This is a review of "Life Processes" recorded by ¡Forward, Russia!. The review was written by Lewis Denby in 2008.
Let's take a leaf out of the Life Processes book and get straight on with this one (it's precisely three seconds before the first of many huge choruses on display here). ¡Forward, Russia!, Leeds' biggest alternative outfit, releases second album. Any good?
Oh, of course it is.
It's brilliant. It's dark, it's edgy and it's weird – what did you expect, really? – but simultaneously subtle, elegant and in places simply beautiful. It's bold, it's inventive, it's exciting and it's every bit as good as Give Me A Wall. Musically, it's perhaps the finer of the two creations: each player's individual instrument work is showcased to a new level. Tom Woodhead's voice is given a new dynamic, particularly in the gloriously epic Gravity and Heat; Katie Nicholls' drums are bolder and more of a feature than just a means to an end; and Whiskas shows a few real strokes of genius with some of his guitar work, particularly the cheeky phrases in We Are Grey Matter. Rob Canning's bass is still about 'getting the job done', but even that pushes through the mix with an interesting effect or unusual lick every so often.
The best bit? None of it is ever overblown or pompous – it is, despite the added complexity, far less intensely self-indulgent than the first record. The guitars shimmer away, the drums pound through; but the songs are structured, directed and absolutely the focus of the album.
And, goodness, we're treated to some good songs. All of them, in fact. It's not even worth picking individual numbers out.
But perhaps the most impressive facet of this accomplished record is the way it weaves together so many different vibes and styles in such a cohesive and logical manner. Picking two random points on the CD is likely to lead to high contrast, but not once is there an obvious transition: the flow is absolutely seamless from the first note until the last. Even where two significantly different pieces are stationed together, the transition is approached with such a subtle confidence that the cohesion never slips. It's a highly impressive achievement.
So this means it's okay for ¡Forward, Russia! to treat us to the ethereal, dance-driven We Are Grey Matter before launching us headfirst into the urgent, chaotic yet hook-laden monster that is A Prospector Can Dream, which in itself throws in a quirky little shouty-folk section for good measure. It's fine that the opening bars of Don't Reinvent What You Don't Understand sound like something Arctic Monkeys would churn out, because within seconds the song sounds like Shut Your Eyes And You'll Burst Into Flames and At The Drive In and This Et Al and Interpol and every other high quality alternative name that rolls off the tongue, and you haven't even noticed the transition. It's frankly ingenious that the ridiculously named Fosbury In Discontent sounds like the closing number of a tragic musical with a CD sticking in the background. It's all fine, because it's all so ludicrously cohesive for such a disparate record. It shouldn't work. But it does.
But then, that's what ¡Forward, Russia! has always been about: extreme, off-the-wall music that's somehow totally accessible to the masses. And, in true ¡Forward, Russia! fashion, Life Processes manages to be simultaneously more accessible and more extreme than previous releases. It's – cliché time – a more mature record, certainly, and all the better for it. It's instant, yes, but it doesn't grow old. In fact, on the contrary, it develops and blossoms with every subsequent listen: a real sign of a truly great album, which it is, even right down to the brilliant artwork on the sleeve.
Standout tracks? The painfully glorious Spanish Triangles. And the fantastic single Breaking Standing. And every other song on the record, without exception. Sound like overblown hyperbole?
Well, roll on April 14th when you'll be gushing this much yourself.