Review Summary: The Belfast-based band’s mix the ferocity of DC hardcore with the carefree abandon of arena rock.
That Derry’s finest instrumental rock troupe And So I Watch You From Afar are oh-so-frequently lumped in with the post-rock brigade is not so much unfortunate as it is downright wrong, but it does say something about the genre. In the eyes of all but the seasoned observer, a band doesn’t have to do anything, or sound a particularly way, to be labelled “post-rock”: just not having a vocalist is enough. Now, nothing irks a band more than being pigeon-holed, but it must hurt doubly to be holed in the wrong coop entirely. And with all due respect to post-rock, And So I Watch You From Afar’s music is so far removed from the post-crescendo genre that it warrants screaming from the roof-tops- in fact, that wouldn’t be such a bad idea. The Belfast-based band’s raucous sound is a pithy amalgamation of the ferocity and intensity of DC hardcore and the carefree abandon of arena rock. To point out the obvious contradiction would be to miss the point entirely.
Given the obvious lack of lyrics (apart from an “oi!” here and they odd “hey!” there), the song titles have to be a little more descriptive than they typically are. Opener ‘Set Guitars To Kill’ is a perfect example, kicking the album off with a crunching power chord riff and pulsating reverb-soaked drums that give way to increasingly more chaotic and dissonant exchanges. Likewise, the impeccably-titled ‘TheseRIOTSareJUSTtheBEGINNING’ is frenetically-paced and relentlessly aggressive, while ‘Don’t Waste Time Doing Things You Hate’ sees the band indulge their zanier pleasures: from signature shred-guitar moves rarely heard outside a guitarist’s bedroom to sexy Meters-like funk rhythms and a beer-soaked ‘Hey Jude’-style gang sing-a-long for the last couple of minutes. In truth, there is the odd moment within a song of overt post-rockishness: single ‘A Little Bit Of Solidarity Goes A Long Way’ works the silence-crescendo model to a T. But the overall effect is more comparable to compatriots and frequent touring partners Adebisi Shank, as they’re more likely to lock into a dynamic groove and play off that energy than to tease listeners with the quiet-loud formula.
Not only is And So I Watch You From Afar
well-balanced between the band members, it’s also a quality effort from start to finish. It’s always tempting to load the best tracks to the front- and, to be fair, the opening three songs are the most immediate on the album- but the album ends just as strongly as it starts. ‘The Voiceless,’ one of two tracks to re-appear from the group’s debut EP, another track that hints at erupting into an Explosions In The Sky-like cacophonous crescendo, but instead holds off without really sacrificing anything in the way of grandeur. Following that, and finishing the album on a high, is ‘Eat The City, Eat It Whole’ (Pedants’ Corner: that should be a semi-colon). It’s stylistically different from anything else on the album, beginning with some country and blues-tinged motifs before patiently easing into a familiar mathy groove, the type that litters the album and makes it such a wonderful, coherent listen from start to finish.