Review Summary: The sound of a band reinvigorated.
Isn’t it strange how the simplest thing can become so complicated over time? Take being in a band. You start off as a group of friends, bashing instruments, making obnoxious noises, annoying neighbours. Your purpose is simple and uncomplicated: Unified by a mutual love of music, joined together by an urge to say something, a “something” that often can’t be articulated or understood. But you just know it’s there, in the back of your mind, interminably present like an itch you can’t scratch: That instinctive yearning to play, to create, to make a statement, to make noise.
But, as the cliché goes, time makes fools of us all. Eventually cracks appear in the framework. You’re growing as people, more than likely growing apart rather than together. You start to develop your own ideas of art, of self, of what you want from life: Maybe one of you wants to go abroad for college, the other wants to start a family, the other wants a seismic change in musical direction. Maybe you, as a person, have outgrown the old, now seemingly archaic, paradigm. Your ideas and concepts have become more interesting, more nuanced, more adult. This growth and development is mostly a positive thing, but there comes with it a sad and inevitable cost: For the first time, there’s friction in the group, and that old solidarity, the singular, unified vision you once held, in all its wonderful simplicity, fragments for good as you each develop and grow apart. Eventually, just making noise becomes more complicated than you’d ever imagined.
I can’t claim to know This Town Needs Guns
as people, but I can hopefully and accurately assert that they, like all bands, have been subject to the strange and unpredictable shifts that time brings. Formed in 2004 (how long ago that must seem), they lost their original bassist and drummer barely a year later, and there were further changes to the rhythm section around the release of their excellent debut album, Animals
in 2008. Finally, in what must have seemed like a final, cruel twist of fate, original vocalist Stuart Smith left in 2011, to start a family. Priorities shifted, members lost, I’m sure tears of frustration have been shed. How easy it must have been for the band to just give up and move on.
Instead, they did the opposite. Replacing the departed and deciding to soldier on, This Town Needs Guns (relatively) recently re-emerged as a three-piece in 2011, with sole original member Tim Collis on guitar, Henry Tremain handling bass and vocals, and Chris Collis on drums. From this line-up, new album 126.96.36.199.0
has emerged, and what a pleasure it is that we get the opportunity to hear this wonderful, vastly underrated, band release new material of such high quality. On tracks such as opener “Cat Fantastic”, “I’ll Take the Minute, Snake” and “Triptych”, they revisit their signature sound with a renewed vigour and confidence, as we’re reminded of what made them great in the first place: Gorgeous textures, layered soundscapes, playful and intricate polyrhythms, and of course the simply outstanding guitar work of Collis, a prodigal talent whose playing combines elements of rock, jazz, indie, math-rock, flamenco; seemingly able to do anything he conceives on his instrument.
Also notable is Tremain’s impressive performance in the vocal department. It can’t be easy writing hooks over such complex, shifting, often atonal music, but he does a fantastic job of sitting on top of it all, his gentle timbre marrying the music perfectly, especially on stunning acoustic-driven highlight “2 Birds, One Stone, and an Empty Stomach”. Arguably, the band could have pushed the boat out slightly more in terms of developing and progressing from what they’ve shown us before, but this would be a very minor criticism. When a signature sound is revisited so successfully after so many years without new material, there’s not really any room for complaint. Ultimately, 188.8.131.52.0
is the sound of a band knowing what they do well, and doing it better than almost anyone else.
And to think, we might never have got the chance to hear any of it. 184.108.40.206.0
not only proves that This Town Need Guns are still one of most innovative and interesting underground, guitar-based bands in Britain, but there’s an even deeper lesson here: If time and change is inevitable and unavoidable, it’s how we react to it that’s important. In their case, This Town Needs Guns decided to face change with determination, desire and adaptability. Maybe, with the right attitude, making noise doesn’t have to be so complicated after all. Like everything in life, The Boss sums it up best: “Everything dies baby, that’s a fact/ But maybe everything that dies/ someday comes back”. And all the better if it does.