Stateless
Stateless


4.0
excellent

Review

by Nick Butler EMERITUS
September 19th, 2007 | 21 replies | 14,388 views


Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: This sounds like Radiohead jamming with Massive Attack.

Sometimes I, as a reviewer, find it difficult to find something to put at the beginning of a review to get people interested. Sometimes, there just isn't a snappy quote or funny story or diverting analogy good enough to grab a reader's attention from the off. Thank the lord, then, for the Leeds-based five piece Stateless - a band who takes influence from such critically and commercially revered sources, and then wears those influences so proudly that they're unmistakable. Stateless are a sad, piano-led rock band playing around with trip-hop, lifting gleefully from all the obvious sources. Really, the superlatives write themselves.

Naturally, the comparison of Radiohead-meets-Massive Attack, thanks to the fact that you'll automatically assume that it's OK Computer and Kid A meeting Blue Lines and Mezzanine, makes them sound like the best band in the world. They're not. Instead, it's more like the Massive Attack of 1000th Window meeting the more recent Coldplay albums, with Scott Matthews on vocals and guitars thrown out of the window on all but one track. It's lightly melodramatic, high on atmosphere, indebted to hip-hop without bowing to its conventions, and it's full of beautiful melodies. DJ Shadow might actually be a better reference point for the hip-hop influence here, given that the Stateless vocalist, Chris James, contributed to two tracks on The Outsider, and the one album that feels more like an obvious precedent for this is UNKLE's Psyence Fiction. "Radiokiller" could have come from The Private Press, too. Shadow himself has been full of praise for the band, describing the band as 'the closest thing to perfection I've heard in a long time' and inviting them to support him on his world tour. He's not the only one in the hip-hop community who's got an interest in the band, either - fellow Shadow collaborator Lateef the Truthspeaker adds a rap to the viola-heavy "The Language".

So their sound is perfect, and their influences are perfectly chosen. That test, at least, they pass with flying colours. The songs, though? They're excellent. The highlight on first listen is first single "Down Here" - bouyed by a moody minor key piano ostinato, the lightly distorted vocals that start the song in resigned fashion give way to a sweeping Jeff Buckley-esque chorus that shows off the impressive versatility of Chris James' voice to great effect. The first three tracks are so good, though, that you might not even get there on the first listen. "Bloodstream" is the finest of those three, thanks to the gentle lift-off achieved by the 'I think I might have inhaled you...' refrain. It's among the finest love songs of the year, even if it does sound like James is admitting defeat when he sighs 'you've gotten into my bloodstream'.

The second half of the record is generally more subdued and understated than the first, a balance reminiscent of the similarly skyscraping Guillemots album Through The Windowpane. The contrast in quality is the same, too - while everything from "Prism #1" through "Radiokiller" is instant, the second half needs time to grow on the listener. And yet, there's only one moment where the band's gifts for arrangements that skilfully create tension and release without breaking the mood, and Chris James' gift for spinning a great hook seemingly out of nothing, isn't on display - that's "Bluetrace", which is boring for nearly four minutes, then bursts into life and becomes very noisy for no reason whatsoever. It's probably a good song to do live, but here it just doesn't work. That track brings the album to a crashing halt which the pretty "Inscape" can't rectify, and knocks half a mark off the rating instantly. On the other hand, "Crash", which sounds not entirely unlike something from Martin Grech's Open Heart Zoo, is a perfect example of the fact that when this band gets things right, they get it very, very right. Even when James resorts to bland statements, as he occasionally does, he's entirely believable.

Exactly where Stateless came from and how they've managed to remain a minor concern for this long baffles me. Yet, they're little short of perfect, and they piss all over a local scene that's smug with itself for having produced tripe like The Kaiser Cheifs and Forward Russia. It must also be noted that the production, handled by Jim Abbiss (Arctic Monkeys, UNKLE, Lamb, Kasabian etc.), is absolutely top-notch.

