This is a review of "In Debt To" recorded by Napoleon IIIrd. The review was written by Nestor Watach in 2007.
Recently, there’s been a contrast of sorts when going out – some nights can be spent bumping into some of the most passionate promoters and talented musicians the city can offer; people who have a genuine enthusiasm for the music scene in Leeds. Whereas other nights can be spent staring at my shoes just contemplating “why!?” as some people wander around drunkenly throwing up into their converses, others find it really engaging to throw bricks at other bricks, and a fair few are just pretty content to have a brawl in the middle of the street (Sorry to say, but none of this is fictitious for hyperbole’s sake).
To me, the debut record ‘In Debt To’ from Leeds/Wakefield-based Napoleon IIIrd (real life handle James Mabbett) is the perfect representation of this city-life juxtaposition – often ranging from melancholic to mischievous – “I love this city but I won’t walk home at night” says it all, really. What makes this record so engaging is that it’s just so much more inventive than every single “band of the people” (see: Twang / Enemy / Ordinary Boys) you’ve ever heard about – in fact, it feels completely wide of the mark to even mention them comparatively; Napoleon’s eccentric sound bites and lo-fi production quite frankly piss all over any banal indie guitar-band tripe.
By and large, hearing about the dreariness of 9-5, and the horror of late-night city centres is something that repulses me in music; a tedium I feel it’s vital to escape, not expose myself to. The real triumph of ‘In Debt To’ is that it not only makes these themes enjoyable, it somehow makes them fascinating. Mabbett seems to express his views on society more articulately and with more fluency than any of his contemporaries – for example “This is not my life / It’s just my day job / The way I pay the rent” will be bouncing around your head for days, not only due to the sheer catchiness, but also because of the poignancy and insight of the lyrics.
For some listeners, some of the tracks on the LP may feel a little cluttered and imprecise with the myriad of layers presented, especially as opposed to stripped-down gorgeousness of the lovelorn ‘Kate’s Song’. However, on repeated listens tracks such as new single ‘Hit Schmooze For Me’ and ‘Defibrillator’ reveal themselves to have hidden intricacies and depth –‘In Debt To’ is layer upon layer of eccentric excellence, with classic pop melodies and songwriting at the heart of it all.
“Listen to what I say, average is not the best you can do” – You’re damn straight, Mr. IIIrd; ‘In Debt To’ has secured your place as one of the most exciting artists in the city of Leeds. Nay, the UK. Nay, the world.