Review Summary: All this is progress, towards perfection.
If I had to describe Apologies, I Have None’s debut album London
in one word, it would be progress. While some bands seem to appear with a defined sound and style from the off, Apologies have evolved steadily over several EPs and 7 inches; going electric, gaining members and growing in song-writing stature. Early on the band- which started as a two-piece- was regularly compared to Against Me!: the ‘Done’ EP is largely acoustic and does
sounds quite a lot like the Floridian band’s ‘Acoustic EP’. And while Apologies also grew into a full four-piece, its here where the comparison ends- in fact, the only real similarity left between the two bands is how far they’ve evolved from their roots. London
is such an epically powerful statement of an album it’d be easy to accept that you were listening to a completely different band.
Apologies seem to occupy a unique position in terms of sound; fitting in well with the majority of the UK (and US) punk ‘scene’, but not really sounding like anyone else. London
is best described as a punk-influenced rock record (kind of like Make Do And Mend or Above Them, although sounding like neither), but with each track receiving a healthy dose of anthemic songwriting and raw emotion. For some this might come across as contrived, but there’s an honesty about the album- and band in general- which you can’t help but fall for. Much of this is conveyed through the soaring vocals of frontmen/guitarists Dan Bond and Josh Mackenzie and bassist PJ Shepherd. The emotional range of the band is truly phenomenal, from the sheer rage of ‘The 26’, to the vulnerable piano ballad (yes, you read that right) ‘Foundations’, the vocal performances grab you by the scruff of the neck and drag you along for the ride. This is an album full of carefully crafted peaks and troughs; capable of lifting you up then slamming you back down, before repeating the process all over- all in the space of 37 minutes. Fluid song structures really create a sense of cohesion, especially through the second half of the record, a feeling which is aided by the effort put into the artwork and packaging.
While not really a ‘concept album’ in the strictest sense, the album is defined by its title location- parks, bus routes and landmarks form the backdrop to personal stories of love, loss, failure and success: it’s as if Brian Fallon dreamt of London rather than New Jersey. Sometimes uplifting, sometimes hugely pessimistic; London
’s lyrical content perfectly complements the flow of the music and at times drives it forward. The biggest talking point is undoubtedly ‘The 26’, which features one of the most brutally honest and unexpected lines from a punk band this year. I won’t spoil it (it also happens to contain some choice language), but Josh Mackenzie’s delivery is impeccable and it’s sure to make you at least slightly uncomfortable with how close to the bone it cuts. Album closer ‘Long Gone’ also deserves a mention, arriving after ‘Foundations’ with real power and a clear message for the listener: “If you need it I can bear the weight a while, I can carry you”. London
truly is an emotional rollercoaster of an album- both lyrically and musically- and can seem claustrophobic, even overwhelming, at times. But if you approach it with the same openness its creators clearly have, it becomes one of the most sincere, cathartic and brilliant albums of the year.
It seems like something of a cliché to end a review with sample lyrics, but final refrain of ‘Clapton Pond’ seems apt- “all this is progress towards perfection”. When compared to their earlier work, London
is a huge step forward in almost every way; if Apologies, I Have None continue to progress at their current rate, their next album will surely be a true classic.