No band in 2007 is showing as much potential as Stateless. They might be dismissed as one trick ponies by the most cynical of critics, but when that one trick is so perfectly executed, what's the problem? They have the scope, the talent, and the finesse; with a little experience these guys could become something incredible. Perhaps it's misleading to describe this album as exciting, given that the emphasis is on wistful melancholia, but that's how it makes me feel. As great as this record is, I'm already looking toward the next one. Whether they'll match or surpass their influences is a matter of debate, but they're in with a shot. Actually, stacked against the debuts of their obvious heroes, this stands up very well. It's certainly no Endtroducing..., nor is it on the level of Grace, but it's better than Pablo Honey, Parachutes, and even Blue Lines.

Album of the year? It's up there.



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user ratings (32)
Chart.
3.8
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
lunchforthesky
September 19th 2007


1039 Comments


Sounds interesting, you certainly convinced me.

StreetlightRock
Emeritus
September 19th 2007


3767 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Saw this in the featured section of my local CD store yesterday, hadn't heard of them before, but i guess i have now. Might ask them to give me a listen to this.

Digging: Interpol - El Pintor

Kaleid
September 19th 2007


711 Comments


[quote="review"]it's better than Pablo Honey, Parachutes, and even Blue Lines[/quote]
Wow
I'm intrigued by this. Nice review, as usualThis Message Edited On 09.19.07

samthebassman
September 19th 2007


2164 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This sounds fantabulous... I must check it out.

cbmartinez
September 20th 2007


2525 Comments


Oh wow, I checked their myspace, this is really good

Iai
Emeritus
September 20th 2007


3553 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

More people need to give a shit about these guys. I actually can't believe it hasn't got a bigger push than it has, because all the reviews for it have been full of praise.

StreetlightRock
Emeritus
September 20th 2007


3767 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Ha, so i like this album, but i can't figure out what to rate it. It's really laid back and chilled, its got a cool atmosphere going on. Your description of this is right on btw. I have this feeling though, they really could add alot more depth to the album, like i dunno, more layers of noise or something - not that it detracts from the album, but it could possibly be better. Potential ++This Message Edited On 09.20.07

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
September 20th 2007


16088 Comments


Okay I am going to check this out pretty soon. It better live up to my low expectations!

plane
Staff Reviewer
September 21st 2007


6094 Comments


Okay I am going to check this out pretty soon. It better live up to my low expectations! (Source: Iluvatar)

Iai
Emeritus
September 21st 2007


3553 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

You guys are dicks

Yeah, they definitely have the potential to be better, but I'm not sure how. This is perfectly good as it is but there does seem to be something holding it back.

blackmilk
September 21st 2007


584 Comments


This sounds like Radiohead jamming with Massive Attack.


is this supposed to make me want to hear it

plane
Staff Reviewer
September 21st 2007


6094 Comments


This is some good stuff.

Iai
Emeritus
September 24th 2007


3553 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

is this supposed to make me want to hear it

Nah, this album's too good for you.

blackmilk
September 24th 2007


584 Comments


oh ok

Zmev
September 25th 2007


983 Comments


This is good, but its like the same good song over and over (minus the Lateef jam)

Iai
Emeritus
September 26th 2007


3553 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

I thought that when I first heard it, but I dunno now...I think from "Running Out" onwards it takes a turn.

This is definitely a grower - I think I tagged it as a 3.2 when I got it and now it's 4.0 at least.

samthebassman
December 21st 2007


2164 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This album is great, it's a real grower, "Bloodstream" is probably my favourite track of the year.

plane
Staff Reviewer
December 21st 2007


6094 Comments


I'm with Zmev on this one.

cfbassist
June 17th 2008


330 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

this album is great, and i really look forward to their future stuff


and plus they are doing a collaboration with gavin castleton...that is ALWAYS a plus

hasheesh1126
November 19th 2010


9 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This band is great and really unkown on this site. My only concern is that some songs are similar to others throughout the album, but not extremely identical of course. Otherwise a very enjoyable listen.



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