We all know that the digital age is changing the music industry. In some ways the changes are negative: the ease with which it is now possible to obtain music without paying for it means that some artists are no longer justly rewarded for the enjoyment their hard work and creativity gives its listeners. Record labels have less money to throw around and, as a result, genuinely talented people struggle to make a living making music.
There is a flip side. Time was, if you made one good record which sold well, or created enough of a buzz, you were more or less signed up for life, a process which resulted in countless bands trotting out all sorts of monotonous dirge long after they’d past their sell by dates. No longer. Even bands still producing good material and pushing boundaries can find themselves out on their ear after only a few years. See The Futureheads for details.
It wasn’t long ago that you couldn’t open an indie music magazine without having the words ‘Tapes ‘N Tapes’ screaming back at you from its pages. Yet, far from trying to ride the media wave and get more material out as quickly as they can, Josh Grier and friends have sat back, let themselves drop gently off the XL Recordings roster, and taken their time to put together album number three, releasing it on their own original label.
The end justifies the means. Outside is twelve tracks of perfectly rounded, thoroughly enjoyable indie rock, featuring Grier’s instantly identifiable voice and a range of sounds and influences that keeps the listener entertained throughout.
‘Badaboom’ kicks things off at a Strokes-lite pace with a gem of a stylophone melody shining at its heart. ‘SWM’ follows with a gentle melodica-like motif before ‘One In The World’ wrongfoots the listener with lyrics (probably) about the desperation to find love set over a cha-cha accompaniment.
‘Nightfall’ is the first of several heavy blues rock numbers that Black Keys fans might find affinity with, while the pumping ‘Freak Out’ is perhaps the stand out track on the record.
Elsewhere, ‘Desert Plane’ reprises the Strokes theme and might not have sounded out of place on Room On Fire, while ‘People You Know’ is an up tempo Richard Hawley playing 50s rock ‘n’ roll ballads.
Outside is gauged at just the right mix of variety and cohesion to make these twelve songs well worth sitting through, an outcome which was no doubt aided greatly by their longer fermentation, and the relaxation that comes with putting music out on your own label. DIY just might be the future. - Paddy Burke
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