2010 was an important year for UK hardcore band More Than Life. It saw them tour the country and much of Europe with fellow Brits, Dead Swans and hardcore heavyweights Defeater, which led to them gaining a lot of deserved exposure. More importantly for the quintet however, 2010 saw the release of their debut album ‘Love Let Me Go’ – which further increased their profile and saw them become the darlings of illegal bloggers webwide as well as of hardcore fans on this very website. Despite the relative buzz that briefly built up around these five assuming lads from Frome very little seemed to change. They still find themselves playing the same venues, to the same crowds; they are largely shunned by more mainstream journalistic outlets; they are still the ‘token support act’. Maybe recognition isn’t the sign of good music. Maybe the band have slipped through the cracks and have not enjoyed the deserved fruits of their labour. Or maybe, just maybe, ‘Love Let Me Go’ wasn’t as good as we first thought…
Firstly, however, it must be said that ‘LLMG’ is very impressive musically. The guitar work on the album is very affecting, creating a distinct atmosphere not found on other hardcore releases. The mournful guitar riffs in ‘Black Eyed’
and ‘Scarlet Skyline’
in particular showcase a more mature consideration, while the captivating delay-ridden chords of ‘Daisy Hill’
owe as much to post-rock as they do to more traditional hardcore. There are exceptions however, with the power-chord driven punk of the title track standing out as a prominent example of MTL failing to break the mould. The album is anchored by a strong rhythm section with precise, crisp drumming counterpointed by bass riffs which are mostly inoffensive, yet vaguely effective. However, when given enough space, the bass does provide moments of focus and intrigue - such as the moody bridge of ‘The First Night of Autumn’
. At times however, the drums are given license to roam free and it is at times such as this, such as the undulating tom-toms of ‘Daisy Hill’ where they really shine.
As harsh as it is to single out an individual for criticism, what really drags the quality of the album down is the limited range of vocalist, James Matthews, and lyrics which at times read like overbearing teenage poetry. Throughout the album Matthews’ vocal are extremely limited in terms of range and frequently border on monotony. Also, at times his lines end abruptly, potentially because of limited lung capacity or poor technique, but we could be kind and chalk it up to excessive presence… After all, one thing you cannot accuse Matthews or the rest of MTL of is not being passionate. Unfortunately, all too often ‘Love Let Me Go’ comes across as cringingly blunt rather than heart wrenching and poetic: the album’s opening cry of “It’s getting colder outside, let’s step out of the rain/ Black clouds still circle the sky, the gods have felt our pain” is an ominous side of what’s to come lyrically. The lyrics’ losing battle between being poetic and being corny bears much resemblance to the way in which La Dispute’s ‘Somewhere at the Bottom of the River…’s lyricism and vocal delivery has the ability to divide listeners.
Ultimately, More Than Life’s ‘Love Let Me Go’ was a very ambitious album – particularly for a debut. The solid instrumentation draws comparisons to titans such as Defeater and its sparseness and density frequently demonstrate a more forward-thinking, intelligent approach to song-writing. Unfortunately, the album’s poor lyricism (this is not always the case though, as demonstrated by the engaging portrayal of lost love and long-distance relationships in ‘Daisy Hill’ – mentioned throughout the review for good reason) and poor vocal performance are too prominent to overlook. Their overwhelming presence ultimately drags down the quality of the album considerably. This is a great shame, because at times ‘Love Let Me Go’ shows great promise from a young band.