Album Review

404 Guild - False Dawn

At once bleak, beautiful, emotionally charged and completely heartbreaking.

404 Guild - False Dawn
December isn’t really the ideal time to release a debut album: there’s a strong chance 404 Guild will find themselves lost in the perennial sea of rehashed greatest hits and festive crooners that take over come mid-November. But perhaps the idea of a hidden gem suits them: ‘False Dawn’ is at once bleak, beautiful, emotionally charged and completely heartbreaking. For every bit that last year’s ‘Guild Three: Open Water’ EP was raucous and confrontational in style, the group’s debut album proper uses a more subtle palette to show another side of those same raw edges. Vulnerable to extremes, it’s a microcosm of city life at its most anxious, peppering tender lines with trivial references to heavy effect. ‘Approach’ shows of small-hours insomnia (“My mind’s eye got blinded by ricochet”) while the “freak out in aisle three” of ‘Still’ is cutting in its everyday nature. Then there’s this gut-punch of a couplet in ‘Dead Air’: “I can see the past / It’s the future I can’t face.” ‘New Health’ does an immaculate job of playing with light and dark; the thematically soft “There is a hell on earth / And I’ll always share the dangers with you” is repeated with increasing angst as the song – clubby with added funk; think if Mike Skinner had Mark Ronson round for a guitar sesh at the turn of the millennium – manifests euphoria. ‘Sodium Light’ could be a Gorillaz cut – not least because of its Damon-like choruses – and ‘Evening Star’ is hypnotic in its almost jazz-like noodling. But the crushing blow comes with ‘Weak’ and ‘World Gets Better’. If the latter, a track which increases in vocal intensity to express pure spite at the very existence of spring and the newness it brings was one thing, that it follows a number that’s almost entirely based on a recording of the group’s Silvertongue – aka Mina Topley-Bird – who took her own life in 2019 makes for as pure and real a portrayal of grief as it gets. “The trains are still running / They’ve never been on time / My heart’s still beating / But I don’t feel alive,” it’s heart-wrenching. The context isn’t even needed to hit right where it needs to, either - the record does a spellbinding job of putting inner chaos into gorgeous, often soothing sonic form.

Tags: 404 Guild, Reviews, Album Reviews

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