When a band is in the NME before they are on Wikipedia that means they are either still living at home or at university. Well, Patterns are at Manchester university and with two members from London and two from The Wirral (where I grew up as a teenager), one wonders whether they will be students or pop stars by the end of the year and whether they will ‘arrive’ on Wikipedia.
Their album released yesterday has that melodic vocal and bombastic drums dreamy production. But it’s another sound reminiscent of other forgotten movements isn’t it? Cocteau Twins mixed with shoegaze and tarted up? It’s a blurry old beauty but it’s rather too rowdy to have you close your eyes and too soft to make your ears bleed. I imagine live it might be huge sounding if they can capture their production tricks on stage and there isn’t a DB meter. I worry that they won’t be able to sing these high vocal lines in tune and there may be trouble distinguishing some of the choruses from some of the verses or even some of the songs from each other but that’s not really the point is it? It’s the washing over you, the blistering melody, the drones, the shimmering.
It’s creative, it’s intelligently constructed, it’s thought provoking, uplifting but when you’ve listened through the album, it doesn’t penetrate your brain or even your heart. At least it’s not mindless indie rock, all swagger and no skill or magic but if you are going to sound like this you’d better have something that stands out – and perhaps that’s exactly the point, it’s supposed to be one great rolling ball of sweet noise. One second with the reverb off would stick in your brain like a bale of hay in an ice cube factory. But they are not about contrasts and so their songs and melodies have to do a lot of work. They soar and ring but can they make us wonder?
This Haze opens the album with it’s elaborate melody and cascading guitar, splashing drums into the chorus. But it’s Blood the second track that might just deliver the magic as it opens out into a heavenly key change. It’s surely the highlight of the album. Layers of effected guitars swamp the drums, background vocals poke out of the mix like a swan in a bed of flowers.
Broken Train has an electronic background and guitars and melodies are everywhere, singing in a cave, the melodies although tuneful are not immediately memorable or the effects make them less memorable, distant. Stops and starts make the song arrangement interesting, harmonies and busy drums, snares and cymbals.
Face Marks is a droning keyboard into a constant bass drum that makes them sound hip. Again an interesting drum beat, vibrating guitars and more elaborate vocal melodies. I’m not catching the words, I’m not sure I’m supposed to?
Our Ego, (interesting title), but this is the point in the album where it’s starting to sound samey, even though the rhythm is quite different with pumping bass and drums, the sound and the melody are always doing the same thing. I can’t connect to the singer at all, I don’t think I’m supposed to. The title track – electronic bells and vocal follows the pattern – it’s the register (they try to break it up with some inventive drum arrangements), but the tunes are always in the same place, (so was Lou Reed I suppose at the opposite end of the scale), but this is harder to connect to. It’s a problem because the vocals are important in this group in as much as there are lots of them, but in a way like Mogwai you could do without them and be happy with the dynamics and massive build ups and the reverb fest that they like to swim in.
By the time we get to Street Fires, I don’t want to hear this same melody line anymore despite the bands attempts to write songs that do different things – it’s getting blurry, I’m starting to forget the good bits.
Wrong Two Words starts with an alien electronic dialog between machines but when the singer enters, he never attempts anything simple, he is double somersaulting his way towards the dessert immediately. It’s his thing, his style, the bands raison d’être – space pop and on the penultimate song, Induction, we are finally lost in the galaxy careering towards a super nova with no reverse gear.
Climbing Out, ends the album and I realise that I haven’t taken in any of the lyrics at all, it’s the sound, but also the tone of the singers voice that makes it hard to decipher what he is saying. And after this song I wish he would stop singing the same melody all the time.
I look forward to their next album, when they have matured and become more sophisticated. It’s sophistication that will make them great, that and more variety in the tunes and some way to include us in their intergalactic visions.