This is a review of "Everything's irrelevant and no idea's original" recorded by This Et Al. The review was written by Sam Saunders in 2003.
The big art rock sound of This Et Al has plenty of variety and invention about it. There’s a range of influences from Radiohead through Mogwai to Interpol and a vigorously accomplished approach to playing their instruments.
Neil Widdop sings passionately if incoherently, Steven Wilson drums like a beast, Ben Holden flails the guitar with great control and Gavin Bailey holds a very solid bass line. Each song has a distinct character and this set of three will convince any promoter that here is a band they would want on their stage pulling in admiring punters and exciting passers by.
"Police Officer" is a thick slab of umptious up-beat heaviness. It isn’t really about anything and it doesn’t really go anywhere. But the vocal tone has something reminiscent of Jeff Buckley’s desperation about it. There is certainly something dramatic going on as the song approaches the play out section, and then it goes back to the rather meandering "oo oo ooh" that we started with.
"Common Science" has a punkier feel at the start, with a strong lead from the kit. And then it pauses for breath in early Radiohead emulation style and rushes off with fully distorted guitar chords beavering away under a big wash of cymbals and other percussive mysteries. Again, I’m not entirely sure what we’re singing about. The voice is sweetly falsetto at some points and there is a nice jaggy bit of guitar thrown in like a dangerous blade now and again. The ending goes pastoral and light for no obvious reason. But it is done with style.
"Transmit the Ends" is big and ringing and climactic right from the off. It's like coming in at the end of a good sweaty set ... but then the song starts all over again with a sustainable tune that draws much more attention to the vocal line. Something about "the hub of your transmission". And every so often the whole band go mental, playing as much as they can, because they're passionate. If truth be told, the dynamics are really the star. When the CD title declares "Everything’s irrelevant and no idea’s original" I suppose we just have to believe it and not expect to understand or care too much.
My own feeling about this CD is that This Et Al are closely involved in the thrill of their favourite (very contemporary) bands and with recreating the emotional charge of those heroes through passion and dynamics. Those thrilling power surges are great, but they also need to carry something fine that is both relevant and original.
So here is a band with extreme promise. Delivery will, for a while, be in the live set. Maybe there can be some kind of capture and editing by an accomplished producer a year or two down the line. This CD will then sound like a wonderful breath of ill disciplined thrashing. It outdistances most entry level bands by a long way.