Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Always the Quiet Ones
Freak Show
Self Released
Out Now
Rating: 4/5

For fans of rock in the mould of Butterfly Effect or Oceansize, albeit boiled down into bitesize four-minute prog-pop nuggets, Always the Quiet Ones have a virtual monopoly in the Northwest. More conscise than Trojan Horse, less aggressive than In Casino Out, more accessible than Cyril Snear... you get the picture. If there's going to be a Biffy-scale success from the current crop, it's going to be Battleships or ATQO. Anyway, I'm sure what you're most concerned about is how this EP stacks up compared to their excellent Headcase debut. 
The answer, most simply, is that it's kind of more of the same, and that's hardly a bad thing. A recent review of Metamusic's World to Come EP criticised its capriciousness; I would contend that consistency or variety are equally valid, so long as that is the intention of the artist. Freak Show is nothing if not consistently awesome. 
Though 'Sign of the Times' was never my favourite track live, a lashing of overdubs and Blas' trademark howl take the studio version to a different level, and 'Valentina' is a welcome change of pace somewhat in the mould of 'Beautiful Surrender', the bonus track from Headcase. Before its end it breaks down into some heavy riffing, highlighting the main progression between the records; the feeling that somehow chords have been largely eschewed in favour of a more riff-based heavy rock style, with the Smashing Pumpkins echoes now absent. 
The highlight of the set unsurprisingly is the title track, every bit as great as its live iterations, but with a slick, radio-friendly makeover. You've got to give it to ATQO; they aim for the big leagues, and they really do sound like they belong there. I defy you to get past the break at 0:24 and not jump onto something, air guitar in hand, power stance assumed, ready to fucking rock n' roll. 'Freak Show' is a bloody winner, and ATQO know it. Why it's the last track on here is anybody's guess, but if they play their cards right, it could well end up being their signature early career tune. 

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