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Album Review: About Group – Start & Complete

April 26, 2011

Originally posted on The 405

About Group Start Complete reviewLabel: Domino
Release date: 18/04/11
Link: Official
Buy: Amazon

About Group are what bored column writers in your Sunday newspapers would refer to as a ‘Super group’; in that they comprise of the established musicians Alexis Taylor from Hot Chip (the brainchild of AG), John Coxon and Pat Thomas of Spiritualized, and Charles Hayward of post-punkers This Heat.

The concept behind second album Start & Complete follows a similar path to that of their first, with the album recorded in just one day at the infamous Abbey Road studios. Therefore, much of it is of an improvised nature, with Taylor only having certain parts laid down before the recording and little over-dub in post production. A brave, and perhaps noble gesture indeed, but how as for the outcome… well, it’s arguably a better concept than listen.

A rigid sound is apparent throughout the album, of stifled 70’s style organs and electric pianos in a forced laidback manner akin to that of a jam; which is no surprise because that is what it essentially is. Second track and first full-length ‘Don’t Worry’ sets the tone by its mellow and pleasant tone, with classic rock solos sandwiched between Taylor crooning.

Although much of the album contains a bluesy, almost jazz feel, it lacks the true free-form nature of the aforementioned – the result being an odd kind of restricted spontaneity. Tracks where a looser feel is present such as with ‘You’re No Good’ work very well; here an 11 minute jam out is a group of musicians obviously enjoying themselves and getting caught up in the moment, and explores and pushes this bluesy aesthetic superbly.

‘Lay Me Down’ is another highlight that swaggers and is so overtly languid it just doesn’t give a shit – it’s nonchalant prose from Taylor getting under the skin and a memorable number. The issue however is that there simply aren’t enough of these catchy moments or memorable riffs as in these two tracks.

The recording process ultimately contributes to its downfall; it all sounds too similar in terms of pacing and atyle when listened to as a whole due to the narrow selection of sounds and instruments used and available whilst recording. Even Taylor’s sweet, pure and gentle voice that works so well when offset with the spiky and pacey nature in Hot Chip and other appearances, starts to grate which is deeply surprising, and a worry. However the theme of loss and a love forlorn in terms of lyrics work in its favour and blend aptly with the overall feel.

It’s a shame as there are some genuinely brilliant flourishes and interesting points scattered about; and it’s the kind of album that is a perfectly pleasant backdrop to a carefree and mildly boozy summers day. But instead we’re left wondering what might have been – it’s lack of stream of consciousness’ and safe rigidity feeling like a box in a cage.

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