About Group - Between The Walls

Wonderfully unhinged; just still needs a little more structure.

When it comes to super-groups, About Group aren’t exactly what springs to mind. But their keen sense of jazz/electronic experimentation certainly doesn’t lack intrigue. Comprising Charles Hayward (This Heat), John Coxon (Spiritualized), Pat Thomas and Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor, the side-project took up the About Group moniker for the release of their second album, 2011’s ‘Start And Complete’. This was an album that saw the group sculpt the improv jam sessions of their debut into arrangements that were a little less chaotic. ‘Between The Walls’ finds them attempting to structure that free-form method further while still trying to balance their quest for a live, spontaneous feel.

That live element is captured right from album opener ‘After Video’ as Hayward’s crashing drums and cymbals immerse the opening minutes in what sounds like the band simply warming up, before transitioning into a slow-building rendition of Dionne Warwick’s ‘Walk On By’. Beginning with a Black Keys-esque groove, it slowly escalates into an unhinged instrumental, intact with Alexis Taylor’s warbling falsetto.

It’s Taylor who takes centre stage for the most part of the album as the likes of ‘Make The World Laugh’, ‘Nightlife Sinking’ and the more soulful ballad ‘If You Can’t Love Me’ become immersed in his characteristic croon, as the arrangements build around the those silky, soul-pop vocals and tender lyrics. There are even tracks here that could quite easily be adapted versions of long-lost Hot Chip songs, see especially ’All Is Not Lost’ which, with more of a disco beat could fit right in with the tracklisting of 2012’s ‘In Our Heads’.

But when the songs sway away from the vocal focus point, things start to get messy and slightly unfocused. While that may be criticising the point of ‘free playing’ and ‘lack of clarity’, it does feel less a collaborative project and more like they’ve been given a bit too much room to run wild. Take ‘Untitled’, for example: the invasive feedback seems out of place amongst the more melodic takes, almost as if About Group are trying too hard to create that free-flowing feel. When they do collaborate though, is when the album really shines. See the whirling organs of the funfair-like ‘Yes’ and the ripping guitar licks of ‘Love Because’. ‘Between The Walls’ is wonderfully unhinged; it just still needs a little more structure.

Tags: About Group, Reviews, Album Reviews

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