Outfit - Performance

A debut defined by exactitude and clever concepts.

Rating:

Outfit’s debut album is near-cripplingly self conscious. Opener ‘Nothing Big’ sounds lost, calling out ‘can anybody hear us?’. It reaches out for an audience, a source of reassurance. Writing the majority of the record outside of home city Liverpool, London loomed over the band like a shadowed giant, lending a sense of dislocation and impermanence. It’s the sort of situation that could land the group in a crisis of confidence.

But these initial, nagging doubts are cancelled out. Changing cities brought Outfit aside from their comfort zone, all for the better. ‘Nothing Big’ might sound like a call for help lyrically, but musically it’s an assured beast. Exactitude reigns over. Opening statements rarely come as heavily thought-out as this. Every millisecond sounds like the product of obsessive after-hours work, one finishing touch replacing another.

If anything, that could lead ‘Performance’ down a similarly dogged path of sounding overdone and forced. Somehow, a human quality persists. It arrives through those opening, self-doubting declarations, in ‘Two Islands” direct cry of ‘I don’t know anyone else in here’, in ‘Thank God I Was Dreaming”s dreamy state, where it ponders what would happen if an entire city collapsed into shreds. It’s these honest, diary-like proclamations that turn a robotic record into something tangible.

At its best, ‘Performance’ is a wild, swaggering giant. Its title track is confidence runs riot, eerie musicianship overseeing showoff time structures. Vocalist Andrew Hunt does his very best Alexis Taylor impression in the sin-spliced ‘House on Fire’, placing biting electronics next to giant, crystallised guitars. ‘Spraypaint’ is the standard-bearer. A guilt-ridden calling card that recounts ‘washing my hands’ of ungodly deeds, it’s a deathly shade of dark.

Always aware of its character it might be, but ‘Performance’ puts on one hell of a show from start to finish. Towing a risk-ridden route, Outfit don’t play an easy game. Their precision could be alienating, coming off like the kid in school with all the yoyo-tricks who everyone pretended to like but secretly loathed. Ability isn’t the be-all-and-end-all, and the band are thankfully aware of this. Outfit are instead more intent on being direct, wielding hard-hitting songwriting through the most oddball means available. As a result, we’re left with one of the year’s stand-out debuts.

More like this

The People Have The Power: Mystery Jets

The People Have The Power: Mystery Jets

Having already set their sonic sights on the ’80s and outer space, on ‘A Billion Heartbeats’, Jets’ feet are firmly back on Earth, documenting the here and now in their most important work to date.

Place Your Bets: Sports Team

Place Your Bets: Sports Team

Against all odds, Sports Team have gone from a word-of-mouth novelty to genuine contenders. Now, with debut ‘Deep Down Happy’, they’re aiming for the gold medal.