Review Summary: Welsh Alt-Rockers set themselves up for great things with their sophomore release.
For a band who have managed to slip so far under the radar that the radar little knows they exist, People In Planes deliver not only a solid album but one full of quality and high craftsmanship that is sure to catch the attention of those who are lucky enough to stumble upon them.
The sophomore effort by the Welsh outfit is definately People In Planes broadening their horizons, expanding on the foundations they laid with “As Far As The Eye Can See” whilst magnifying both melody and consistency tenfold. The erratic debut was both encouraging and nervewracking with it’s inability to find any form of middle ground, strongly raising the question of whether or not greater things could be expected. With “Beyond The Horizon”, it is safe to say that this preconception is dispelled almost entirely, noting of course the key word; almost.
The strength of singer Gareth Jones is a factor which simply cannot go unnoticed when listening to “Beyond The Horizon” and is salient in not only this album, but also to their future success. With little setting apart many Alternative Rock groups today, each individual highlight can mean the difference between success and failure, with Jones’ vocal performance prominently fitting into the former category. “Flesh And Blood” for example, shows Gareth performing an uncanny impression of Chris Martin, whilst still reminding the listener that they are in fact thankfully not, listening to Coldplay. Vocals aside, the sometimes powerful, sometimes quaint touches by keyboard player Ian Russell provide much character to the album; markedly his ability to orchestrate and change the tone of the album from upbeat and aggressive, to morose and gloomy, which he does; and how. In terms of the other instrument’s on show, no greater example can be found of the band showcasing its talents than on the title track, which provides drumming that sets as good a platform for a chorus you’re likley to find. The rapid pace set by John Maloney intergrates seemlessly with the powerful hook provided by lead guitarist Peter Roberts, creating an epic effort that encapsulates their sound as a whole, one of great purpose and emotion.
If classic albums were measured solely on containing huge, stadium worthy choruses, then “Beyond The Horizon” would definately be staking a claim for the title, with majestic choruses in abundance. “Mayday (M’aidez)” is a stellar example of just this, with an almost moribund beginning gathering pace to the wailing bordering on desperate sounding chorus “Help me! help me! you know me better than i know myself!”. This along with single “Last Man Standing” set the tone incredibly for the album, providing the eerie almost haunting feel that pervades the album. Lyrically, anger and general displeasure permeate the album, with Jones almost threatening in “Last Man Standing”; “You've got a killer stare, who’s messing round with you in the corner? He better say his prayers”. Few songs however carry the emotion and personal touch carried by “Pretty Buildings”, with teenage homosexuality being the issue in question, as one of the most morbidly beautiful verses is delivered in the form of;
“Morning came and I was dead,
Before I left for school.
We paint the smiles onto our heads
And keep away from the animals”.
Whilst the word “solid” is difficult not to overuse when reviewing an album that is clearly so, it is worth noting that not all of the tracks live up to the high standards that they have set themselves with this effort. “Know By Now” is almost a struggle to get through, as the noticeable formula of building up to a big chorus and then shortly after attempting to blow the listener away is followed here. Unfortunately for the aforementioned track, and for the attempted ballad “I Wish You’d Fall Apart”, they fail to acheive this, and end up sounding positively anemic in comparison to the other tracks on the album where the formula has been perfected.
“I like the image that people in planes aren’t exactly where they came from, and aren’t quite where they’re heading to yet”. Upon the very explanation of the origins of their name, lead guitarist Peter Roberts unwittingly hits upon my very thoughts and feelings concerning People In Planes, and the direction in which they will be going. The transition period from little known entity to mainstage success is a fragile one where bands are often broken and forever cast into obscurity, but with an even greater effort with their third release, it’s difficult to see how much longer they’ll sneak elusively under that radar.