Driver Drive Faster - Open house (aA Recordings)
I’m a bit behind the curve on this one (the curve being June 2011 - I know my colleague Jim Comic was well ahead of the curve on this), but this is an album too good to pass up from the Manchester four-piece. It’s freewheeling and forward-thinking folk rock with a strong pop conviction at the core (actually it makes me think of the kind of band Elbow could be if they weren’t so, dare I say, dour.). New single They may talk starts life as a glittering electric piano-sunburst guitar duet, but by the chorus has somehow morphed into a great falsetto-festooned jam, with some great hi-hats. Missing out is a classic English smalltown tearjerker, with hints of brass band under the chorus riff. A title like Can’t afford to rely on paté might turn you off but stick around for the plaintiff vocal and teardrop piano, it’s affecting. The superb Gravel dents throws the verse-chorus structure out the window but still manages to cram in a sackful of hooks (I particularly like the space-funk interlude about 1m30 in). A mile back makes like a strutting 1973 Bowie momentarily, before striking out for gloriously downbeat pop pastures. The arrangements are clever and unexpected but never overplayed, driven along by inventive, restless backbeats. There are shades of Mercury Rev (via The Band) in their more creative moments. But overall it’s closer to the kind of fertile English folk-pop territory that Darren Hayman has ploughed to great effect recently. It’s literate (as you’d expect from a band named after the opening line of a C.S. Lewis book) and relevant to now, but most importantly it’ll have you humming along with one fantastic pop tune after another.