(Please note that I wrote this review before I read the band's biography – probably a mistake!)
It's been forever since I've sat down to write more than just a few lines or a paragraph about a new album release. So bear with me as I could be a bit rusty!
I've listened to this album a lot over the last month. In the car, on the stereo, on the iPod, on my PC and in my office.
Thirteen Seventy are, according to their internet presence, a "noise/rock band from Brisbane".
I happened across them when my very good friend, and fellow music lover, DJ FatBoy sent me a link to listen to one of their tunes. He works with Clint who is the guitar player, vocalist and main writer for the band.
I was pretty impressed with the track and before too long a CD arrived from DJ FatBoy. I resisted the iTunes download option. I like the hard copy in my hot little hands – and the sound quality is better anyway.
For your hard earned dollars you get eleven tracks of rock music with a distinctly Australian flavour. Not Australian in an AC/DC, Angels way but with a mix of flavours. The band list 90's Seattle as well as Australian underground music as their influences and that's a fair description. The guitars are dirty and grungy without being harsh – more Tumbleweed than Soundgarden. There are rich harmonic tones which suggest a love of bands like Dinosaur Jr.
In terms of the song writing, these are mostly songs about relationships in different stages, songs about pain and of helplessness. The album title is "Arrest The Slide" so you could see this album as someone's musical line in the sand.
Whereas with any number of uber-popular bands you know that most of the tracks on an album will be similar, it is not the case for Thirteen Seventy. They always sound like themselves and have a definite and recognisable sound, but there is depth and difference in each track.
The album opens with "Labour In Vain". It's a Radio Birdman / Stooges / Bo Diddley mashup sound which works a treat. And they're into the chorus in about 30 seconds which makes this a great track for radio in my opinion. The song has an urgent beat, tasty guitars and a great vocal performance. And for an indy release the balance in the mix is great. The drums and bass cut through clearly with everyone having their own place in the audio spectrum. (http://youtu.be/mUTaJQoZJVY )
Track 2 is called "F*** Up Again". (the asterisks are mine). With a quiet Nirvana-esque opening followed by the guitars cranking up for the chorus this one is more mainstream than the album's opener. It sounds like the vocals are double tracked in places (or some kind of effect is used) and this adds great texture. (http://youtu.be/Ar-ISW2uxzM )
Next up is "My Lover Loves Everybody". With an insistent single chord introduction this track is very, very catchy and I can see any huge festival crowd pogo dancing to this one. The guitars here sound heavily compressed and driven hard (while retaining an all important warmth that is a feature of the record) – it's a real wall of sound which is sublime to my ears. I think you can probably work out the lyric meaning from the title although there's a twist. (http://youtu.be/PIl4AzS6wEY ) Check out this live version too - http://youtu.be/KpR7QdqpkFg
"What You Know" is a slow, minor key moody number that's maybe reminiscent of Type O Negative. There are subtle background noises that give this track an eerie feeling – and there's an epic guitar solo that sits far enough back in the mix to blend perfectly with the song instead of assaulting our senses and leaving the band behind. It's a horror movie of a song. Great stuff; Nick Cave or the Sisters of Mercy would love it.
"Lost In Translation" starts in a fairly similar vein to the previous track and I was concerned that they would be too similar. But then a great major key riff kicks in with some big drums and a raw vocal delivery to set a very different scene. There aren't a lot of lyrics to this song but it sounds like an "up yours" type of song.
Track 6 is entitled "Medusa". The opening guitars have a rather groovy dripping sound as the notes ring probably as a result of whatever delay/reverb/phasing/chorus effect they have employed. It sounds fab. This song makes good use of quiet and loud parts. The guitars are much more overdriven here but well controlled. Maybe a Sonic Youth type sound but the melody is more mainstream – in a good way. And in the middle of the 8 minutes of this track you suddenly understand why the band describe themselves as noisy. It's a wonderful psychedelic maelstrom that The Doors or early Pink Floyd would be proud of. It's easy to make a lot of noise, but it's hard to make it sound good and this does.
For "Missing" the guitars are cleaned up and shimmering. The vocals are almost spoken and are definitely dark! Even when the band eventually kicks in there's a quiet grace that they manage to maintain despite sounding really, really loud. There's a spot where the rhythm guitar has a ripped speaker sound that Neil Young would covet.
Track 8, "Blood Is Red", should be listened to on a good sound system or through headphones. There's been some thought been put into where the vocals appear on the stereo spectrum and it really sounds good. It's almost a call and response effect. I really enjoyed the drumming in this track – there's a fantastic staccato or almost military snare fill that really hits the spot (that's a horrible pun – sorry). And there's a real anger to the vocal delivery which is very compelling.
"Sheep" is next up. I'm reminded of a few Lemonheads songs by this one – or maybe a heavy version of You Am I. You could even imagine silverchair ripping their way through this one. For sure the band hasn't lost their momentum as we near the end of the album – they're still rocking hard.
The penultimate track is called "Breathe". The guitar sound at the start of this track is straight out of the Ric Ocasek handbook – but The Cars were never so close to shoe gazing. We're treated to an almost whispered vocal introduction before a cleaned up version of the band join in. As the song goes on the spoken word parts are reminiscent of tracks from The Mark of Cain and again, The Doors. It's another long track clocking in at 9m 45s and it never gets old. Not many bands can carry on for more than about 5 minutes without getting boring or self-indulgent so hats off to Thirteen Seventy! The lyrics are spooky – there's an early Black Sabbath feel that creeps in. Don't skip past this song.
Lastly is the song "1370". Beginning with an acoustic guitar recorded to sound far away this track has a hidden or demo feel about it. Lyrically this number fits well with the album but with only acoustic guitar and vocals I found myself waiting for the band to start playing along. The fact that this didn't happen in the end wasn't an issue – the song works well by itself and you feel that you've had a little taste of something very personal.
To sum up – should you buy this album? I reckon it's well worth a few dollars. It's well recorded, the song writing is solid and the musicianship is very good. It's certainly an album that I'd want to listen to again.
You can get more information on the band here: http://www.myspace.com/thirteenseventy or here: http://www.facebook.com/thirteenseventy/info or even here: http://www.youtube.com/thirteenseventyband
Thanks for reading folks,