Review Summary: There are two sides to the coin.
This Town Needs Guns is a hard band to pin down. Animals, their full-length debut, is very similar to a coin. Depending of the toss, you get either heads or tails (funny enough, each of the song names are of animals which have both heads and tails). Points of brilliance in this album are balanced out by the dismally bland.
The opening track, Pig, gives a taste of the music to come. The guitar work is virtuosic, the rhythm section is decent, and vocalist Stuart Smith's voice fits. However, Pig is a macrocosm of the record. The themes established early on are continued throughout. Each song blends into the next, and the guitar work is the main culprit. Each song has copious amounts of noodling, and it seems like the same few arpeggiated chords are played incessantly. In fact, the guitar starts to become frustrating background noise through the first six songs.
Then comes Elk. The seventh song on the record makes good on the promise given early on by Pig. It opens with soft acoustic picking, and is followed by horns. As it begins, you feel the sting of mourning. Once the drums are introduced, that sting begins to grow warm with the feeling of hopefulness. Elk is a beautiful journey, and wonderfully emotional, even from an indie “math-rock” band.
Elk is followed by the next best song on the record, Crocodile. Here, Stuart Smith has his best vocal performance. Not only does his voice fit, but his singing actually goes with the music. Elsewhere, his voice fits, but his singing doesn't, and it is definitely a point of contention. It seems as though the verses were sung with no thought as to how they would fit with the rest of the band. Animals is in need of a good shot of melody, and the vocals just don't deliver.
As a debut album, Animals is a good start. This is a band with tremendous potential, but one that relies too heavily on their musical chops. Ironically though, the best song on the record in an instrumental. Instead of indulging, they show restraint. With tiresome noodling, and an incapable lyricist, this record has all of the makings of a bust. However, with the complexity of the songs, and musical potential, you may find a gem. There are two sides of the “This Town Needs Guns coin”. What do you say, heads or tails?