Glaswegian new boys Die Hard are tipped for great things so I approached this album with equally great expectations. Formed in 2011, apparently they spent much of the year holed up in a flat in the city centre recording this debut long player.
Much of the press to date has lumped them in with Baltimore’s Animal Collective; tagging them with that catch-all avant-garde label. Hmm. Whether or not to believe the hype? Well, this self-titled debut is a bold album; ambitious in scope and challenging in approach. Reading that back it sounds like I’m trying to be kind whilst slipping into euphemisms. It’s a record which promises much but, sadly, delivers little we’ve not heard before.
Opening track Nailed to the Cross is about as mainstream and accessible as the record gets. And it’s perfectly fine. It’s almost, almost like something from Kassidy’s Hope Street before shimmering into Swim Until You Can’t See Land-style Frightened Rabbit on the next track, 980C.
There’s a deftness of touch and a purposeful heartbeat to the album which calls to mind the likes of Sigur Ros or Explosions in the Sky. The production is excellent – swelling synths and quirky basslines abound but, unfortunately there are moments – notably on In The Garden – where the band get carried away and that song in particular sounded like someone with a hi-hat had been performing a mash-up with a BBC Sound Effects album.
There’s lots to like here; lots of wee bits. As well as the FRabbits, there were echoes of Arcade Fire and even occasional glimpses of The Airborne Toxic Event. At points it felt like I was listening to a souped-up, electronic version of the Secondhand Marching Band but, sadly, without their inherent charm.
The album feels like it never quite gets started – as though it’s part of something else which hasn’t really got going. All the elements are there, from the traces of Scottish contemporaries Kid Canaveral and Little Eskimos to the astute production but for me the parts are greater than the whole. Perhaps the report card should read mustn’t try quite so hard…
Die Hard is out on 27th February through Halleluwah Hits.