Review Summary: Post Rock. You're doing it right!
Cautiously, the frontline of instruments creep out from behind the veil of silence and fill the vacuum with the sound of their prodding feelers. A gentle guitar melody shapes itself around its compatriots, craning its neck to check the canvas that lies above is safe to invade. Once the security of the area is determined, the drums give the green light to the waiting army of noise and all hell is given permission to run loose. Dual guitars belt out a riff that nails their targets to the wall while the drums repeatedly thump it in the genitals. After the first wave of torture ends, the victim has time to appreciate that they have actually just been on the receiving end of a wonderfully vigorous lashing of sound, and even the post-trauma they're experiencing is artful in its serenity. And when it ends, they're actually salivating at the prospect of what their next batch of torment will be.
I didn’t quite know how to start this review, so, figuring how incredibly Up-C Down-C Left-C Right-C ABC + Start started their debut album, “And the Battle is Won”, I decided to plagiarize their introductory track “Stand Shadowless like Silence” in word form, hoping to make the same sort of impression. I hope that’s alright with you guys. Upcdownc, as they are most commonly known, hail from my grandmother’s hometown, Kent, and just like her, they really do know how to take your goolies and twist them in several complicated knots until they explode. In a good way. Released in 2005, the post rock scene already well established around them, the band had a real mission in battling the bands around them who had already set up shop. This would require merciless focus, a wealth of determination, and, this not up to them of course, unquestionable natural talent. Lucky, then, that they had all that in spades, and a whole lot more.
From the outset, as I’ve explained, upcdownc are determined to battle not only with the other bands in their genre, but also with their listeners. They’ll battle with your heart and your head, increasing the heart rate and emptying the brain of any preoccupation. “Not of the Fallen” utilizes violins as much as possible to build anticipation for a soaring, inspirational crescendo. The guitars found here almost touch the sky, swiping at it in desperation, before gracefully diving to the ground again. “Sadako’s Fury”, one of the album’s highlights, switches the mood with a sinister, ominous intro, exploiting the effects pedals to give way to a darkly melodic section of guitar and drum working together before the riffs come in once more to gradually rile you up before cutting out again to quietness. One of the album’s great qualities is its ability to keep you waiting, but keep you waiting with satisfaction, like a doctor's surgery full of strippers and sweets, so that when the climax does eventually come it leaves you gnashing your teeth and clenching your jaw in aural ecstasy.
Its all too easy to criticize ‘And The Battle is Won’ for being a copycat of other bands, but this criticism is unwarranted. It may use the loud-quiet formula that other post rock bands use, but who doesn’t to some extent? And if you can force your way to the front of the class with hard work and determination, despite learning what everyone else is learning, then shouldn't that be commended? “New Year” sets out its markings in this fashion, beginning with a combination of irritated violins and guitar, the drum making its contribution with a solid angry bash, before the tumultuous, throat-scorching loud section comes in and cracks the roof of your house. The guitars then drip out contemptuous distortion before the loud section starts up again, although by now it’s all pretty much all loud. Finally, it makes its own way out with sombre strings tailing the guitars. And if you’re thinking that they only know how to make angry songs like petty teenagers, listen to “Comfort Me, I’ve Lost My Heart”. Uplifting and jovial, to accompany acoustic guitars and xylophones they use the same violins which were used to provoke feelings of frustration and pessimism to create hope and happiness. The band just seem to ooze talent and confidence, there is this rare feeling you get with some bands that anything they try their hand at turns to gold. Although this is only their first album, upcdownc exude this feeling through and though with every song.
By the time the euphoric, tear-swelling riffs have left your ears on the incendiary “Shallows”, and the teeth in your mouth have been grinded down flatter than a new Samsung television, the ridiculously intense beauty of “I Think About Forever” becomes too much to bear that you’re almost glad it’s the last song. Upcdownc have gathered up almost all the cardinal virtues of classic post rock and pieced them together to create one skyscraping tower of an album in “And the Battle Is Won”. Some would argue that it breaks no boundaries in terms of originality and creativity. They may be right. There is the small but frustratingly protruding feeling that if they found a little more imagination this album could have blown heads and been a classic. But for sheer energy, excitement, evocation, and elation, there a few better in the genre than this album. Their talent for writing killer, catchy riffs inside songs which split at the seams with passion gives them an instantly likeable character, while repeated listens shed light on the closely crafted intricacy and intimacy between instruments, many of which you wouldn’t have heard the first few times around.
Aggressive, focused, inspired, but above all brilliant, this triumphant debut belongs on every post rock lover’s shelf, but please make sure to leave at least an inch of space around it so its neighbours don’t melt.