London Grammar: Truth Is A Beautiful Thing

Full of the raw emotion of youth? Or just full of corporate crap?

- London Grammar caught the world’s attention with Hey Now back in 2013, and it staked out the kind of aesthetic territory they continue pursuing here: epic, emotive, heartfelt, earnest. It’s like every scene from TV show Skins where the kids come down from the pills they took at the party and realise their imperfect parents have only ever done their best, that they are loved and that their English teacher doesn’t really hate them, but is being hard on them to help them find their unique voice and express it through poetry. This album makes me feel like a curmudgeonly old codger who disdains the naivete of the youth and their honest emotional awakenings. Is this sound for the re-boot of Twilight that will never be made? It sounds like the YA-fiction version of contemporary UK sounds.

Hannah Reid’s voice is real pretty, opening cut I’ll Be Rooting for You has her full range being tested out, from clarion soprano to the honeyed near-baritone of her bottom register. Big Picture has them continue in a particularly epic vein. I think U2’s Edge would be very pleased with the palm-muted delayed guitar work, but it takes me to a very earnest, very '90’s place.

Hell To the Liars laments “the grey-suited walkers” ... yep, we’re critiquing corporate-culture via a bland paint-by-numbers cookie-cutter soft-pop. Can something be utterly adolescent AND a kind of colourless Adult-Oriented-Rock for the the electronic age at the same time??

Everyone Else picks up the interest somewhat with a driven rhythmic guitar that shades into banjo.. [ probably a bad sign when the first glimmer of interest on your album is a banjo at the twenty minute mark. “you won’t find me here, you won’t find me there, you won’t find me anywhere” intones Reid.. indeed the personality is elusive, everything fits together so smoothly, evenly. More U2-esque delayed palm-muted guitars round out our little experiment with the banjo, and that’s a third of the album’s epic eighteen tracks down.

This seems to exist in the tradition of what is essentially British pastoral music. It’s the sound of rolling green hills and misty mornings, with a pretty voice and some plain, salt-of-the-earth poetry and just the tiniest sprinkling of magical-production-pixie-dust to make it sound somewhat mythic. Big sounding guitar-chords, big-room reverbs, giant-sounding pianos picking out booming baselines and delicate-yet-gigantic delayed guitars. Everything is punched up to eleven sonically, but it feels like this is done to cover a certain insubstantial quality in the material.

It’s possible that this is the British version of tween-emo-pop, that this is kinda perfect pop for those on that always-infinitely-meaningful cusp of the first heartbreak, first best-friend leaving town, or leaving home oneself. Perhaps the distinctly English tradition of moving cities for university creates the perfect captive market for this sound: coming of age, navigating novel interpersonal realities without the support of immediate family, such that the kind of sophomoric emotional realisations that seem to make up the substance of this album (people lie, the world can be unkind, relationships change) can be packaged up and sold afresh year after year, with a minimum update to match the previous generation’s sound-productions trends. Then all it takes is one mechanical synch with a hit Young Adult post-apocalypse dystopia franchise (Reid’s deeply felt pathos grafted onto Beatrice Prior from the Divergent series perhaps) and a new slew of fans are secured, everyone gets paid and goes home planning to do it all again in another three years.

It’s also possible that none of this tin-foil conspiracy bullshit is London Grammar’s fault, and they’re merely mining a genuine vein of lived experience and musical exploration, and their OK Computer moment is just around the corner... but it seems that whatever they’ve got going on just really isn’t my cup of tea.

- Kieran Ruffles.

 

Album Details

Album Title: Truth Is A Beautiful Thing
Artist: London Grammar
Record Label: (Dew Process / Universal)