Review Summary: Pulled Apart By Horses second record delivers in pretty much every way you'd expect it to.
Pulled Apart By Horses are one of those bands that are neither here nor there. Too hard to be rock, yet not hard enough to be hardcore, they manage to teeter on the edges of established genre boundaries without possessing a sound that's especially unconventional or out-the-box by any means. No matter, the music that they make is rarely less than enthralling, as evidenced on their fun-as-hell self-titled debut LP released in 2010. Admittedly, live is where they earn the majority of their beans (and money), but that record was nevertheless a thoroughly enjoyable listen from a band who seem to be in it for the right reasons, that is, to have fun, and to deliver as much for those paying attention. In every sense, follow-up Tough Love
delivers on exactly the same fronts, and as such can be viewed as a similar success.
That previous sentence may seem to imply that this sophomore effort merely equates to more of the same, but that assumption would be grossly unfair on a band who have clearly made great strides over the past two years. Their improvement as a musical unit is obvious on each of Tough Love's
eleven tracks, with more refined individual performances from each of the quartet leading to a far tighter and more balanced sound. A step up in their songwriting is also partly responsible for this, with each cut here representing a deliberate, fully-formed song as opposed to those on their debut, which often seemed like little more than a cobbled together collection of riffs and other undeveloped ideas. As an added compliment, the production here is also far stronger, with former Pixes, Foo Fighters and Jimmy Eat World collaborator Gil Norton adding his trademark sheen and precision to the chaos here.
Even with those notable changes, though, this is an album that delivers in pretty much every way that you'd expect it to, with little in the way of added thrills and, at 32 minutes, minimal fat around the edges. The riffs still pack a punch, the songs still place their emphasis firmly on fun and the band's fondness for blunt expression remains in the form of lines such as "when I was a kid I was a dick, but nothing changes!
" 'Wolf Hand,' the song on which that lyric features is an obvious highlight, and perhaps the best example of the benefits brought about by Norton's involvement. It's predecessor, lead single 'V.E.N.O.M.' is even better, and is challenged only by latter cut 'Bromance Ain't Dead' as the most fully-realised song that they have penned to date.
Overall, though, there's not a song here which falls below the standards that Pulled Apart By Horses have set for themselves, and while Tough Love
is far from a game-changing it hits most fans expectations head on. More or less on par with their debut, you get the impression that this is the level are destined to stay at for the rest of their musical career, such is the air of dependability they omit even at this relatively early stage. They're not the type of band that seems likely to advance beyond this level, or dip significantly below it, and while their music is unlikely to ever gain them lofty accolades or widespread acclaim it's never less than thoroughly enjoyable. The live arena is where their forte remains, but if nothing else this record reaffirms the fact that their studio exploits are well worth looking into also.