Review Summary: Despite some clear weaknesses, British India deliver a very good debut album which includes some memorable highlight tracks that successfully combine raw rock & an energetic dancey post-punk sound.
“You make friends with ugly people, so you stand out in a crowd”. These are the first lyrics which greet the listener on British India’s debut album ‘Guillotine’. We can only hope that the young band from Melbourne – Australia do not take such shortcuts throughout their career as if this album is anything to go by, they have a lot of potential to fulfill in the future.
The terrific opening track which carries the above lyrical line is 1st single ‘Black & White Radio’. Not only does it do an excellent job of opening up this album, but it is also a downright great song in its own right which sums up British India’s sound fairly well. Urgent sounding, catchy & raw, the song successfully pulls off that difficult-to-find combination of rocking and dancey all at once.
And therein lies what may be British India’s main weapon to strike it big in the musical world; Their ability to mesh musical styles relatively seamlessly. Broadly classified as Alt-Rock, their music includes tinges of indie, but then builds on that with a more modern post-punk sound. To cap it all off, the band throw in what may be their secret ingredient of some good old-fashioned Aussie pub rock, which will have you both banging your head and tapping your toe all at once.
2nd single ‘Tie Up My Hands’ is also impressive in showing British India’s ability to pull off a more melodic and mainstream track which is borderline poppy, yet still has that raw sound that defines the band. Lead vocalist Declan Melia does a good job of adding some grunt towards the end of this song making it all the more worthwhile. Elsewhere, Melia clearly shows potential as he is full of energy, even if he sometimes errs towards yelling a little too much. On other occasions, he uses different techniques to add variety, such as in 3rd single ‘Run the Red Light’ where the verses are deliberately sung one word at a time to set up the effectively catchy chorus.
Lyrically, there is nothing deep and meaningful in British India’s work as they write mainly concerning current day society for the younger generation. If anything, their writing lacks some depth and clearly shows some patch-up work in the form of repetition. This then follows on to another arguable weakness on Guillotine; The overall lack of length as the running time clocks in at just 34 minutes.
Musically, the band can be opinion-splitting as there is nothing mind-blowing from a technical standpoint, but their ability to combine genres is impressively difficult to ignore. Furthermore, they occasionally use simple little guitar jangles cleverly to practically become the hook of a track, such as on ‘Russian Roulette’ & ‘Teenage Mother’. The latter track is especially impressive since it begins rather dark and ominously before building up an excellent beat that will leave you finding it difficult to sit still. Not to mention that it opens with the great line of “You’d look good as a teenage mother”!
The first 6 tracks of this album are clearly its strength and if they were to entirely make up a debut EP, then I would possibly be looking at a perfect 5 rating. Obviously then, it is a shame that this album runs out of steam a little towards the end. Nothing is too bad (in fact the 2 minute ‘Edgy Looking Clothes’ & up-tempo ‘Outside 109’ may have fitted in seamlessly earlier in the track listing), but none of the final 4 tracks are too memorable and the over-length of ‘Council Flat’ is rather tiresome.
So despite some of the clear weaknesses exhibited at times on ‘Guillotine’, the overall feeling derived from this debut album is most definitely positive. There are some memorable highlight tracks and the strike rate of hits compared to misses is more than sufficient, especially when considering the rather difficult mixture of raw rock and energetic dance-rock that British India play. In fact, all the weaknesses end up doing is showing how much room there is to improve for this already impressive young band.
Recommended Tracks: Black & White Radio, Tie Up My Hands, Run the Red Light & Teenage Mother.
The first 3 of those recommended tracks are available for streaming at http://www.myspace.com/britishindia