Sunday, 17 January 2010

(EP Review) City Reign: Daybreak

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In northern poet, Simon Armitage’s autobiography,
Gig: The Life and Times of a Rock Star Fantasist, one brilliant, sympathetic block of writing sticks in the throat:

“Standing on top of West Nab, I can look out across a huge circumference of inspiration and influence. Starting westwards it’s Manchester and Lancashire, so it’s Joy Division and The Fall, it’s the Smiths and Elbow, it’s Magazine and the Buzzcocks and the Happy Mondays, it’s the Chameleons, it’s the Stone Roses, it’s Oasis (before they became they’re own tribute band)”.

Now another group is emerging in Britain’s most articulate popular-music-landscape, staking its claim with charmingly eponymous confidence. Comprised of recent graduates from the University of Manchester, City Reign is the cream of the city’s unsigned crop. This debut, five-track EP is loaded with emotionally intelligent lyricism and vivacious riffs in a brand new blend and bid to shake up our flat and squalid indie (independent?) culture.

Songwriters Bull and Grice are blessed with some of the best raw elements from the above rock n roll and post-punk pioneers, undulating their sound with harmony and angst, clear and clumsy vocals, simple and neoclassical verse, resulting in a throng of honest and amounting tensions. The title-track, Daybreak, acts as a mediator between the slow but beautiful Stranded and The Line, and the unforgiving Out In The Cold and Stay Where You Are. In Daybreak, a reference to Plato’s Phaedrus is seemlessly dropped in without pretentiousness. Meanwhile the chorus lyric for Out In The Cold, “So why won’t you let me go? / You’re asking questions and I don’t know”, observes, without the need for extrapolation, the sort of internal dialogue characteristic of any tired romance. Sometimes the poetry strays into sentimentalism, but it is a marketable dose of self-pity and defiance that will appeal to a variety of audiences.

After listening to the band issue their British guitar strains and commentary on urban claustrophobia for five tracks, it begins to feel as if Ian Brown, Noel Gallagher and Idlewild’s Roddy Woomble have morphed into a singular front-man with an updated, possibly new, vision. Albeit rusty and naïve, Daybreak achieves a longevity untypical of a debut EP. I am not naturally inclined to review music: people's tastes are so ephemeral, divisive and irresolute that arguments about music are as dull and exhausting as a theological interview. However, if record contracts are finally becoming more scarce, and with so many samey, daft songs on what once were alternative radio stations, this industry is in desperate need of more artists like City Reign before it is too late.

Click here for their myspace page, and to listen to tracks from Daybreak.

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