After the sudden and disappointing demise of Birmingham quintet Blakfish, on what looked to many as the cusp of some recognition, comes Light Bearer by &U&I, comprised of three quarters of the previous line up. Aside from the idiotic name, there’s very little ‘boy band’ about this hardcore math rock act.
After an enticing opener these boys are keen to show their instrumental mastery and the pace picks up immediately. It’s gruff and loud but not as relentless as many punk outfits.
A lack of memorable hooks, and the straightforward lyrics, can mean that by half way through the record is at risk of blurring and losing impact, but then comes ‘Belly Full of Fire & a Heart Full of Blood’, followed by a mood swing.
Chilling harmonies that give The Beach Boys a run for their money are a highlight of the album. Sadness certainly now sits alongside the anger of their chosen genre, sinister, dark, emotive, but not always punk. So are they going soft?
At points in the second half of the album, tracks like ‘Baskerville the Atheist’ sound more like grunge-rooted alt-rock. Lo-fi bouncy riffs and tight snare sounds do remain. But subtly the guitars sing, notes are held, vocals layered and tension is built.
A kind of theatricality has entered their work; unlike so many punk records they draw you in before rather intentionally nutting you in the face. Gone are the cheeky, teenage, spoken rants and throaty eruptions of Blakfish, and here is a three-dimensional, full journey of an album.
With this undeniable, more palatable, mature progression of their musical output, there are worries that their raucous live performance, for which Blakfish were known so well, will become a bit more sedate. But seeing as relentless touring has again resumed, perhaps these fears are baseless.