kill today / I’ll kill you, Azerrad!’

However, the best track here is something that Tubelord aren’t known for: an acoustic track, ‘Cows To The East, Cities To The West’ by name. Quite an affecting three-and-a-half minutes, it also contains the single finest moment on the album. The guitar pattern changes as lyrics that would bring a smile to the faces of the most glum of men are sung: ‘Blue, green and yellow pens / Blew up in my bag again / The books ruined, the pages stuck / A library fine for me’. Breathtaking stuff, something that points at the acoustic album Tubelord have in the works being special indeed.

Recent single ‘Propeller’ is a straightforward (for Tubelord, that is) bass-driven song that features some exceptional drumming - quite a statement when you consider the kit-work behind ‘He Awoke On A Bench In Abergavenny’.

Again, just to clarify: Tubelord are a three-piece. Astonishing, isn’t it? Talented musicians all, they’ve squeezed so much in here that it can at times become too much. This is the smallest of criticisms, though, as they do it so well you can’t help but sit up and pay attention. A dazzling debut.